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-   -   Need help optimizing 3 month backpacking trip in Central America (https://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-and-central-america/need-help-optimizing-3-month-backpacking-trip-in-central-america-1066468/)

kellyrenee118 Aug 4th, 2015 01:49 PM

Need help optimizing 3 month backpacking trip in Central America
 
Hi everyone! I'm in the process of planning my first big backpacking trip through Central America. I have a pretty clear idea of where I want to go, but the thing that's making it difficult is trying to decide which order to see everything I want to see. I'm not really going to book anything in advance for this trip, but I still want to have a pretty clear idea of what I'm doing before I get there.

I live in Houston, and Managua is by far the cheapest place to fly into ($65 one way) so I'm starting my trip there, and working my way up to the location that has the cheapest return flights (Tulum, for $150 one way).

Here's what I'm thinking for my route. It requires a bit of backtracking, mainly due to border crossing issues. It gets especially sticky trying to plan my route between Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Belize, but I did my best! I'll have quite a bit of time in each place since I have 3 months:

>Managua
>Granada
>San Juan del Sur
>Ometepe
>Leon (travel there via Managua?)
(Note: I'm also maybe interested in checking out Little Corn--I'd probably put that here)
>El Cuco
>Antigua
>Side trip to Copan to see the ruins
>Back to Antigua
>Lake Atitlan
>San Cristobal de las Casas
>Day trip to Sumidero Canyon
>Aguas Azuls & Palenque
>Back to San Cristobal de las Casas
>Back to Atitlan
>Semuc Champey
>Flores
>Tikal
>Caye Caulker via Belize City
>Tulum & other spots in Yucatan peninsula

So, how did I do? If there is a better way to optimize this, PLEASE let me know! My brain hurts from thinking about it :)

Thanks again!!

ginger50 Aug 4th, 2015 02:56 PM

My first question to you, how much Spanish do you speak? Having only been to Guatemala of these choices, if you're a little light on the Spanish, I would probably suggest considering a few weeks at a Spanish school. The one in San Pedro de Laguna At Lake Atitlan was great. Inexpensive, plenty of backpackers where you could meet some like-minded travelers to on with at the end of your stay.

For me, part of the joy of backpacking is not being tied to a specific itinerary/route, and meeting people along the way.

hopefulist Aug 4th, 2015 03:28 PM

A few notes...
If you want to spend at least 3 or 4 nights in Copán Ruinas and visit other area sights, it's probably worth the trip. If you only want to see the Maya site, I'm not sure it's worth 12+ hours on the road for just a night or 2.

I have made the trip between Lake Atitlán and San Cristóbal de las Casas on shuttles both ways - too darn long! They say 7 hours but it's more like 10 or 11 each way; I would either leave that chunk out or access it from Tikal - I try to avoid those lllooooonnng travel days.

If Caye Caulker is your only reason to visit Belize, then you could head from Tikal to San Cris/Palenque, etc., and head to the Yucatán through Mexico, saving time and money. Belize has awesome caving and interesting cultural variety, though.

My photos with blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

3 months is a long time (you lucky duck!) so you have time to accomplish your proposed route, I just like to avoid backtracking and spending so much time in transit. Happy trails!

kellyrenee118 Aug 5th, 2015 01:05 PM

Thanks for the replies!

I think a language school would be a great idea! Since I'm starting in Nicaragua, I'd love suggestions from anyone who knows of a good one (obviously I can look this up, but I always value personal recommendations).

Yeah, I had heard the transportation between Atitlan and San Cristobal was pretty rough. Maybe it's just best if I exclude that part from my trip right now. It's definitely the part that's been giving me the biggest headache trying to coordinate!

As of right now Caye Caulker is my only planned destination in Belize, but I'm open to seeing others. I'd like to go there, and I think if I had to choose I'd rather skip the Chiapas region instead of skipping Belize.

hopefulist Aug 5th, 2015 06:55 PM

We love Belize - lots to see and do if you have more time. You can search for language schools by country and city, access their websites, and read reviews at the site below but take the ratings with a grain of salt. I have only studied Spanish in Guatemala, Honduras, and Chiapas so can't help beyond that.
www.123teachme.com

Jeff_Costa_Rica Aug 5th, 2015 07:29 PM

Granada and San Juan del Sur have the greatest number of language schools in Nicaragua. Casa Xalteva in Granada is, I believe, the oldest and most established school in the country. Granada is simply a wonderful place.

I assume when you talk about flying home from Tulum, you really mean Cancun?

kellyrenee118 Aug 6th, 2015 09:42 AM

Thanks for the recommendations! And yes, I meant Cancun.


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