This winter we didn’t do our normal lengthy cold weather escape. It didn’t quite work out the way we had hoped the last few times, so we decided this year to take a few weeks to travel somewhere warm without working. For a little over three weeks, we traveled between Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Here’s how much we spent traveling in Central America.
I used to say that all I needed out of a hotel or hostel was that it had to be safe and it had to be clean. I didn’t care much beyond that. It was simply a place to sleep. But lately, whether it’s due to a string of not-so-great hotels or due to the fact that I’m just getting older, what I want from a hotel has changed.
Antigua is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala. This Spanish colonial town attracts travelers who want to learn Spanish, people on church missions, and quite often, people who want to climb a volcano. Several of them sit close enough to the city to be easily seen, and trips to hike up them, especially Picaya, are very popular. But that’s not what Andy and I had in our plans.
After our short time in San Salvador and visiting some of El Salvador’s volcanoes, Andy and I hopped on the best bus in all of Central America. (Or at least that’s what it felt like to us.) We were headed back to Guatemala to Lake Atitlan, famous for its gorgeous views of volcanoes from the little towns that line the shores.
After taking a tour of San Salvador, we felt re-energized. Andy and I were happy with our decision to come to El Salvador, and now we wanted to explore some of its natural attractions. For such a small country, it has quite a few volcanoes. The best way to see a few seemed to be on a tour, so we found one that sounded good and booked it for the next day.
El Salvador wasn’t originally in our plans for Central America. But knowing a return trip to Central America would probably include Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, it seemed unlikely we’d be close enough to El Salvador to justify going so far out of our way. And Andy knows I can be a bit of a list ticker sometimes, so we carved out a few days to spend in El Salvador.
Many of the destinations that are popular in Honduras are so due to scuba diving. Since neither of us dive, we decided to skip the coastal areas. I was more interested in ruins. So even though we had just seen Tikal in Guatemala, a few days later we were in Copan Ruinas to see another ancient Mayan site.
Visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal was something we were both really looking forward to on our trip to Central America. Not only are they one of the most famous sets of ruins in the region, but they were also used in the filming of one of the Star Wars movies (though very briefly) which added to the excitement for Andy. After spending several days in Belize, Tikal in Guatemala was our next stop.
As with a lot of less developed parts of the world, solid, reliable information about transportation for Central America was not always so easy to find online. My trusty Lonely Planet Central America guidebook helped with some legs, and other travel blogs helped as well. But there were several pieces we couldn’t find ahead of time, so we knew we’d have to figure it out on the ground.
One of the things I wanted to do when we started researching Belize was to see the Blue Hole Reef. It’s a circular-shaped reef around a really deep sinkhole, so the water looks super dark blue inside the reef and crystal clear blue outside. The photos I saw were gorgeous!