Secrets of Central America

STYLE Small Group
DURATION 13 Days
BETWEEN San Salvador and San Salvador
COUNTRIES VISITED – 2 El Salvador and Honduras
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE 12
TRAVEL DATES
Contact Diesel for all departure dates and latest pricing
WHATS INCLUDED
All Accommodation All tour transportation
Meals mostly full board as listed
Entrance fees as listed Professional Tour Leader
WHATS NOT INCLUDED
Airport Transfers Airport taxes
International Flights Travel Insurance
Visas

Trip Overview

A chance to discover two of Latin America’s most underrated gems, this spectacular adventure takes us deep into the heart of El Salvador and Honduras, lands blessed with a rich natural beauty and a cultural inheritance that can boast some of the most captivating colonial cities and the most complete Mayan ruins anywhere on the continent. Volcanic landscapes and pristine wilderness, artisan markets and photogenic colonial towns, this often overlooked part of Central America is an exciting destination for the adventure traveller.


Secrets of Central America

Beginning in El Salvador’s Joya de Ceren, an intriguing UNESCO site often referred to as ‘The Pompeii of America’, we’ll make our way through a landscape liberally scattered with reminders of the country’s turbulent heritage. Against the backdrop of breathtakingly pristine wilderness, we’ll visit artisan markets, revolutionary museums and some of the most picturesque towns in the country, as we take in rural communities, abundant bird life and Central America’s largest estuary. Neighbouring Honduras then offers the chance to explore the rare beauty of the Pico Bonito National Park and the crystal clear waters off Cayos Cochinos, before stopping off to enjoy the hospitality and atmosphere of small town Gracias. Then it is the turn of the magnificent ruins of Copan, without doubt one of the archaeological treasures of the Americas and a highlight of this incredible journey. A fitting climax to this odyssey of discovery, it is home to some of the most remarkable Mayan remains left in Central America and is not without reason blessed with the title ‘Paris of the Ancient Maya World’.


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HIGHLIGHTS

  • UNESCO Mayan Ruins at Joya de Ceren & Copan Ruinas
  • Exploring the lush mangroves and golden islands of the Pacific & Caribbean Coasts
  • Meeting and learning from the different local communities along the route
  • Hiking through Pico Bonito National Park
  • Enjoying the festivals, markets, music and people of El Salvador’s colourful flower route

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Day 1: Tour starts in San Salvador (El Salvador)

The tour starts this evening in El Salvador’s capital although rooms will be available from 15:00 for anyone arriving early. Mirador Plaza 4* or similar (no meals)

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Day 2: San Salvador - Suchitoto

Our journey begins today as we visit Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage site, often identified as ‘The Pompeii of America,’ and the only known archaeological site to show the everyday life of the Mayan people. This afternoon we continue on to the picturesque pre Colombian town of Suchitoto, founded over 1,000 years ago by the Pipil people. The town became the country’s temporary capital when an earthquake destroyed San Salvador in 1853, and is now famous for its cobbled streets and colourful colonial style houses, as well as the beautiful array of birds and flowers that ‘Suchitoto’ is named after. We will enjoy a walking tour of the town, visiting El Templo de Santa Lucía, the central church, the local market, many of the arts and craft attractions, as well as having the opportunity to take part in an Indigo workshop. La Posada de Suchitán or similar (B,L,D)

Joya de Ceren:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Joya de Ceren is an archaeological site that presents an insight into the everyday life of the Mayan People. Originally a pre-hispanic farming community, the area was buried under a volcanic eruption in the 7th century AD – hence being known as ‘The Pompeii of America.’ Extremely well preserved, the site has provided a unique example of how Mesoamerican farmers lived and worked.

Suchitoto:

A picturesque pre-Colombian town founded over 1,000 years ago by the Pipil people and today one of the most visited attractions in the El Salvador. The town became the countries temporary capital when an earthquake destroyed San Salvador in 1853, and is now famous for its cobbled streets and colourful colonial style houses, as well as the beautiful array of birds and flowers that ‘Suchitoto’ is named after. The centre point of the town is the postcard perfect Santa Lucia temple, built in 1853 and considered a national monument. Inspiringly you will find the sentence, ‘En esta casa, queremos una vida libra de violencia hacia las mujeres’ printed on virtually every house, as the town supports zero violence against women in a country that suffers immensely from domestic violence and terrible inequality. Last but not least, Suchitoto boasts the beautiful Suchitlan Lake, home to 200+ species of birds.

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Day 3: Suchitoto - Perquín

Starting the day with an early morning boat ride on Suchitlan Lake, we hope to spot some of the 200+ species of birds that reside here. We’ll then head on to Perquín, an area used for guerrilla incursions during the 1980s’ civil war. Here we will experience lunch ‘as a guerrilla’, before touring the Museo de la Revolución Salvadoreña. This is an important opportunity to learn of the 12-year bloody civil war that still impacts the daily lives of Central Americans, and will help us understand much of what we will continue to see throughout the trip. As Perquín is situated amongst lush coffee plantations, green pine groves and some beautiful mountain scenery, we will finish the day with a leisurely walk, taking in the natural beauty this once turbulent land has to offer. Perquín Lenca or similar (B,L,D)

Perquin:

Stunning but small, and a vital part of El Salvadors bloody history, this high mountain town located in the north Morazan department, now forms part of the countries ‘peace route’. Perquin was once the FMLN (left wing party) headquarters, used for guerrilla intrusions and counter-insurgents during the countries 12 year civil war. Today steeped in history, tourists visit the area to learn of the civil war from the revolution museum and ex-guerrillas who work here. The area is also developing as an ecodestination, with surrounding hills, lush vegetation and coffee plantations for beautiful walks and sustainable tourism.

 

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Day 4: Perquin - Bahía de Jiquilisco

This morning we head straight for Nuevo Gualcho, a self-developed community comprised of refugee families, who decided they wanted to return home from Honduras and raise their children on home land in the early ‘90s. In recent years the inspiring youth that have been born and raised here have taken the initiative to develop an ecotourism project, in the hope this will provide employment and income for them, whilst still being able to remain at home with their families. The land they built their home on is also home to ‘La Hacienda’, a site famously used by Francisco Morazán during the fight for a unified Central America in 1828. After lunch with the friendly locals and a tour of the homes they have built from scratch, we continue on to Alegría, a town of ‘happiness’ that also boasts a sparkling green sulphur lagoon in its volcanic crater. The evening finishes in Bahía de Jiquilisco, on the Pacific Coast, where we will spend the next 2 nights. Puerto Barillas or similar (B,L,D)

Nuevo Gualcho:

A small rural community located to the north of the Usulutan department. In 1990 a group of Salvadorian families who were tired of living as refugees in Honduras, decided they would move home to raise their children. Together they found this small area of rich fertile land to live from, along with a river and one large ‘hacienda’ building, which began as the communal home for all families. This building has historical significance as it was famously used by Francisco Morazan as a base for battle during the fight for a unified Central America in 1828. After winning the battle he went on to become President of the Federal Republic of Central America. In the 27 years that have followed, these families (now around 200) have developed a fully functioning community, building houses, a school, shop and youth centre and living predominantly through farming and agricultural work. Today the main problems they face, are the same as many rural communities and ‘poor’ people in El Salvador; lack of education, jobs and opportunity. Now tired of sending family member after member, across dangerous immigrant routes to the US, where they will earn a decent wage to send home but will not be able to return themselves, the youth have decided to develop an ecotourism route. Realising the beauty of their surroundings and their story, they have used bio-construction techniques to build a recycling centre, artisan centre, developed their cafetin, and pathed a route to their ‘Mirador’ – viewpoint.

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Day 5: Bahía de Jiquilisco

Today we plan to spending our time on the Pacific coast, exploring Central America’s largest estuary, amongst some of El Salvador’s most untouched natural beauty. A boat tour of the mangrove lined bay will teach us about this unique biosphere reserve, whilst including lunch on one of the 27 deserted islands. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure, perhaps relaxing by the pool, or for those that would prefer a more active afternoon, there are a number of activities on offer (for an additional cost), including bike tours, kayaking and sports fishing, visiting the local monkey sanctuary or touring the nearby cacao plantation. Puerto Barillas or similar (B,L,D)

Jiquilisco Bay:

At more than 150,000 acres, Bahia de Jiquilisco is Central America’s largest estuary and home to an extensive diversity of birds, fish, sea turtles and monkeys to name just a few. Located on the Pacific Coast, the mangrove lined bay promotes some outstanding natural beauty, arguably the best the country has to offer which has led to an increase in ecotourism here. The recently declared biosphere reserve is home to various canals, bays, islands, forests and sandy beaches as well as a freshwater lagoon complex. Surrounded by small communities the local people make a sustainable living through tourism, livestock rearing, shrimp farming and agricultural work.

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Day 6: Bahía de Jiquilisco - Tegucigalpa (Honduras)

This morning we head for Honduras and although we can expect a relatively long drive, the scenery alone should more than compensate. Arriving into Tegucigalpa mid-afternoon, we will stretch our legs with a walking tour of the capital. This evening we will have an early night, ready for our early morning flight tomorrow. Minister Suites or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 7: Tegucigalpa – Pico Bonito - La Ceiba

Taking a short early morning flight we will fly to La Ceiba on the Caribbean coast from where we will head straight for Pico Bonito, one of the best National Parks in Honduras, boasting dense tropical rainforest, an abundance of wild life and some picturesque waterfalls. A full day’s hike* will see us explore a little of the 1073sqkm diverse park and we plan to enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the beautiful hidden waterfalls we find. *Those preferring a less active day, will be able to take a shorter walk in the park. Partenon Beach or similar (B,L,D)

Pico Bonito:

Pico Bonito National Park isn’t just remote – it’s largely unexplored. Located in northern Honduras, near the Caribbean city of La Ceiba, it’s one of the country’s largest parks and is named for the mountain that dominates its sky. Rugged and isolated, Pico Bonito is home to cloud forests, dense jungles, dry lowland regions, several rivers, and exceptional wildlife; keep your eye out for monkeys, wild pigs, and the elusive jaguar. Although much of the park is inaccessible without a machete and some serious boots, Pico Bonito remains an exceptional destination for jungle treks, bird watching, and white water rafting.

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Day 8: La Ceiba - Cayos Cochinos – La Ceiba

Today we head out into crystal blue Caribbean waters, where we will take a boat ride out to the bay islands of Cayos Cochinos. The islands are an archipelago made up of two small main islands and 13 even smaller ones, which given their abundant natural wealth were declared a protected area, and a marine national monument in 2003. Heading back to shore before high tide we will be free to wander around the traditional Garifuna village of Sambo Creek and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Partenon Beach or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 9: La Ceiba - Gracias

Today we take a scenic drive southwest, with our first stop at Lake Yojoa, the country’s largest lake set in a depression formed by volcanoes. The beautiful landscape of lake and mountains is the perfect lunch stop before we continue onwards this afternoon to reach the small, peaceful town of Gracias, originally named Gracias a Dios (Thanks to God) by the Spanish trekkers that reached this flat land. Full of colour and atmosphere we will enjoy an evening with this small town community with perhaps even time for a dip in the nearby natural water springs. Hotel Posada de Don Juan or similar (B,L,D)

Gracias:

Originally named Gracias a Dios (Thanks to God) by the Spanish trekkers that reached this flat land, Gracias is a small colonial town situated in the southwest of the country. Fleetingly it boasted being capital of all Spanishconquered Central America in the 16th century and evidence of this remains in its impressive buildings and colonial churches.

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Day 10: Gracias - Copán Ruinas

This morning we enjoy a leisurely wander around town. With lots to see and visit, including the castle fort, museum, botanical gardens, plaza and market, there will be plenty to keep us busy and a real chance to integrate into small town life. While here we hope to learn from the indigenous community of La Campa, witnessing how they work and perfect their ceramic crafts. After lunch we head for Copan, arriving in time for dinner and an evening wander. Marina Copán or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 11: Copán Ruinas

Set to be one of the trip’s real highlights, we begin our day with a guided tour of these incredible Mayan Ruins. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Copán has remarkable sculptures and hieroglyphics and is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the Ancient Mayan World’. After lunch those who wish to explore Copán further are free to do so, whilst the rest of us head up to Santa Isabel Farm where we will take a tour of the local plantation, witnessing first-hand how they cultivate their highquality and high-altitude coffee. Santa Isabel is proud to boast a sustainable and organic shade cultivation process. Marina Copán or similar (B,L)

Copan:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, Copán was one of the ancient Maya’s most lavish cultural centres. It’s less grandiose than it is a detailed work of art and is particularly well-known for its beautifully carved stelae (stone monuments). The site is located just 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of the Guatemalan border and sits in a pristine river valley near the town of Copán Ruínas. Here, you’ll find cobblestone streets, a picturesque plaza, and a smattering of good hotels and restaurants. Not far from town, you can also visit coffee and cardamom farms, as well as the Macaw Mountain Bird Reserve & Nature Park.

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Day 12: Copán Ruinas - Ataco (El Salvador)

Bidding farewell to Honduras we head back to El Salvador via Guatemala with a chance to savour the scenery en route. We aim to arrive into Santa Ana, El Salvador’s second most important city mid-afternoon and visit the historic centre, Parque Libertad, National Theatre and Cathedral before continuing on to the cooler mountain town of Ataco. Our journey along the Ruta de Las Flores (Route of the Flowers) begins by taking an early evening tour of the town and enjoying some of the beautiful vistas on offer. Misión de Angeles or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 13: Ataco – San Salvador

Our final day will see us journey the full length of the Route of the Flowers and with it some of the prettiest, most colourful and cultured towns in El Salvador, including Juayúa, the ‘river of purple of orchids’. As today is a Saturday we should find many street markets and festivals along the way. There will be plenty of opportunity to wander off at leisure, exploring local waterfalls, artisan markets and purchase souvenirs (as well as some delicious traditional street food for lunch). Midafternoon, with full stomachs and souvenirs in hand we will head to the airport, where the tour ends in time for those on the suggested group flight to check-in for their flight home. (B)


Tour Dossier Notes

Climate – Being situated so close to the equator El Salvador and Honduras are hot year round but you can expect temperatures to vary between late 20’s to mid-30’s on this trip. It will be humid in places and cooler on the coast and in the mountains. We will be visiting outside of the rainy season, although there may be the odd shower here and there.

Is this trip for me? – It may sound obvious but these tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. The team at Diesel Adventures can provide the details and expertise you need to help you choose the right trip for you.

Airport transfers– Not included but can be arranged. If you’re booking flights yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.

Accommodation – As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will be in hotels and eco-lodges, the vast majority of which are quite comfortable, although you can expect it to be somewhat more basic in Perquin. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

Transport – On this tour we will use minibuses, boats and a domestic flight

Guides – Full services of a Tour Leader with local guides and drivers.

Meals – In most cases a “Full Board” Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable. Plus bottled drinking water as required

Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, we can arrange if possible and these would be at your own expense.

Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then can request for this to be arranged for you. If you need any advice with visas just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as CIBT can assist.

Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, these are at your expense.


Please note that there is more detailed tour dossiers available specific to each departure date, contact our Sales team and we would be happy to send these to you