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					                           CENTRAL AMERICA
                           MEXICO & CUBA

                           MEXICO

                           GUATEMALA

                           BELIZE

                           HONDURAS

                           NICARAGUA

                           COSTA RICA

                           PANAMA

                           CUBA




TA I LO R - M A D E J O U R N E Y S   FOR   THE   D I S C E R N I N G T RAV E LL E R
    Dear Traveller
    Central America, Mexico and Cuba -
    a vast region of diverse cultures,
    enthralling indigenous markets,
    spectacular wildlife, smoking volcanoes,
    serene lakes, steamy jungles, and idyllic
    white sand beaches lapped by the turquoise
    waters of the Caribbean and Pacific,
    abundant with a colourful underworld
    of coral reefs and marine life. Ruins of
    ancient civilisations abound, unearthed
    in forests surrounded by the howls of
    monkeys and the screech of tropical birds,
    intermixed with well-preserved colonial
    architecture in the cities.

    Yet despite all this there are relatively
    few visitors; something of a genuine
    wonder to me! Whilst it does mean the
    infrastructure can be lacking in places,
    the majority of travel through the region
    is relatively straightforward and if you
    do choose to venture off the beaten track,
    the travel experiences more than make
    up for it. Each country gives the visitor
    an opportunity to experience something        Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

    new and unique whether it be dancing
    to the rhythms of salsa or rumba in a
                                                  Audley Travel                                             A Journey to Suit You
    Cuban bar, walking high above the
                                                  Audley Travel was established by Craig Burkinshaw         You may wish to travel for all sorts of reasons,
    cloudforest canopy of Costa Rica in search
                                                  with the simple philosophy of offering clients the        whether to explore the culture and history of a
    of the elusive quetzal or absorbing the       best possible travel experiences. Craig recognised        region, view wildlife, discover spectacular scenery
    mesmerizing effects of wind and light on      that the only way of achieving this was to have           or simply to relax. For many Audley clients it is
                                                  specialists with detailed, in-depth knowledge of          a combination of all these, while others have
    stunning Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.
                                                  the countries we visit backed by a no-compromise          more specialised interests such as photography,
                                                  attitude to quality and service. Audley now offers        birdwatching or trekking in magnificent landscapes.
    Our specialists are genuinely passionate
                                                  a comprehensive range of programmes throughout            Whatever you want from your trip, we can
    about the region; all have travelled here     Asia, Africa, Alaska, the Arctic, Antarctica, Canada,     use our detailed knowledge to plan your ideal
    extensively on both Audley research trips     Latin America and Australasia.                            itinerary.

    and their personal travels. Several have
                                                  Careful Planning                                          Tailor-made Travel
    even lived there. They have discovered
    the most authentic and characterful hotels,   Our Central America, Mexico and Cuba specialists          The joy of tailor-made travel is that your
                                                  have all travelled extensively throughout the region      complete holiday is designed around your own
    researched the most insightful tours and
                                                  and in many cases have lived there, so you can rely       requirements, so you are not tied to the set
    identified the most knowledgeable and         on their first-hand knowledge. They have boundless        itinerary of a group. This allows you to explore
    enthusiastic guides. I hope their passion     enthusiasm for their chosen countries and take an         at your own pace and select accommodation that
                                                  honest “tell it how it is” approach to planning an        suits your needs, with our specialist knowledge
    and expertise shines through on the pages
                                                  itinerary, suggesting sights, selecting accommodation     at your disposal to perfect your travel plans.
    of this brochure and inspires you to visit    and discussing the practicalities of travel. We also      Throughout the brochure you will find suggested
    this fascinating corner of the world.         insist that they regularly re-visit the region,           itineraries designed by our specialists to suit the
                                                  meticulously inspect hotels and keep up to date           needs of most travellers. Each one can be
                                                  with all travel-related issues. We believe this           adjusted to accommodate your specific tastes
                                                  approach is unique to Audley and ultimately ensures       and interests, or we can plan a completely new
                                                  that you will have the best possible travel experience.   trip to match your own requirements.

    Craig Burkinshaw
    Managing Director

2
How to plan your journey                                    Contents
with Audley
                                                            Introduction                          2-5
We suggest that you read through the brochure
                                                            Mexico                               6-17
to obtain a feel for this region’s unique travel
possibilities. Once you have an idea of the type            Guatemala                           18-25
of trip you want to take, or would like some                Belize                              26-33
general guidance, call one of our specialists on
                                                            Honduras                            34-37
01993 838 638. They will answer any questions
you have and discuss your travel plans and ideas            Nicaragua                           38-43
in detail, making suggestions where appropriate.            Costa Rica                          44-53
We will then send you a detailed itinerary
                                                            Panama                              54-61
complete with maps, accommodation information,
colour photographs and a price. Once you have               Cuba                                62-67
read through the itinerary we will answer any
further questions and refine the tour until you
are totally satisfied. The booking process starts       Kuna Indian, San Blas Islands, Panama
when we receive your deposit and booking form,
at which point we can start to confirm your travel
arrangements. The same Audley specialist will be
handling your trip from start to finish: please feel
free to call them at any time.


Financial Security
You can book with us confident in the knowledge
that we are fully bonded with the Civil Aviation
Authority and hold an Air Tour Operators’
License (ATOL 4817). This fully covers all holiday
arrangements which begin the UK. If your
arrangements do not begin in the UK, you are
protected by our Association of British Travel Agents
(ABTA) membership. Our ABTA number is W8501.




                                                                                                        3
    Granada, Nicaragua


    Responsible Travel                                   involved in protecting and preserving their natural     Transportation
                                                         environment. Punta Islita in particular is a fabulous
    We are passionate about the countries we             example, with intricate recycling systems in place.     Within Mexico, Central America and Cuba we
    specialise in, and have always been firmly           They have also set up a school to educate the           recommend the most convenient and appropriate
    committed to the principles of ethical and           local children in English so that they can later be     means of transport for the region in which you
    sustainable travel. Our responsible travel policy    employed at the hotel. When it comes to the             are travelling. Many of the road journeys are
    has been awarded Three Stars – the maximum           indigenous cultures of Mexico and Guatemala we          stunningly scenic with interesting stops en route
    possible – by the Association of Independent         ensure our guides are fully conversant with local       adding to your trip’s overall enjoyment. Especially
    Tour Operators, and we have drawn up a               sensitivities, and able to ensure your visit            in the smaller countries such as Belize and Costa
    Travellers’ Code which will help you to ensure       proceeds smoothly, making friends along the way.        Rica where distances are relatively short, driving
    your trip does not threaten the sustainability of    In addition to the above, Audley support a              with your chauffeur-guide will give you a great
    the places you visit. Audley supports the Friends    number of good causes through the Audley                perspective of the country. The roads however
    of Conservation carbon offsetting scheme.            Charity Portfolio – please refer to                     do vary widely in condition, from the well-kept
    For further details on how to offset the carbon      www.audleytravel.com/rt for more details.               paved highways of Mexico to the bumpy, windy
    emissions from your flight, please visit our                                                                 roads that follow the coast of Belize. We always
    website or talk to the country specialist            Guides                                                  use experienced local drivers who know the
    arranging your trip.
                                                         We recognise that your guide can be the most
    Although many of the countries in this region        important factor in determining the success of
    have well established foreign-owned hotel            your trip, so we use only qualified guides to
    chains we always try to patronise small, privately   ensure that your experience is exceptional.
    owned establishments where the revenue from          Our guides are both enthusiastic and
    visitors stays within the local community.           knowledgeable, and are fully briefed on your
    Where we do use the large hotel operators,           itinerary. Chatting with your guide is an excellent
    such as the Starwood Haciendas in Mexico, we         way to gain an insight into the country you’re
    make sure they have policies of employing and        visiting and your guide will speak good English,
    training staff from the local villages. Throughout   although please remember that this is not their
    the region there is an increasing awareness of       first language and the level in more remote
    environmental concerns, with Costa Rica leading      regions may not quite match that found in the
    the way. The ‘green’ eco-lodges here are actively    more popular places.


                                                                                                                 Leatherback turtle, Costa Rica

4
                                                                                                            Mariachi musicians, Mexico




Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico




Black howler monkey                                    Local people, Guatemala                              Arenal volcano, Costa Rica

roads well and air-conditioned cars for your           Accommodation                                        www.audleytravel.com
comfort. Where necessary we provide 4WD
vehicles. The domestic and intra-regional flight       When travelling throughout Mexico, Central           If you are looking for travel inspiration, Audley’s
network is extensive and reliable, often offering      America and Cuba with Audley, where you stay         website is full of journey ideas, month-by-month
the best, if not the only, way to travel between       is very much part of the experience. Although in     suggestions, destination guides, slideshows, exclusive
certain distant destinations.                          some areas international-style hotels are the best   articles and special features, responsible travel
                                                       options available, wherever possible we have         details and a useful travel information section.
Flights                                                tracked down some of the characterful or unusual
                                                       options that add an extra dimension to your          Group Travel
The Mexico, Central America and Caribbean              journey. In an area as vast and as diverse as
region covers a vast area, and is well served by       Central America this can range from an exquisite     If you wish to travel with a group of friends -
airlines flying from the UK, however, not many         luxurious restored colonial hacienda in Mexico       maybe with a special interest in common - we
airlines fly directly. At the time of going to print   to a simple over-water wooden bungalow off           can make all the arrangements. For larger groups
only British Airways offer direct flights to Mexico    Panama’s Caribbean coast. We regularly inspect       we may be able to offer a free place to the
City and Virgin Atlantic to Havana in Cuba. Most       the accommodation available, updating our            organiser. Please call us to discuss your plans.
people find they are flying with Iberia via Madrid,    knowledge on existing properties and researching
American Airlines via Miami or Continental via         new options. Some of our favourite and more          Terms & Conditions
Houston or New York. Continental are                   interesting examples are featured within the
particularly good at offering departures from          brochure, though we will be happy to
                                                                                                            and Travel Insurance
regional airports in the UK, cutting time from         recommend many others to suit all budgets            Your booking is subject to the Terms and
your journey. Our specialists will ensure you          and tastes: just call to find out more.              Conditions of Audley Travel, which are detailed
travel with the airline that best suits your needs.                                                         in a separate leaflet. It is vital that you have
Competitively priced upgrades are possible on                                                               adequate travel insurance and we are able to
all international flights for those seeking a little                                                        offer a number of policies either for the duration
more refinement and legroom, including BA’s                                                                 of your trip or on an annual basis.
excellent value World Traveller Plus cabins.
Regional flights within the UK and all domestic
flights at your destination can be booked via
Audley. Please see our separate flights leaflet for
further information.                                                                                            Introduction
                                                                                                                Telephone: 01993 838 638
                                                       Idyllic caye, Belize

                                                                                                                                                                     5
    Mexico
         n immensely diverse country, Mexico        disguised by dangling lianas and the roots of     setting the tone in the colonial towns. All
    A      has a rich cultural heritage and a       tall trees that have over time engulfed them.     this is enhanced by delicious Mexican food
    fascinating history. Physically, the land       Traces of these civilisations live on in quaint   and by the constant background cadences of
    includes scorching deserts, lush rainforests,   highland villages, where indigenous people        traditional music. With a population of over
    rocky mountains, deep canyons, stunning         still wear customary dress as they browse         106 million and 52 different spoken languages
    beaches and sparkling, turquoise seas, where    market stalls and transform Christian             Mexico is also a land of contrasts; modern
    the pre-Colombian age saw mighty empires        churches with their own ancient gods. Every       versus ancient, manic versus serene and rich
    rise: amongst them Aztec, Maya and Toltec.      city shows signs of the 500 years of Spanish      versus poor; a country that caters for all tastes
    Each has left a legacy of ancient ruins, and    occupation, with Castillian architecture,         but is not without its challenges.
    though some have been cleared, many are still   cobbled streets and baroque cathedrals all

6
Audley in Mexico
We specialise in tailor-made, cultural and natural
Mexico rather than the all-inclusive package holidays
that parts of the country are well-known for. Indeed,
avoiding mass tourism is a key part of our ethos in
Mexico. Where possible we use smaller, more
authentic accommodation, and aim to get you to
the main sites before the crowds arrive. Our guides’
knowledge is unsurpassed and our specialists have        Climate                                              Accommodation
researched the best routes to travel around the
country. We suggest a chauffeur-guide rather than        Mexico is such a huge country that the weather       There is no shortage of hotels in Mexico but they
self-drive as Mexican roads can be hazardous and         varies by region and season - at any one time part   are often large, lacking in character, badly located
because of its sheer size we often suggest internal      of the country will be at its best. In general the   and offering poor service. Finding characterful
flights where appropriate. Our consultants all have      best time of year to visit is between November       accommodation can be a little tricky, however, our
first-hand knowledge of the country so are well able     and April when there is virtually no rain. The       specialists have hand-picked those that offer an
to advise on the best places to go. We recommend         coldest months are between December and              authentic and personal experience, and are in
you do not try to cover the whole country in one         February when high northern regions such as the      keeping with the tone and atmosphere of the area
visit but rather focus on a few areas, taking the        Copper Canyon can be severely disrupted by           you are visiting. They range from the most luxurious
time to absorb the culture and atmosphere.               snow. The ‘rainy’ season begins in the south in      to the most basic, depending on your requirements
The visitor infrastructure in parts of the country is    May and runs until October. Although it can be       and the part of the country you are in. The Pacific
well-developed with good service, first class road       hotter and more humid at this time of year,          coast, Baja and the Mayan Riviera have some of the
networks and high accommodation standards but            usually it only rains for a couple of hours before   most beautiful and deluxe properties of all the
in other areas the opposite is true. So, take an         the weather clears. The Caribbean coast can be       Americas while the colonial cities have some
open mind, a good sense of humour and a relaxed          affected by the hurricane season, which is           gorgeous restored mansions. We will always discuss
attitude to make the most of this captivating country.   generally from June to November.                     with you the options in each location.




                                                                                                              Traditional dancers, Oaxaca


                                                                                                                  Mexico
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 670
Common dolphins

                                                                                                                                                                     7
    The Zócalo, Mexico City


    Mexico City and Around                                   Mexico City deserves at least two full days if time          FOUR SEASONS, MEXICO CITY
                                                             allows whilst the surrounding area can be seen
                                                                                                                      Mexico City’s Four Seasons Hotel is well located;
    The buzzing metropolis that is Mexico City is a          on guided day trips. On the overland route used
                                                                                                                      the Zócalo is a 15 minute stroll away and the
    fascinating contrast of old and new, grey and green,     by the Spanish to transport goods from the
                                                                                                                      Palacio de Bellas Artes is even closer. With 240
    rich and poor; a place to love or loathe. Founded        Philippines to Spain, the town of Cuernavaca is
                                                                                                                      spacious bedrooms the hotel is large, yet
    by the Aztecs in the 14th century on the site of a       known as the ‘Town of Eternal Spring’, a charming
                                                                                                                      attractive, built around a central courtyard and
    great lake, the city now stretches right across a vast   collection of churches small and vast, pretty
                                                                                                                      fountain where guests can dine in what feels like
    valley. After the Spanish conquest of the Atzecs,        gardens and an atmospheric main square. A
                                                                                                                      a Parisian street café. Facilities include a heated
    many of the city’s original buildings were built over    little further afield the hillside town of Taxco
                                                                                                                      outdoor pool, small gym and an excellent
    and are only now being rediscovered. Today the           has winding cobbled streets, beautiful churches
                                                                                                                      restaurant serving a range of Mexican cuisine and
    city is a mix of ancient ruins, colonial buildings and   and dozens of silver shops. Head east from
                                                                                                                      fine international cuisine.
    modern high-rises. Its soul is overwhelmingly            Mexico City past the spectacular smoking
    centred around its vast Zócalo (main square),            Popocatepetl volcano and you reach the colonial              THE GRAN HOTEL, MEXICO CITY
    where the Mexican flag has flown proudly for             gem of Puebla, famous for its beautiful ornate tiles
                                                                                                                      The Gran Hotel is an old historic hotel in the
    centuries, and where crowds gather in celebration        and its chilli and chocolate mole sauce. It is well
                                                                                                                      heart of the city, overlooking the Zócalo. The
    or in demonstration at every opportunity. The city       worth a full day and a night here to absorb the
                                                                                                                      foyer is sheltered by a beautiful stained glass
    is not without its charms; the Anthropological           history and charm of the place. Mexico City itself
                                                                                                                      roof which gives the place something of a feel
    Museum is one of the finest on the continent, the        has a vast selection of accommodation to suit all
                                                                                                                      of New York’s Grand Central Station, and its 60
    floating Aztec Gardens of Xochimilco make for a          budgets. We have suggested just a few of our
                                                                                                                      comfortable rooms fan around this central area.
    colourful day out, whilst the magnificent pyramids       favourite options.
                                                                                                                      The rooftop cafe and restaurant have wonderful
    of Teotihuacan rival those of Giza.
                                                                 CASA VIEJA, MEXICO CITY                              views, high above the hustle and bustle of the city.

                                                             The Casa Vieja is a beautiful converted mansion
                                                             located in the quieter residential area of Polanco.
                                                             Each of the ten guest rooms are named and
                                                             individually decorated in bright Mexican colours
                                                             with traditional furniture, comprised of locally
                                                             made tiles, ornate wood carvings and beautiful
                                                             fabrics. Whilst the décor is traditional, and the
                                                             hotel full of character the facilities are all modern.
                                                             Breakfast is served on a rooftop terrace amongst
                                                             hummingbirds that flit from flower to flower.
    Casa Vieja, Mexico City                                                                                           The Gran Hotel, Mexico City

8
San Antonio Church, San Miguel de Allende                Guanajuato




Pyramids of Teotihuacan                                                                                             Ice cream vendor


    LAS MAÑANITAS, CUERNAVACA                            Allende is more relaxed and artistic, with cobbled           VILLA MONTANA,
                                                         streets climbing steep city-centre hills. Morelia’s city   MORELIA
From the outside, Las Mañanitas looks more like
                                                         centre on the other hand is dominated by an
a traditional Mexican home than a first class hotel.                                                                Located just ten minutes by road from Morelia,
                                                         impressive cathedral with archways framing streets
Step through the doors however, and you enter                                                                       the Villa Montana has stunning views over the
                                                         that have barely changed in hundreds of years.
an oasis of calm in much-loved gardens where                                                                        UNESCO-recognised city from its vantage point
                                                         Decidedly different from one another, each of
peacocks strut across manicured lawns that                                                                          on the slope of Cerro de Santa Maria. With just
                                                         the cities has its own particular charm and appeal
surround the large inviting swimming pool. With                                                                     36 beautifully-decorated suites, the hotel maintains
                                                         intermixed with a laid back atmosphere and
just 21 guest bedrooms the hotel retains an                                                                         an intimate feel, with guest rooms spread
                                                         pleasant cafés creating the perfect environment
intimate atmosphere, and its restaurant is widely                                                                   throughout delightful grounds. Facilities include
                                                         for watching the world go by. A guide is essential
considered the best in the state.                                                                                   a large swimming pool, extensive spa and one
                                                         to reveal their hidden corners and colourful past.
                                                                                                                    of the city’s most respected restaurants.
                                                         The cities are a good few hours’ drive from one
The Colonial Cities                                      another so we suggest taking your time and                   CASA DE SIERRA NEVADA,
                                                         spending at least a week to discover the area, or          SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
During Mexico’s colonial era the mines of its central
                                                         a couple of days visiting just one or two cities. All
heartland produced much of the world’s silver, gold                                                                 The Casa de Sierra Nevada is a collection of
                                                         are at their best on the Day of the Dead on
and precious stones: as a result the colonial cities                                                                charming colonial houses set around cool
                                                         November 1st, when the streets are transformed
were born. Many are now important industrial                                                                        courtyards within easy walking distance of the
                                                         into macabre street parties.
centres, but have generally retained their charming                                                                 centre of the town. The main house, today a
historic hearts. They provide a different perspective                                                               historic landmark, was originally built as the
on this fascinating country. Colourful Spanish                                                                      Archbishop’s home in 1580 but is now operated
architecture, cobbled streets and plazas abound,                                                                    as a hotel by Orient-Express. In all there are 33
each one different from the next. They vary from                                                                    guest rooms, each decorated in a mix of colonial
traditional villages such as Patzcuaro, with its local                                                              and Mexican styles.
Indian community in colourful costumes living
around a lake, to modern commercial cities such as
Queretaro, with its pedestrian walkways and
sprawling suburbs centred around its colonial heart.
Guanajuato, meaning “Place of Frogs”, is a vibrant,
colourful university city, a series of winding roads
                                                                                                                        Mexico
and underground streets making the best of its
location in a narrow gorge, while San Miguel de                                                                         Telephone: 01993 838 670
                                                         Casa de Sierra Nevada, San Miguel Allende

                                                                                                                                                                           9
     Copper Canyon Area                                                                                                     P OSADA      DEL   H IDALGO , E L F UERTE
                                                                                                                       Posada del Hidalgo is a colonial mansion, built in
     In the north of Mexico lies the beautiful, remote,
                                                                                                                       1890 by Señor Rafael Almada in the heart of El
     rugged canyon system, generically known as the
                                                                                                                       Fuerte, who spent five years and 100,000 gold
     Copper Canyon. The largest of the canyons are
                                                                                                                       pesos on its construction. Now restored and
     Urique, Sinforosa and Batapilas which all plunge to
                                                                                                                       converted into a hotel, it has 54 individually
     depths of over 1,800 metres making them not only
                                                                                                                       decorated rooms, all en-suite, a lovely swimming
     as impressive, but deeper than their better-known
                                                                                                                       pool and a charming open air restaurant
     cousin across the border in the USA. The area is
                                                                                                                       specialising in tasty Mexican cuisine.
     most easily accessed by air from Mexico City to
     either Chihuahua or Los Mochis and the best way to                                                                  POSADA BARRANCAS MIRADOR,
     see the Copper Canyon is by the famous Chihuahua         Posada Barrancas Mirador, Barrancas                      BARRANCAS
     al Pacifico (El Chepe) train that runs between the two
                                                                                                                       The Posada Barrancas Mirador is located in a
     cities, making numerous stops along its way. It is a     Copper Canyon and is a real taste of adventure travel
                                                                                                                       fantastic position perched on the edge of the
     magnificent feat of engineering - 480 kilometres of      in Mexico. The journey takes 16 hours to complete,
                                                                                                                       Copper Canyon near to its highest point. The
     track have been laid incorporating 360 degree turns,     but to appreciate the grandeur of the scenery and to
                                                                                                                       views of the canyon are stunning and it is also a
     86 tunnels and 36 bridges to descend from 2,333          enhance your trip we recommend setting off from
                                                                                                                       birdwatcher’s paradise. It’s a simple hotel but each
     metres to sea level. It travels alongside parts of the   the colonial outback town of El Fuerte, an hour from
                                                                                                                       of its 48 guest rooms has a private terrace with
                                                              Los Mochis. From here board the train and spend
                                                                                                                       view and are designed to reflect the local
                                                              several days exploring the region, staying in a couple
                                                                                                                       Tarahumara Indian culture.
                                                              of places along the train route, such as the tiny
                                                              mission village of Cerocahui, where you can access
                                                              magnificent viewpoints over the Urique canyon.
                                                              However, the environment up here can be harsh
                                                              with extreme weather conditions, especially between
                                                              December and February, when snow can fall.
                                                              Unlike in other parts of the country, the hotels in
                                                              the Copper Canyon are far from luxurious with food,
                                                              heating and service very much on the slow side, and
                                                              few of the region’s Tarahumara Indians speaking
                                                              English. Intrepid travellers find this all adds to the
                                                              experience of Mexico at its ‘Wild West’ best.
     El Chepe train, Copper Canyon                                                                                     Posada del Hidalgo, El Fuerte

10
                                                                                                                  Canyons and Coasts


                                                                                                                  A tour to explore the scenic side of northern
                                                                                                                  Mexico by train, combining the stunning coastline
                                                                                                                  and beautiful hotels of Baja California with the
                                                                                                                  natural drama of the Copper Canyon.

                                                                                                                  Day 1         Fly to Mexico City.

                                                                                                                  Day 2         City tour and visit to Xochimilco
                                                                                                                                floating gardens.

                                                                                                                  Day 3         Tour of the Pyramids of Teotihuacan
                                                                                                                                and the Shrine of Guadelupe.

                                                                                                                  Day 4         Fly to San José del Cabo, Baja
                                                                                                                                California and transfer to your hotel.

                                                                                                                  Days 5-8      Relax, sunbathe and take optional
                                                                                                                                excursions to explore the area.

                                                                                                                  Day 9         Fly to Los Mochis where you will
                                                                                                                                be driven to the colonial town of
Azure waters of Baja California                                                                                                 El Fuerte.

                                                                                                                  Day 10        Catch the first class train for your
                                                                                                                                trip to the Copper Canyon, spending
                                                                                                                                the night in Cerocahui.

                                                                                                                  Day 11        Tour to view the deepest point of
                                                                                                                                Urique Canyon before continuing by
                                                                                                                                train to Barrancas at the Copper
                                                                                                                                Canyon’s edge.

                                                                                                                  Day 12        This morning take a scenic along the
                                                                                                                                canyon’s rim. This afternoon catch the
                                                                                                                                train onto Creel.

                                                                                                                  Day 13        Morning at leisure. This afternoon
Casa del Mar, near San José del Cabo                     Palmilla One and Only, near San José del Cabo                          take the train to your journey’s end,
                                                                                                                                in Chihuahua.
Baja California                                            CASA DEL MAR,                                          Day 14        Fly to Mexico City to connect onto
                                                         NEAR SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO                                                 your international flight.
Renowned for its sunny climate the Baja Peninsula
                                                         The Casa del Mar is an intimate luxury resort            Day 15        Arrive in the UK.
often experiences no rainfall at all in a year. If the
                                                         perfectly located on a stunning stretch of beach
rain does arrive it is usually between July and
                                                         facing the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortés.        TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
October when the desert landscape revives in
                                                         The hotel is delightfully designed, with arches,
a sudden burst of green. The stretch of coast                                                                     Our private tailor-made journeys offer
                                                         cobbled courtyards, tiled fountains and authentic        complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas
                                                         Mexican hacienda architecture surrounded by lush         accommodation shown are designed to give you a
is lined with one beautiful beach after another.
                                                         tropical gardens. Accommodation is in 56 suites,         flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
Surfers flock here for the waves and between                                                                      your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
                                                         all with marble bathrooms, and there is an elegant
January and mid-April California grey whales can                                                                  accommodation and season, please telephone us
                                                         beachfront restaurant for dining by candle-light.
be spotted. The nightlife of Cabo San Lucas is                                                                    to discuss your individual requirements.
                                                         Facilities include swimming pools, a fantastic spa,
legendary with San José del Cabo being its quieter,
                                                         Jacuzzi, sauna, gym, floodlit tennis courts and a
quainter neighbour and a lovely place to pass time,
                                                         nearby championship golf course.
pottering around its shops or relaxing in one of its
lovely restaurants. The food, especially the fresh         PALMILLA ONE AND ONLY,
fish, is absolutely delicious throughout the region.     NEAR SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO
However, we feel that being located so close to
                                                         The 172 bedroom Palmilla One and Only resort is
the USA, Baja has much more of a western
                                                         surrounded by tropical gardens in a prime setting,
influence than Mexican. In recent years, it has
                                                         right by the beach with stunning views. The hotel
become a playground for the rich and famous
                                                         underwent a thorough renovation in 2004 and
with incredibly luxurious hotels such as Las
                                                         features a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf
Ventanas and La Esperanza offering secluded
                                                         course, a full-service spa, fitness centre, three fine
hideaway opportunities in outstanding beachfront                                                                  Grey whale diving, Baja California
                                                         dining restaurants, two infinity pools, a children’s
locations - all at a price of course. If you are
                                                         pool and play area. Rooms are beautifully
looking for authentic Mexico then this is not it, but
                                                         designed with vast windows that welcome in
its certainly a beautiful spot to honeymoon or to
                                                         fantastic views of the sea, and the service is
simply relax in pure unadulterated extravagance.
                                                         superb: a true haven of luxury.

                                                                                                                  Mexico
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 670


                                                                                                                                                                            11
     Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca


     Oaxaca                                                                                                             H ACIENDA L OS L AURELES , O AXACA
                                                                                                                    Situated in a tranquil location just a ten minute
     One of Mexico’s most delightful and popular cities,
                                                                                                                    drive out of the centre of Oaxaca, the 19th
     easily reached by plane from Mexico City, Oaxaca
                                                                                                                    century Hacienda Los Laureles has 25 elegant
     lies in a high valley in the south of the country and
                                                                                                                    rooms, beautifully manicured gardens and a
     is surrounded by fascinating Zapotec ruins and
                                                                                                                    welcoming atmosphere. There is a small spa,
     traditional villages. Founded by the Spanish in 1521
                                                                                                                    a swimming pool with Jacuzzi and a lovely
     and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in
                                                                                                                    restaurant serving regional dishes. It is a perfect
     1987, it has managed to retain many of its native
                                                                                                                    place to relax after exploring the bustling city of
     roots amongst the ornate colonial architecture of
                                                                                                                    Oaxaca or the nearby archaeological sites.
     its beautiful city centre. The historic city is best
     explored on foot as the main places of interest         Hacienda Los Laureles, Oaxaca                              CONVERTED MANSIONS, OAXACA
     are all within walking distance of each other along
                                                             For those interested in exploring the surrounding      There are many beautiful, converted colonial
     cobbled streets with charming little shops and
                                                             area we can arrange day trips to the nearby            mansions of a similar standard in Oaxaca, and
     restaurants. The museums here are plentiful and
                                                             Zapotecan archaeological site of Monte Alban,          new ones are opening all the time. These
     well renowned with the impressive Santo
                                                             spectacularly perched on a hilltop with stunning       boutique hotels have limited capacity so we use
     Domingo church, the cathedral, the plazas and
                                                             views of the valley below, or touring the many         many of them interchangeably depending on
     Indian markets all making it an intriguing place to
                                                             fascinating little Indian villages, each famous for    availability. However all are gorgeous, full of
     spend a few days. Its a fabulous spot to wander
                                                             particular skills in weaving, pottery or rug making.   character, in excellent central locations and will
     around or simply sit in one of the outdoor cafes
                                                                                                                    enhance any trip to Mexico. Some of our
     soaking up the atmosphere.
                                                                 CAMINO REAL, OAXACA                                favourite options are: Casa Oaxaca, Casa Antigua,
                                                                                                                    Casa Catrina and Hostal de La Noria.
                                                             The Camino Real is the ultimate place to stay
                                                             in Oaxaca. This first class hotel is housed in the
                                                             16th century former Convent of Santa Catalina,
                                                             an example of Spanish Baroque at its best. The
                                                             91 rooms are beautifully decorated with authentic
                                                             beamed ceilings, Oaxacan fabrics and Mexican
                                                             tiles, and are set over two floors around stunning
                                                             internal courtyards, bursting with bougainvillea.
                                                             The hotel is just a ten minute walk from the
                                                             main square and cathedral.
     The Guelaguetza street parade, Oaxaca                                                                          Camino Real, Oaxaca

12
Local craftswoman




Parador San Juan de Dios, San Cristóbal de Las Casas       Monte Alban, near Oaxaca




Sweetcorn sellers, Zincantan, Chiapas                      Casa Mexicana, San Cristóbal de Las Casas                 San Cristóbal de Las Casas


Chiapas                                                    history, myth and reality. The setting is truly magical   an important part in the history of Chiapas and
                                                           - right in the heart of the forest surrounded by the      look over a central courtyard. It’s a fair walk to
Any 'Chapaneco' (resident of the state of Chiapas)         shriek of tropical birds and guttural growls of           the city’s restaurants and bars but the Parador’s
will tell you that theirs is the finest, most culturally   howler monkeys. If you take a moment to just              own restaurant serves a good range of regional
rich state in Mexico. They have a point.                   imagine you can easily be transported back in time.       and international food.
Economically Chiapas may be Mexico’s poorest               The ruins of Yaxchilan and Bonampak are further
state but it boasts long sandy Pacific beaches,            off the beaten track but well worth a visit for             CHAN KAH RESORT VILLAGE,
steamy tropical jungle, rugged mountains and               anyone with an interest in the history of this            PALENQUE
wonderful Mayan ruins, as well as a rich indigenous        fascinating culture.                                      The Chan Kah is located a kilometre from the
culture that is still very much alive. Most people                                                                   famous site of Palenque, giving guests an easy chance
base themselves in the charming colonial town of               C ASA M EXICANA ,                                     to explore these magnificent ruins before the crowds
San Cristóbal de las Casas with its cobbled streets,       S AN C RISTÓBAL DE L AS C ASAS                            arrive. It has a total of 80 rooms and suites built
museums and churches thronged with locals                  The Casa Mexicana is located just steps from              around a lagoon-style swimming pool and dotted
wearing traditional costume. Outside the town,             the main pedestrianised area of San Cristóbal de          along winding stone paths and jungle-like gardens.
remarkable villages can be found where colonial            Las Casas making it a perfect base from which to          The hotel has a large restaurant offering a good
churches are vividly part of a pre-Hispanic age,           explore the town. It is a converted colonial              range of cuisine and Palenque town, with its shops
with Christian icons all but buried amongst                property decorated in a colourful Mexican style           and restaurants, is just 20 minutes away.
chanting shamans, idols and hundreds of flickering         with 52 rooms and three suites, focused around
candles. The nearby Sumidero Canyon is                     two central courtyards filled with local flora.
historically interesting; the local indians chose to       Attached to the hotel is a small shop selling
jump over its edge rather than submit to Spanish           artisan goods from the local area and the rooms
rule, today it is a haven for wildlife. Chiapas is also    and communal areas are also decorated with the
home to some of the country's most famous                  work of local artists.
Mayan ruins, all within driving distance of San
Cristóbal or accessible by air from Mexico City to           PARADOR SAN JUAN DE DIOS,
the airport of Villahermosa. Mystical, jungle-clad         SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS
Palenque is the largest and most famous site which         In one of the oldest areas of San Cristóbal, away
once commanded an area stretching across the               from the bustle of the centre, this hotel is a haven      Mayan ruins of Palenque
coastal plain as far as the Gulf of Mexico. Backed         of tranquillity, rich with original colonial charm.
by the Chiapan mountains, it was home to tens of           The 12 beautifully decorated rooms and suites                 Mexico
thousands of people and is a spectacular vortex of         are each dedicated to characters that have played             Telephone: 01993 838 670


                                                                                                                                                                             13
     Tulum, Mayan Riviera


     Yucatán Peninsula                                      it is intriguing to explore. The smaller and less
                                                            crowded ruin of Uxmal, to the south of Merida,
     The Yucatán is rich in culture, history and natural    has a more mystical feel than Chichén Itzá.
     scenery. From the well known archaeological sites      Dedicated to the rain god Chac, it is unusual
     of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal to the lesser visited        with ornate and intricate murals decorating the
     ruins, such as Kabáh and Cobá along the Puuc           temples and many of the ruins remaining
     route, you can take a step back in time and            uncovered creating a more authentic feel. The
     discover the ancient Mayan culture and traditions      city of Merida boasts some impressive colonial
     that were once such an integral part of this           housing, colourful markets, a 16th century
     fascinating land. Chichén Itzá is the most famous      cathedral and an art museum of local crafts. All
     of the Mayan archaeological sites in the Yucatán,      the main attractions are within easy reach and it
     and the best restored, providing a vivid insight       is a good base for exploring the surrounding area.
                                                                                                                  Hacienda Santa Rosa de Lima, Yucatán
     into how the city would have looked at its peak.       Alternatively, some of the original rural haciendas
     Due to the high numbers of day trippers that           have been sympathetically converted into hotels,
                                                            some of which still contain their original farm           HISTORICAL HACIENDAS
     engulf the site, we recommend visiting as early
     in the day as possible for the chance to wander        machinery and offer an interesting insight into a     Staying in one of the beautifully restored Starwood
     amongst the towering pyramids in relative              bygone era. For nature lovers, the stunning           Luxury Collection of haciendas is like stepping back
     peace. The site itself is vast and, although you are   underground “cenotes” (sinkholes) dotted all          in time. Set in the heart of the Yucatán, within easy
     no longer allowed to climb any of the structures,      over the Yucatán can provide a refreshing dip,        reach of many of the area’s archaeological sites,
                                                            while birders may wish to visit the resident          each property is different with its own individual
                                                            flamingos at Celestun.                                charms. Hacienda Temozon is the largest with 28
                                                                                                                  individually decorated spacious rooms with high
                                                                CASA LUCIA, MERIDA                                ceilings and tiled floors. Along with nearby Hacienda
                                                            Located right in the heart of the historic centre     Santa Rosa de Lima and Hacienda San Jose Cholul,
                                                            of Merida, three blocks from the main square, the     it is within easy reach of Merida. Heading south near
                                                            Casa Lucia is a lovely 15 bedroom boutique hotel.     Campeche, you will find the Hacienda Uayamon,
                                                            The rooms are all individually decorated with         and the most recent addition to the group, the
                                                            classical furniture. There is a swimming pool and     Hacienda Puerta Campeche, which is a fantastic
                                                            a fantastic French–style café restaurant serving      collection of restored 17th century historical houses.
                                                            excellent food.


     Casa Lucia, Merida

14
                                                                                                                Cultural Mexico


                                                                                                                This itinerary concentrates on Mexico’s historical past
                                                                                                                combining its most fascinating cities, ancient cultures
                                                                                                                and ruins including Oaxaca, San Cristóbal, Palenque
                                                                                                                and Chichén Itzá. The trip ends with an opportunity
                                                                                                                to relax on a superb Mayan Riviera beach.

                                                                                                                Day 1         Fly to Mexico City.

                                                                                                                Day 2         Full day city tour of Mexico City
                                                                                                                              and the Anthropological Museum.
Mayan ruins of Uxmal, Yucatán                                                                                   Day 3         Full day tour to the pyramids
                                                                                                                              of Teotihuacan and the Shrine
                                                                                                                              of Guadelupe.

                                                                                                                Day 4         Fly to the delightful city of Oaxaca.
                                                                                                                              Afternoon city tour.

                                                                                                                Day 5         Half day tour to the archaeological
                                                                                                                              site of Monte Alban.

                                                                                                                Day 6         Visit the market towns in the
                                                                                                                              Tlacolula Valley.

Esencia, near Puerto Aventuras                                                                                  Day 7         Fly to Tuxtla Gutierrez via Mexico
                                                                                                                              City. Drive to San Cristóbal de las
                                                                                                                              Casas with a stop en route at the
                                                                                                                              Sumidero Canyon.

                                                                                                                Day 8         City tour of San Cristóbal de las
                                                                                                                              Casas and visit the Indian communities
                                                                                                                              in San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan.

                                                                                                                Day 9         Drive to Palenque with a stop
                                                                                                                              en route at the beautiful Agua
                                                                                                                              Azul waterfalls.

Ana y Jose, Tulum                                      Maroma, near Puerto Morelos                              Day 10        Morning tour of the archaeological
                                                                                                                              site of Palenque. Late flight from
                                                                                                                              Villahermosa to Merida. Drive to
The Mayan Riviera                                      candlelight. The rooms are decorated in a chic
                                                                                                                              your hacienda.
                                                       contemporary style and the atmosphere is relaxed;
Battered by hurricanes in 2005, the stretch of         the perfect place to take life at your own pace. If      Day 11        Visit the archaeological sites of
Caribbean coast known as the Mayan Riviera has         the setting itself is not enough to unwind you, there                  Uxmal and Kabáh.
made a remarkable recovery to become, once again,      are also classes in yoga and tai chi and a fantastic     Day 12        Take a tour of Celestun and visit
a delightful area of beautiful white sandy beaches     spa on site.                                                           its flamingo population.
and warm turquoise seas. We aim to avoid the
                                                          E SENCIA ,                                            Day 13        Take a stroll through the hacienda
high-rise commercial hub of Cancun and the cruise                                                                             grounds or relax this morning. This
port island of Cozumel that are favoured by package    N EAR P UERTO A VENTURAS
                                                                                                                              afternoon drive to Chichén Itzá.
tourists, preferring more peaceful serene areas for    The fabulous Esencia hotel is one of the most
                                                                                                                Day 14        Morning tour of the archaeological
relaxation. We have selected some stunning five-star   secluded and luxurious properties on the Mayan
                                                                                                                              site of Chichén Itzá before driving to
boutique properties along this coast but also more     Riviera. Surrounded by gorgeous gardens, it is
                                                                                                                              the Mayan Riviera.
modest accommodation, especially down towards          located on the lovely Kantenah Beach, a ten
                                                       minute drive from Puerto Aventuras. The 32               Days 15-17 At leisure to relax or take optional
Tulum with its ancient Mayan ruins and deserted
                                                                                                                           excursions by the coast.
stretches of beach. The Mayan Riviera is the perfect   beautifully-decorated rooms all feature hammocks,
place to relax at the end of a busy itinerary, to      large terraces and most have their own plunge            Day 18        Transfer to Cancun for your flight
snorkel amongst the brightly coloured fish in the      pool. The hotel also has an extensive organic                          to Mexico City to connect to your
                                                                                                                              international flight.
beautiful waters, explore the Mayan archaeological     spa and excellent restaurant.
site of Tulum, or simply collapse on the beach and                                                              Day 19        Arrive in the UK.
enjoy the view. An alternative and increasingly          MAROMA,
popular option is to take a short boat trip from       NEAR PUERTO MORELOS
                                                                                                                EXTENSIONS
Cancun across to Isla Mujeres, a beautiful laid-back   Maroma is a luxurious hideaway nestled on the            To make a longer trip you could tour the colonial
island, less-developed than the mainland, but with     edge of the turquoise Caribbean Sea, a ten minute        cities from Mexico City or fly up to Los Mochis
some fantastic hotels in converted villas.             drive south of Puerto Morelos. The hotel has 65          to explore the Copper Canyon by train.
                                                       guest rooms and suites, three swimming pools
     CABANAS        DE   ANA     Y   JOSE, TULUM       and a beautiful spa tucked amongst lush gardens.
Located on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach     Rooms are individually decorated with original art
near Tulum, Cabanas de Ana y Jose is a small           and furniture, a king-size bed, luxury sunken bath
property with just 22 rooms. The restaurant is a       tub and private terrace. The hotel can arrange
‘palapa’ (thatched hut) on the beach, so you can       diving, sport fishing, kayaking, parasailing, sailing,   Mexico
feel the sand under your feet while you dine by        swimming with dolphins and golf.                         Telephone: 01993 838 670


                                                                                                                                                                          15
     Puerto Vallarta, Pacific Coast


     Pacific Coast                                                                                                      HOTELITO DESCONOCIDO,
                                                                                                                      NEAR PUERTO VALLARTA
     Mexico’s Pacific coast winds down from the
                                                                                                                      On a coast where size and luxury can overwhelm,
     borders of the USA all the way to Guatemala. Its
                                                                                                                      the Hotelito Desconocido never will: it has no
     many attractions include the city of Puerto
                                                                                                                      electricity, telephones or air-conditioning. Located
     Vallarta, the colonial towns and villages
                                                                                                                      90 kilometres from Puerto Vallarta, the hotel is
     surrounding the city of Mazatlán, the lush jungles
                                                                                                                      set back from the main road down a winding dirt
     of the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain
                                                                                                                      track. 24 simple, yet very comfortable, casitas
     range and of course its beautiful beaches, many
                                                                                                                      are nestled between the sea and a river, each
     famous for the great surfing they offer. It’s a
                                                                                                                      overlooking a private stretch of beach. The hotel’s
     perfect place to relax but the more active can
                                                                                                                      restaurant, reached by little chauffeured boats,
     also explore forest canopy walkways, spot
                                                                                                                      serves an excellent range of locally produced
     dolphins, walk or mountain bike. Though many
                                                                                                                      cuisine. Whilst the hotel is certainly not luxurious
     of the beaches are not suitable for swimming
                                                                                                                      in the traditional sense of the word, it makes up
     because of strong currents, some of Mexico’s
                                                            Hacienda de San Antonio, near Colima                      for any facilities it may lack with its simple charm
     finest hotels are dotted along the coastline making
                                                                                                                      and delightful staff.
     this part of the country perfect for a secluded
     beach stay at the end of any itinerary.
                                                              HACIENDA            DE   SAN ANTONIO,
                                                            NEAR COLIMA                                                 LAS ALAMANDAS,
                                                                                                                      NEAR PUERTO VALLARTA
     For those who have already visited the more            Located amongst forested hills at the foot of
                                                                                                                      Just an hour from Puerto Vallarta, Las Alamandas
     frequented coast of the Yucatán Peninsula,             the magnificent smoking ‘Volcan de Fuego’, the
                                                                                                                      is a private hideaway and a favourite among
     spending a few days on the Pacific coast is an         Hacienda de San Antonio is a haven in every
                                                                                                                      Hollywood celebrities. Mediteranean, almost
     excellent way to see a little more of Mexico’s         sense of the word. A stately pink manor house in
                                                                                                                      Moorish in design, the property is tucked away
     beaches and diverse landscapes. It is also ideal for   a vast estate, the hacienda was built in the 19th
                                                                                                                      from the road on its own private beach. The
     those wishing to combine outdoor activities with       century and still retains its original charm with
                                                                                                                      hotel’s buildings have a tropical vibrancy: bright
     a more tranquil beach stay than the Yucatán            extensive landscaped gardens and fabulous views.
                                                                                                                      pinks, yellows and terracottas set against lush
     offers. The ease of visiting the Pacific Coast often   The 25 guest rooms are huge and beautiful,
                                                                                                                      green vegetation and the blue of the sea. The
     depends on the rest of your itinerary, which is        furnished with Mexican and European antiques.
                                                                                                                      hotel only accommodates 45 guests so the
     where our specialists’ knowledge will be key to        Facilities include a large pool, tennis courts, a small
                                                                                                                      overriding sensation is one of intimacy, while each
     tailoring your trip.                                   amphitheatre and a kitchen serving a host of
                                                                                                                      guest room is beautifully decorated with local
                                                            delicious food made with organic ingredients
                                                                                                                      artwork and furniture.
                                                            grown on the estate.


16
                                                                                                              Hidden Gems of Mexico


                                                                                                              This tour combines time to explore Mexico City,
                                                                                                              the ruins of Teotihuacan and the highlights of the
                                                                                                              fascinating colonial cities discovering both their
                                                                                                              beauty and history. It’s rounded off with a few
                                                                                                              days to relax along the Pacific coast.

                                                                                                              Day 1           Fly to Mexico City.

                                                                                                              Day 2           Full day city tour of Mexico City and
                                                                                                                              the Anthropological Museum.

                                                                                                              Day 3           Tour of the pyramids of Teotihuacan
                                                                                                                              and the Shrine of Guadelupe.

                                                                                                              Day 4           Travel out of Mexico City to
                                                                                                                              Queretaro. Afternoon tour of the city.

Sierra Madre mountains                                                                                        Day 5           Your journey continues by travelling
                                                                                                                              up to the artistic city of San Miguel de
                                                                                                                              Allende. Afternoon city tour.

                                                                                                              Day 6           Travel to the colourful university town
                                                                                                                              of Guanajuato. Afternoon city tour.

                                                                                                              Day 7           Explore this picturesque town
                                                                                                                              at leisure.

                                                                                                              Day 8           Continue on to the lovely city of
                                                                                                                              Morelia. Afternoon city tour.

                                                                                                              Day 9           This morning take a tour of the
                                                                                                                              traditional Indian town of Patzcuaro
                                                                                                                              returning to Morelia in the late
                                                                                                                              afternoon.

                                                                                                              Day 10          Return to Mexico City for the night.

                                                                                                              Day 11          Fly to Puerto Vallarta and drive to
Hotelito Desconocido, near Puerto Vallarta             Picking oranges, Veracruz state
                                                                                                                              your hotel.

                                                                                                              Days 12 -14 Relax, sunbathe or take optional
Coffee Farms,                                          Veracruz                                                           excursions to explore the area.
near Tapachula                                         The state of Veracruz is an area of great beauty,      Day 15          Fly back to Mexico City for your
                                                       popular with Mexican tourists and now rapidly                          international flight.
This fabulous untouched corner of Mexico lies in
the Sierra Madre, in the southern part of the          opening up to foreign travellers. Slightly off the     Day 16          Arrive in the UK.
country. Flying to the commercial centre of            beaten track on the Caribbean coast, the region
Tapachula you find the wonderful fertile Soconusco     is known for its deep caves, high mountains, fast
                                                                                                              TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
region which is famed for producing coffee,            rapids, fertile lush plantations and a diverse bird
                                                                                                              Our private tailor-made journeys offer
bananas, mangoes, cacao and sugar cane. It is home     population. It is home to some of the best music,
                                                                                                              complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
to stunning scenery and gives you the opportunity      food and cultural attractions in Mexico and also       accommodation shown are designed to give you a
to stay on a working coffee finca exploring the area   has a rich archaeological heritage, with magnificent   flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
and learning about the coffee production process in    Toltec ruins such as El Tajín. There are a             your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
an unspoiled and peaceful part of the country. Just    multitude of adventure activities in which to          accommodation and season, please telephone us
                                                       partake, amongst them river rafting, zip-lining,       to discuss your individual requirements.
eight kilometres from the Pacific coast and ten
kilometres from the Guatemalan border this is an       rappelling, climbing, mountain biking, horse-riding,
ideal stopover on your way either to Chiapas in        sand-boarding, kayaking and walking. The city of
Mexico or to cross the border into Guatemala.          Veracruz itself is a great place to be based for
                                                       visiting the area. It was home to the Olmec
                                                       civilisation; one of the oldest and most advanced
                                                       cultures in the Americas and is a tangle of old and
                                                       new with white-washed buildings and winding
                                                       roads where music and dance seems to buzz
                                                       throughout its streets. This is an ideal place to
                                                       spend a few days if you are looking to explore a
                                                       different facet of Mexico, and one rarely seen by
                                                       foreign visitors.

                                                                                                              Drying coffee


                                                                                                              Mexico
                                                                                                              Telephone: 01993 838 670
El Tajin, near Veracruz

                                                                                                                                                                         17
     Guatemala
           uatemala, ‘the soul of the earth’ as it is   coastlines, a rugged limestone plateau            flashes of highland culture and clothing, a
     G      known, is an awe-inspiring country.         honeycombed with great caves, and miles of        prime place to learn Spanish or explore cobbled
     Despite its compact size it is incredibly          jungle teeming with tropical wildlife and         streets. The many years of upheaval in the
     diverse, with wonderful cobbled-street towns       beautiful birds. From the mountain cultures       country have protected Guatemala from mass
     oozing colonial charm, impressive Mayan            bright in traditional dress to the funky          tourism, deflecting visitors into the more stable
     ruins hidden deep in lowland jungle and            Garifuna community along the Caribbean            resorts of Mexico, and the Guatemalan’s
     delightful traditional villages with brightly      coast, the Guatemalan people are fascinating      spiritual nature and strong sense of tradition
     coloured markets. You will find natural            and friendly. At its heart the beautiful          have helped them through to the present day:
     beauty, with highland lakes ringed by perfect      UNESCO protected town of Antigua is a             it touches the heart unlike any other country
     volcanic cones, both Pacific and Caribbean         delightful pocket of colonial architecture with   in Central America.

18
Audley in Guatemala
With its extraordinary tangle of indigenous traditions,
Spanish culture and Mayan history, Guatemala is
one of our favourite countries in Central America.
As well as an in-depth knowledge of the main
highlights of Antigua, Tikal and Lake Atitlán, we
have also researched equally rewarding areas off
the beaten track such as Cobán and Livingston.
Travelling around is relatively straightforward though
the roads can be unpredictable, and we know some
are tough, long and winding so we use comfortable
4WDs where necessary. We have found wonderful
guides and skilled drivers and can also recommend
land routes across to Mexico, Belize and Honduras
for those wanting to explore further, or seeking a
beach on which to relax and reflect.




Antigua


Climate                                                   Accommodation
The driest and best time to travel is from                Although in recent years some beautiful
November to April. The wet season runs from               boutique hotels have sprung up in the colonial
May to October though it generally only rains             city of Antigua and around Lake Atitlán,
for a couple of hours a day, so trips remain a            accommodation in Guatemala is more a matter
possibility. The highlands are known for having           of location than luxury. Outside of the main
beautiful warm days but cool nights and the               visitor areas options are limited and though
lowlands are usually hot all year round. December         there are some comfortable hotels full of
and January are the coolest months especially             character, sometimes you’ll only find a basic
in the highlands, however this remains a lovely           thatched bungalow. We are very much
time to visit with clear blue skies and fresh             committed to keeping up with new properties      Autumn colours, Tikal
sunny days.                                               as they open up throughout the country.
                                                                                                           Markets
                                                                                                           If you are a fan of indigenous markets then this is the
                                                                                                           country for you. Most days of the week you’ll find a
                                                                                                           market is happening somewhere in the highlands of
                                                                                                           Guatemala. They are the main economic focus for
                                                                                                           scattered mountain communities, centuries old in
                                                                                                           tradition with their differing cultures and costumes.
                                                                                                           Locals thrive off them, not only as a place to shop
                                                                                                           but also as a place to meet and catch up with the
                                                                                                           latest news and gossip. Wandering around even
                                                                                                           the smallest market gives the visitor a fascinating
                                                                                                           insight into the lives of the indigenous people.
                                                                                                           Everything is sold here from food to souvenirs to
                                                                                                           clothing and livestock: you name it, you can
                                                                                                           guarantee you’ll find it in a market!



                                                                                                               Guatemala
                                                                                                               Telephone: 01993 838 695
Chichicastenango Market

                                                                                                                                                                     19
     Antigua                                               plazas which are perfect for sitting, relaxing and
                                                           people-watching. Surrounding the city you can
     A colonial gem and the original capital of            explore quaint Mayan villages, colourful local
     Guatemala, Antigua has been destroyed many            markets, sweet smelling coffee farms and the
     times by earthquakes and mudslides. For this          climbable – and still active – Pacaya volcano.
     reason the capital was moved to Guatemala City        Just an hour’s drive from Guatemala’s international
     in 1773. Despite what nature has thrown at it,        airport, Antigua is a fabulous first stop in the
     Antigua has always sprung back, lovingly restored     country, and is also one of the best places in
     and it is now recognised and protected by             Central America to learn Spanish.
     UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and one of
     the most atmospheric cities in Central America.           C ASA S ANTO D OMINGO , A NTIGUA
                                                                                                                 Panza Verde, Antigua
     Its setting is truly stunning, surrounded by the      The Casa Santo Domingo is more than just a
     volcanoes of Agua, Acatenango and Fuego, which        hotel: it is a piece of history and one of the
                                                                                                                     CONVERTED MANSIONS
     still occasionally sends up a cloud of ash. Cobbled   country’s most important archaeological
                                                                                                                 Several of Antigua’s finest colonial mansions
     streets thread past colourful colonial buildings,     monuments. Dating back more than 400 years,
                                                                                                                 have now been converted to offer centrally-
     topped with terracotta tiles, leading to the many     this beautiful converted convent has 126
                                                                                                                 located bed and breakfast accommodation with
                                                           bedrooms, individual in size and décor. The hotel
                                                                                                                 beautiful furnishings, attentive services and often
                                                           is located a 15 minute walk from the city centre
                                                                                                                 with swimming pools. Some of our favourites are:
                                                           and is set in stunning gardens with fountains,
                                                                                                                 Posada del Angel, Mansion di Pensativo, Lions Inn,
                                                           patios, a gorgeous pool and a lovely restaurant.
                                                                                                                 Casa Palopo and Casa Encantada.
                                                               PANZA VERDE, ANTIGUA
                                                           Mesón Panza Verde was established as one of
                                                           Antigua’s first luxury boutique bed and breakfasts.
                                                           Ideally located at the quiet end of Fifth Avenue,
                                                           it is a short walk from Antigua´s main plaza and
                                                           cathedral. The inn has an inviting central garden,
                                                           and a roof-top terrace with views of the three
                                                           volcanoes. All 12 rooms are individually furnished
                                                           in colonial style and the restaurant is considered
                                                           by many to be one of the finest in the country.
     Easter procession, Antigua                                                                                  Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua


20
                                                                                                                      Traditional Guatemala


                                                                                                                      A tour that explores the diversity of Guatemala,
                                                                                                                      encompassing the ancient colonial capital of
                                                                                                                      Antigua, the magnificent beauty of Lake Atitlán,
                                                                                                                      delving deeper into the western highlands and
                                                                                                                      local markets before ending in the jungle
                                                                                                                      discovering Mayan ruins and wildlife.

                                                                                                                      Day 1        Fly from UK to Guatemala City.
                                                                                                                                   Upon arrival drive to the lovely
                                                                                                                                   colonial city of Antigua.

                                                                                                                      Day 2        Half day city walking tour.

                                                                                                                      Day 3        Explore Antigua soaking up the
                                                                                                                                   atmosphere of this gorgeous city
                                                                                                                                   or take optional excursions.

                                                                                                                      Day 4        Half day valley hike through
                                                                                                                                   cloud-forest and local farmland
                                                                                                                                   with spectacular views.

                                                                                                                      Day 5        Beautiful drive to Lake Atitlán with
Tikal                                                                                                                              a stop en route at the famous
                                                                                                                                   Chichicastenango market.

                                                                                                                      Day 6        Boat tour of Lake Atitlán and its
                                                                                                                                   fascinating Indian villages.

                                                                                                                      Day 7        Spend the day relaxing and exploring
                                                                                                                                   Lake Atitlán at your leisure.

                                                                                                                      Day 8        Drive to Quetzaltenango and the
                                                                                                                                   western highlands through stunning
                                                                                                                                   scenery visiting tiny villages and local
                                                                                                                                   markets en route.

                                                                                                                      Day 9        Visit San Francisco El Alto market
Keel-billed toucan, Tikal                                    Black howler monkey, Tikal
                                                                                                                                   (Fridays only) en route to Antigua.

                                                                                                                      Day 10       Relax this morning before your
Tikal and El Petén                                                LA LANCHA RESORT, FLORES
                                                                                                                                   afternoon departure to Guatemala
                                                             La Lancha Resort, owned by Francis Ford                               City for your flight to Flores.
The north of Guatemala, known as El Petén, is an
                                                             Coppola, has beautiful views overlooking Lake
area of lush lowland jungle whose depths conceal                                                                      Day 11       Morning at leisure to enjoy your
                                                             Petén Itzá. It is located on a steep incline that
countless Mayan ruins, half-buried and entwined                                                                                    surroundings. Afternoon sunset tour
                                                             descends to the lakeshore which means a stay                          of the archaelogical site of Yaxhá.
by tree-roots and lianas. The most impressive and
                                                             here involves a fair number of steps. Built in a
famous of these lost cities is Tikal; a stunning                                                                      Day 12       Full day tour of Tikal.
                                                             lovely rustic style, it is a comfortable jungle lodge
collection of mighty temples at the heart of a vast                                                                   Day 13       Fly back to Guatemala City for your
                                                             with ten spacious thatched cabañas. All the rooms
national park. It is not only fascinating for its historic                                                                         international flight.
                                                             are well-furnished, have balconies, ceiling fans and
remains but is also a haven for wildlife, making the
                                                             mosquito screens. The lodge has a small pool and         Day 14       Arrive in the UK.
trip to Tikal all the more enchanting. There is little
                                                             a restaurant specialising in Guatemalan local dishes.
to beat the magical experience of tramping through
the hot and sticky jungle, especially in the early                                                                    EXTENSIONS
                                                               CHIMINO’S ISLAND LODGE,
morning mist. You are surrounded by the eerie                                                                         If you would like to explore the jungle further and
                                                             PUNTA DE CHIMINO
roar of nearby howler monkeys and the call of                                                                         perhaps have a few days relaxing on the beach
                                                             Situated in the southeastern part of El Petén,           this trip can easily be combined with a visit to
tropical birds, approaching temples that tower
                                                             Chimino’s Island Lodge is located on the                 neighbouring Belize.
above you as they rise straight from the forest
                                                             Petexbatun Lagoon, in Punta de Chimino. Small,
floor through the tree canopy. There are five main
                                                             simple and peaceful with only five spacious
protruding temples making up Tikal, which the fit
                                                             bungalows, all with private facilities and mosquito
and brave can climb for magnificent views, as well
                                                             nets, the property is set in beautiful natural
as thousands more remaining structures still hidden
                                                             surroundings. A variety of tropical wildlife and birds
under mounds of earth, awaiting discovery. Of the
                                                             can be spotted here and the lodge is close to less-
many other archaeological sites in the area, Yaxhá
                                                             visited Mayan sites, such as Aguateca, Ceibal and
is easily accessible and is especially beautiful seen at
                                                             Dos Pilas. Access from Flores takes 45 minutes
sunset. The scale of these ruins suggests that it was
                                                             by road followed by a 90 minute boat ride.
undoubtedly a very important city during the Mayan
reign. Excavation only began here in the last few
                                                                                                                      Chimino’s Island Lodge, Punta de Chimino
years so you are able to see the archaeologists at
work. For those wanting to delve further into
history, expeditions can be arranged to many other                                                                    Guatemala
sites such as El Mirador, Yaxchilan or Uaxactun.                                                                      Telephone: 01993 838 695


                                                                                                                                                                              21
     Lake Atitlán                                          absorbing the views, watching the effect of
                                                           changing light and wind on the water is special
     The two hour drive heading west from Antigua          enough, but the best way to enjoy the stunning
     leads through the central highlands, dotted with      scenery is to travel by ‘lancha’ (boat) visiting the
     colourful traditional villages to the stunning Lake   Indian villages of Santiago Atitlán, Santa Catarina
     Atitlán. The dramatic winding road leading down       Palopo and San Antonio Palopo. The highland
     to the lake rewards you with incredible views of      area is also home to countless markets giving an
     the lake and its spectacular backdrop of three        intricate and enthralling insight into Guatemalan
     cone-shaped volcanoes: San Pedro, Toliman and         life. Chichicastenango is one of the largest and
     Atitlán. The Mayan Indians throughout this area       most famous, situated about an hour north of
     are undoubtedly the most colourfully dressed in       Lake Atitlán. Hundreds of locals and visitors
     Guatemala, if not the whole of Central America,       flock for a bargain buy and there is everything
     with intricately woven shirts, huipiles and skirts    here from souvenirs and clothes to food and
     of the brightest reds, greens, yellows, pinks and     household goods. It is fascinating, but for a more
     blues. Each village around the lake maintains its     authentic experience, we recommend a visit to
     own traditional dress. The lake itself is             a more typical markets such as those held in
     mesmerising and spending time relaxing here           the villages of Comalapa or Tecpan.


                                                                                                                      H OTEL A TITLÁN ,
                                                                                                                  NEAR  P ANAJACHEL
                                                                                                                  The Hotel Atitlán is built in the style of a colonial
                                                                                                                  hacienda, with a privileged location on the
                                                                                                                  lakeshore within walking distance of the largest
                                                                                                                  lakeside Indian village, Panajachel. There are 62
                                                                                                                  guest bedrooms, all with lovely views of the lake,
                                                                                                                  and the hotel is surrounded by botanical gardens,
                                                                                                                  always busy with birds, that shelter a private
                                                                                                                  swimming pool. It’s a fabulous place to wander,
                                                                                                                  relax and enjoy the scenery.



     Lake Atitlán

22
                                                                                                               A Journey
                                                                                                               through Mesoamerica

                                                                                                               This trip spans Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for
                                                                                                               those with the time to visit the highlights of all
                                                                                                               three and like to be on the move. It visits colonial
                                                                                                               cities, Mayan ruins, highland villages and tropical
                                                                                                               rainforest, ending with some time to relax on a
                                                                                                               beautiful Caribbean island.

                                                                                                               Day 1         Fly to Mexico City.

                                                                                                               Day 2         Full day city tour.

                                                                                                               Day 3         Fly to Villahermosa and drive
                                                                                                                             to Palenque. Visit the Mayan
                                                                                                                             archaeological site of Palenque.

                                                                                                               Day 4         Drive via Agua Azul waterfalls to
                                                                                                                             San Cristóbal de las Casas.

                                                                                                               Day 5         City tour and visit the Indian
San Francisco El Alto animal market                                                                                          communities of San Juan Chamula
                                                                                                                             and Zinacantan.

                                                                                                               Day 6         Drive through the beautiful highlands
                                                                                                                             of the Sierra Madre to a coffee farm.

                                                                                                               Day 7         Tour of the coffee plantation.

                                                                                                               Day 8         An intriguing overland journey
                                                                                                                             crossing into the Guatemalan
                                                                                                                             highlands to Quetzaltenango.

                                                                                                               Day 9         Tour of the highlands, agricultural
                                                                                                                             villages and markets.

                                                                                                               Day 10        Visit San Francisco El Alto market
                                                                                                                             (Fridays only) en route to Lake
                                                                                                                             Atitlán.
Patchwork fields, western highlands                    Farmers, near Quetzaltenango
                                                                                                               Days 11-12 Boat tour of this stunning lake and
                                                                                                                          its Indian villages. Time at leisure to
  CASA PALOPO,                                         Western Highlands                                                  relax and explore.
SANTA CATARINA PALOPO
                                                                                                               Day 13        Drive to the colonial city of Antigua.
                                                       West from Lake Atitlán a mountainous landscape
The Casa Palopo is a gorgeous boutique hotel
                                                       separates many small market towns and villages,         Days 14-15 Half day city walking tour and time
four kilometres from Panajachel with just eight
                                                       a physical barrier that allows each to develop                     at leisure to explore or take optional
beautifully decorated guest bedrooms, friendly staff                                                                      excursions.
                                                       and maintain its own character and culture.
and stunning views of Lake Atitlán. The hotel has a
                                                       The region is beautiful, with small, intricate fields   Day 16        Drive to Guatemala City for your
swimming pool and several outside terraces, all
                                                       patched onto steep slopes, farmed by                                  flight to Flores. Sunset tour of the
with views of the lake and volcanoes, a gourmet
                                                       communities with little contact with the outside                      Mayan ruins of Yaxhá.
restaurant and steps leading down to the lake. It’s
                                                       world. A little way off the beaten track, this area     Day 17        Full day tour to the archaeological
a great place to relax and also explore the nearby
                                                       is well worth a visit. The city of Quetzaltenango                     site of Tikal.
village of Santa Catarina Palopo.
                                                       (commonly known as Xela) is a great base: it’s          Day 18        Drive into Belize visiting the ruins
                                                       modern but with a relaxed fresh feel and a lovely                     of Xunantunich en route to your
                                                       square with a beautifully restored façade of the                      jungle lodge.
                                                       old colonial church. If you are especially keen
                                                                                                               Day 19        Optional excursions through the
                                                       on markets take time to visit the famous San                          forest and to nearby ruins.
                                                       Francisco El Alto’s Friday livestock market.
                                                                                                               Day 20        Drive to Belize City for your flight
                                                       It’s a fight amongst the locals but an intriguing
                                                                                                                             to Ambergris Caye.
                                                       experience as they set about bargaining for the
                                                       produce they need for the week.                         Days 21-22 At leisure to relax, sunbathe
                                                                                                                          and snorkel.

                                                                                                               Day 23        Fly back to Belize City for your
                                                                                                                             international flight.

                                                                                                               Day 24        Arrive in the UK.




                                                                                                               Guatemala
                                                                                                               Telephone: 01993 838 695
Local people, Lake Atitlán                             Casa Palopo, Santa Catarina Palopo

                                                                                                                                                                      23
     Rio Dulce and Livingston
     To really get off the beaten track in Guatemala,
     travel east to the Rio Dulce, board a boat
     and head downstream, eventually arriving in
     Livingston on the shores of the Caribbean.
     Livingston is heavily influenced by the Garifuna
     people who have evolved here from their
     Afro-Caribbean roots. Many years ago this region
     was populated by migrants from the island of
     St Vincent, and this community brings a strong
     flavour of Caribbean culture to this part of
     Guatemala. Livingston is far from your typical
     Caribbean destination however, the main activity
     in the area is fishing, accommodation is basic and
     the beaches are not of white sand. Nevertheless
     for those fascinated by different societies and
     wanting to see an alternative side to Guatemala
     this is an intriguing place to visit. Access is only
     by boat down the Rio Dulce, passing beautiful
     scenery and a natural hot spring.


                                                                H OTEL B ANANA P ALMS ,                           VILLA CARIBE,
                                                            R IO D ULCE                                        LIVINGSTON
                                                            Situated on the edge of the Rio Dulce, 300         Villa Caribe is situated in the Garifuna fishing
                                                            metres from the Spanish fort of Castillo de San    town of Livingston with views over the Rio
                                                            Felipe, the Hotel Banana Palms is the best place   Dulce outlet and the Caribbean Sea. The 45
                                                            to stay in the area. There are 33 rooms set        guest bedrooms are simple but comfortable
                                                            around pleasant gardens, a swimming pool and       and facilities include a swimming pool, restaurant
                                                            a lovely restaurant.                               and bar.

     Hotel Banana Palms, Rio Dulce

24
                                                                                                                  In the Steps of the Maya


                                                                                                                  A journey to discover the cultural highlights of
                                                                                                                  Guatemala, Belize and Honduras visiting the best
                                                                                                                  of the ancient Mayan sites in each country. The
                                                                                                                  tour culminates in the Belizean jungle with a final
                                                                                                                  few relaxing days on the beautiful Ambergris Caye.

                                                                                                                  Day 1         Fly to Guatemala City. Upon arrival
                                                                                                                                drive to the colonial city of Antigua.

                                                                                                                  Day 2         Half day city walking tour.

                                                                                                                  Day 3         Explore this lovely city at leisure or
                                                                                                                                take optional excursions.
Resplendent quetzal                                 Local boys, Todos Santos de Cuchumatán
                                                                                                                  Day 4         Take the scenic drive to Lake Atitlán,
                                                                                                                                visiting Comalapa market en route.

                                                                                                                  Day 5         Boat tour of Lake Atitlán and its
                                                                                                                                fascinating Indian villages.

                                                                                                                  Day 6         Drive to Guatemala City for a
                                                                                                                                private charter flight to the
                                                                                                                                Guatemalan border followed by an
                                                                                                                                hour’s drive to Copán in Honduras.

                                                                                                                  Day 7         Morning tour to the archaeological
                                                                                                                                site of Copán. Afternoon at leisure.

                                                                                                                  Day 8         Drive from Copán to Rio Dulce.

                                                                                                                  Day 9         Drive through lush scenic hills to
                                                                                                                                the lakeside town of Flores.

                                                                                                                  Day 10        Morning at leisure. Sunset tour
                                                                                                                                of the archaelogical site of Yaxhá.

                                                                                                                  Day 11        Full day tour of the Mayan ruins
                                                                                                                                of Tikal.
Villagers of Chajul, Ixil Triangle
                                                                                                                  Day 12        Take the scenic drive across the
                                                                                                                                border into Belize, visiting the ruins
Cobán and The Verapaces                                                                                                         at Xunantunich en route to your
                                                                                                                                jungle lodge.
If you are searching for the elusive quetzal, the
beautiful national bird of Guatemala, then the                                                                    Days 13-14 At leisure to take optional
region surrounding Cobán, known as the                                                                                       excursions such as horse-riding,
Verapaces, is the place you’re most likely to see                                                                            nature walks, birdwatching and
                                                                                                                             trips to waterfalls and ruins.
it in Guatemala. Formed from a massive limestone
plateau that has eroded over the ages, the area                                                                   Day 15        Drive to Belize City for your flight to
is undermined by huge caves and underground                                                                                     Ambergris Caye.
caverns with magnificent hanging stalactites and                                                                  Days 16-18 At leisure to relax, sunbathe
stalagmites. Worshipped by the Maya, these                                                                                   and snorkel.
caves are gloriously intricate, with pools of                                                                     Day 19        Travel back to Belize City for your
turquoise water and slender limestone bridges.                                                                                  international flight.
A great place to be based to see the area is the
                                                                                                                  Day 20        Arrive in the UK.
city of Cobán and although the accommodation
is simple here there are thundering rivers, hills
clad in cardamom and coffee, museums                                                                              TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
celebrating the Mayan culture and the quetzal                                                                     Our private tailor-made journeys offer
reserve to explore.                                                                                               complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
                                                                                                                  accommodation shown are designed to give you a
                                                    The Far North-West                                            flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                                                                                  your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
                                                    Located up in the far northwestern highlands of
                                                                                                                  accommodation and season, please telephone us
                                                    Guatemala, the village of Todos Santos Cuchumátan
                                                                                                                  to discuss your individual requirements.
                                                    and the ‘Ixil Triangle’, comprised of the villages of
                                                    Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal, are fascinating to meet the
                                                    local Indian communities with their brightly coloured,
                                                    intricate costumes. Traditional ways of life still persist,
                                                    cultures hemmed in by mountains 3,800 metres
                                                    high, in a stunning forested landscape often
                                                    shrouded in mist. This relatively unexplored corner           Guatemala
                                                    of the country is prime day-walking country, with
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 695
                                                    accommodation in simple farmhouses.
Coffee beans, the Verapaces

                                                                                                                                                                            25
     Belize
                                                          With only 290,000 inhabitants it is also one      on small cayes (islands). Its spectacular warm
     F    ormerly British Honduras, Belize is a
          tiny country nestled on the coast between
     Mexico and Guatemala. It is a beautiful place
                                                          of the world’s most thinly populated countries;
                                                          even Belize City is a modest affair of stilted
                                                                                                            waters and hidden underwater world teeming
                                                                                                            with life is many a traveller’s sole reason to
     with much to offer the traveller. The west and       wooden homes and the capital Belmopan is          visit the country. The Belizean culture is
     north of the country are covered with pristine       just a small town. To the east lies the coast     greatly influenced by its Afro-Caribbean
     subtropical forests and fertile hills that shelter   and the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean      background, creating a fabulous laid-back
     ancient Mayan ruins, and more than 40% of            Sea: stretching 294 kilometres along the shore    atmosphere with relaxed and friendly
     the land is protected in nature reserves. It’s a     is the world’s second longest barrier reef,       pre-dominantly English speaking people,
     haven for birds and wildlife while other areas       renowned for its snorkelling and diving with      making the traveller truly welcome.
     are perfect for cultivating sugar, rice and fruit.   a few low-key resorts set on the mainland or

26
Jaguar


Audley in Belize
Belize is a very different country to travel around
than the rest of Central America: things move at a
slower pace. It’s a fabulous place to relax, take your
time, appreciate beautiful scenery, spot wildlife and
experience something new - anything from canoeing,
caving and river tubing to scuba-diving, spotting
manatees and swimming with sharks, all of which
our specialists have extensively researched. Despite
its small size and reliance on tourism the
infrastructure is poor. Many of the roads are bumpy
and unpaved, and although our drivers are well
accustomed to the conditions we often suggest
chartering an aircraft as an alternative means of
travel to your next stop. The views from the air are
spectacular and give you a completely different
perspective of the country. As well as a destination
in its own right a trip to Belize can easily be
combined with neighbouring Guatemala.


Accommodation
In recent years many hotels have sprung up
throughout Belize and we have researched and
hand-picked some particular favourites. They can
                                                         Caves
range in standard, cost and location, depending
on what you are looking for: having seen them            The west of Belize is particularly unique for its
first-hand our specialists are well placed to advise.    spectacular cave systems, filled with stalactites.
The jungle lodges are an especially impressive           Some, such as Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, are full
spot to stay in relative rustic luxury surrounded        of Mayan artefacts and sacrificial remains involving
by the peace of the forest with the exception of         an exhilarating adventure of swimming and
the odd howler monkey barking in the distance.           clambering. Others, such as Barton Creek cave,
Along the coast and over on the cayes service is         can be viewed in a more relaxed way by river
the name of the game and again we have found             tube or canoe, while some can be reached simply
some fabulous options.                                   by walking across slippery rocks.

                                                         Climate
                                                         The climate is hot all year round and humidity is
                                                         usually high with it being slightly cooler between
                                                         November and January. The dry season is from
                                                                                                                Rio Frio cave, Mountain Pine Ridge
                                                         January to May and is generally the best time to
                                                         visit. The wet season runs from June to December,
                                                         though realistically you can get rained on at              Belize
                                                         anytime of the year. The risk of hurricanes is small
                                                                                                                    Telephone: 01993 838 690
                                                         but present from June to November.
Belize national flower, Black Orchid

                                                                                                                                                     27
     Mayan ruins of Xunantunich


     Cayo District                                                                                                        POOK’S HILL LODGE, CAYO
                                                                                                                     Pook’s Hill Lodge is situated within a 750 hectare
     The Cayo District incorporates the beautiful
                                                                                                                     private rainforest reserve an hour from San
     forests of western Belize, centred around the
                                                                                                                     Ignacio, on the site of an ancient Mayan ruin.
     town of San Ignacio, near to the border with
                                                                                                                     The surrounding forest is home to many Belizean
     Guatemala. The landscape ranges from subtropical
                                                                                                                     mammals and there are some beautiful nature
     to mountain forest, teeming with tropical birds,
                                                                                                                     trails to discover. The 11 simple thatched cabañas
     tumbling waterfalls and winding rivers. Most
                                                                                                                     surround the Mayan site and overlook the forest
     people are attracted to the place to visit the
                                                                                                                     canopy and the creek below. The lodge is very
     exquisite cave systems such as the Barton Creek
                                                                                                                     much family-run, with wonderful home-cooked
     and Rio Frio caves, or to explore the impressive
                                                                                                                     food. Amongst the many excursions offered is the
     Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Caracol. If you
                                                                                                                     nearby famous Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, for
     are a fan of the outdoors, love to canoe, horse-
                                                                                                                     the most adventurous caving expedition in Belize.
     ride, birdwatch, hike or swim under waterfalls
     this is a fabulous place to spend a few days and a   The Lodge at Chaa Creek, San Ignacio
     great way to experience the sub-tropical forest.
     There are easily accessible and lovely jungle
                                                            THE LODGE            AT    CHAA CREEK,
     lodges that make relaxing homes, offering you
                                                          SAN IGNACIO
     a wide selection of tours with excellent guides to
     investigate the region’s many places of interest.    The Lodge at Chaa Creek started as a farm in
                                                          1977, grew into a guest house and then Belize’s first
                                                          jungle lodge. It is a beautiful place to stay and whilst
                                                          it has grown – and added a spa – it has retained
                                                          the friendly charm and character of its early days.
                                                          The 23 rooms are in keeping with the rainforest,
                                                          in thatched wooden cabañas each with a balcony,
                                                          hammock, large fans and en-suite bathrooms.
                                                          Set in a 920 hectare rainforest reserve it is just a
                                                          15 minute drive from the town of San Ignacio
                                                          making it a perfect base for exploring the area as
                                                          well as horse-riding, mountain-biking and walking
                                                          through the reserve’s numerous trails.
     Kingfisher                                                                                                      Big Rock Falls, Mountain Pine Ridge

28
                                                                                                              Best of Belize


                                                                                                              A fabulous trip to explore the highlights of
                                                                                                              Belize visiting a variety of habitats including
                                                                                                              the rainforest, pine forest, caves, Mayan ruins,
                                                                                                              wildlife and beaches. Take it all in, but at a
                                                                                                              relaxed pace, to appreciate every step of this
                                                                                                              gorgeous little country.

                                                                                                              Day 1         Fly to Miami. Spend the night.

                                                                                                              Day 2         Fly to Belize City. Upon arrival fly
                                                                                                                            to Chan Chich lodge in the heart
                                                                                                                            of the jungle.

                                                                                                              Days 3-4      Wildlife and jungle excursions.

                                                                                                              Day 5         Take the scenic flight to San Ignacio
                                                                                                                            and then drive to your lodge in
                                                                                                                            Mountain Pine Ridge.

                                                                                                              Day 6         Excursion to explore Mountain Pine
River tubing, Cayo District                                                                                                 Ridge’s beautiful waterfalls, caves and
                                                                                                                            the archaeological site of Caracol.

                                                                                                              Day 7         Half day canoe trip to Barton Creek
                                                                                                                            cave, an ancient Mayan burial site.

                                                                                                              Day 8         Take the scenic drive to the
                                                                                                                            Caribbean coast with a stop en route
                                                                                                                            at the Belize Zoo.

                                                                                                              Day 9         Relax at leisure or take optional
                                                                                                                            excursions such as snorkelling, diving
                                                                                                                            and trips to visit the manatees.

                                                                                                              Day 10        Visit the Cockscomb Basin
                                                                                                                            Wildlife Sanctuary.

Hidden Valley Inn, Mountain Pine Ridge                Blue Morpho butterfly                                   Day 11        Relax at leisure or take
                                                                                                                            optional excursions.
  HIDDEN VALLEY INN,                                    BLANCANEAUX LODGE,                                    Day 12        Fly to Belize City then on to
MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE                                   MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE                                                   Ambergris Caye.
The Hidden Valley Inn is a lovely country style       Owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the beautiful            Days 13-14 At leisure or take optional
hotel with just 12 cottages in an 18,000 hectare      Blancaneaux Lodge can be found in Cayo’s                           excursions out to the coral reefs.
private reserve in Cayo’s Mountain Pine Ridge         Mountain Pine Ridge region. With just 24 spacious       Day 15        Fly back to Belize City to catch your
region. This peaceful eco-resort offers quality       and comfortably furnished wooden thatched                             international flight.
accommodation, good food and service in a             cabañas fitting perfectly into the forest, the
                                                                                                              Day 16        Arrive in the UK.
beautiful natural environment. The flora, wildlife    atmosphere is friendly and welcoming with
and birding here are excellent and guests have        incredible service. The restaurant uses home-grown
access to 144 kilometres of walking and mountain                                                              EXTENSIONS
                                                      ingredients to produce delicious Italian dishes. This
biking trails as well as many secluded pools and      is a fabulous place to relax between visits to local    To add a dash more culture, you can easily begin
waterfalls set in the forest. The lodge also offers                                                           your trip in Guatemala, visiting the colonial city of
                                                      archaeological sites and waterfalls, or birding and
                                                                                                              Antigua and the highland villages around Lake
canoeing, horse-riding and caving trips.              horse-riding expeditions.
                                                                                                              Atitlán before flying up to the ruins of Tikal and
                                                                                                              travelling overland into Belize.

                                                                                                              TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
                                                                                                              Our private tailor-made journeys offer
                                                                                                              complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
                                                                                                              accommodation shown are designed to give you a
                                                                                                              flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                                                                              your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
                                                                                                              accommodation and season, please telephone us
                                                                                                              to discuss your individual requirements.




                                                                                                              Belize
                                                                                                              Telephone: 01993 838 690
Blancaneaux Lodge, Mountain Pine Ridge

                                                                                                                                                                        29
     Scarlet macaws, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary


     Orange Walk District
     The Orange Walk district encompasses the
     northern part of Belize, notable for its agricultural
     production and areas of dense jungle. You can
     visit the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, home
     to hundreds of water birds such as jabiru storks
     and snail kites or visit the Mayan site of Lamanai
     buried in the forest on the banks of the New
     River lagoon. For those looking to go to less
     accessible jungle lodges than those in Cayo and
     to have greater chances of spotting wildlife,
     both Lamanai and Chan Chich provide the
     perfect setting.
                                                             The Mayan ruins of Lamanai


                                                               LAMANAI OUTPOST LODGE,                                CHAN CHICH LODGE,
                                                             ORANGE WALK                                           ORANGE WALK
                                                             Reached only by boat or plane, Lamanai Outpost        Accessed by charter plane, the lodge at Chan
                                                             Lodge is on the banks of a 45 kilometre long          Chich is located on a private nature reserve
                                                             spring-fed lagoon, amid the remnants of a major       in the middle of lush forest, and has been built
                                                             Mayan city and surrounded by an incredible            within the main plaza of an ancient Mayan site.
                                                             variety of habitats. The lodge has just 20 wooden     The 12 thatched cabañas are stylishly furnished
                                                             cabañas simply decorated to a high standard and       and provide a comfortable haven for relaxation
                                                             a restaurant serving delicious freshly-cooked food.   at the end of the day, with a fully mosquito-
                                                             The jungle is filled with the sounds of tropical      screened pool in the grounds of the lodge.
                                                             wildlife and a variety of nature-based trips, in      Excursions include walking, birding, day and
                                                             groups of no more than ten participants, head         night wildlife-spotting tours, horse-riding
                                                             out to spot animals and birds.                        and canoeing.




     Chan Chich Lodge, Orange Walk

30
Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Orange Walk




Spider monkey




Turtle Inn Resort, Placencia                                                                                Canoeing, Orange Walk


Coastal Mainland                                       Gladden Spit is one of the few places in the world       T HE P LACENCIA H OTEL , P LACENCIA
                                                       that snorkellers and divers can encounter the
                                                                                                            The Placencia Hotel was created by two
Heading east from San Ignacio you pass the tiny        magnificent whale sharks, which commonly visit
                                                                                                            Europeans who sought to create an escape by
Belizean capital of Belmopan before joining the        during the full moon periods of April and May.
                                                                                                            the sea. It opened in 2003 and it now has a total
Hummingbird Highway that reaches south to the
                                                                                                            of 42 air-conditioned rooms, either villas or suites.
coast. The road is the most beautiful in the              HAMANASI ADVENTURE                 AND
                                                       DIVE RESORT, HOPKINS                                 It has an on-site dive shop, three restaurants with
country, meandering through lush sub-tropical
                                                                                                            a wide menu selection, and the largest pool in
forests and huge plantations of citrus and banana.     Set on the beach at Hopkins, Hamanasi is a
                                                                                                            Belize. For those looking for more than just a
It is possible to break your journey at the            secluded 20 bedroom resort. The air-conditioned
                                                                                                            relaxing stay the hotel can organise a whole
surprisingly impressive Belize Zoo or the Blue Hole    rooms are all comfortable, spacious and
                                                                                                            range of activities throughout the area.
National Park, where you can cool off in a beautiful   traditionally decorated with hardwood furnishings
natural swimming hole. Along the coast you find        and Central American folk art. Six of the rooms          TURTLE INN RESORT, PLACENCIA
the quaint fishing villages of Hopkins and Dangriga    are set back from the beach in tree-houses which
                                                                                                            The Turtle Inn Resort is Francis Ford Coppola’s
and a further 48 kilometres south, Placencia.          are a real treat. The resort is geared towards
                                                                                                            fantastic beach resort. There are 20 guest rooms
The beaches down here are not of the white             diving and snorkelling but is also well placed to
                                                                                                            consisting of lovely Belizean-style individual
sand variety but there are some lovely places          explore the local vicinity and Cockscomb Basin
                                                                                                            wooden cabañas or two-bedroom villas. All are
to stay where you can simply relax by the pool,        Wildlife Sanctuary.
                                                                                                            spacious, have ceiling fans and are decorated with
with the spectacular outer coral reefs, and their
                                                                                                            great attention to detail. There is a pool and spa,
superb snorkelling and scuba-diving, just a boat
                                                                                                            while the restaurant specialises in a fusion of
trip away. This is also the jumping-off point for
                                                                                                            Italian and Belizean dishes. The beach is directly
visiting Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary,
                                                                                                            in front of the hotel and there are complimentary
which offers fantastic walking amongst pristine
                                                                                                            kayaks and beach bikes available. The hotel also
jungle, beautiful waterfalls, rivers and streams.
                                                                                                            arranges a wide selection of tours to visit the
The elusive jaguar is rarely seen but if you visit
                                                                                                            surrounding area.
early in the day you have the prospect of seeing
a multitude of bird species, deer, tapirs, coatis,
and if you are lucky, pumas and ocelots. If it’s
manatees you seek, take a boat trip out to
Placencia Lagoon where in the shallow waters
you can spot these unique creatures coming                                                                      Belize
to the surface to breathe. Close to Placencia,                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 690
                                                       Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Hopkins

                                                                                                                                                                    31
     Ambergris Caye


     The Cayes                                            to stay in the more secluded parts of the island.
                                                          The main attraction is snorkelling and scuba-diving
     The Cayes (small islands surrounded by extensive     on the stunning reefs amongst the soft and hard
     coral reefs) off the coast are Belize at its best.   corals, abundant with sea-life. Excursions are
     Tranquil and beautiful with a laid-back Caribbean    widely available to Hol Chan Marine Park where
     feel, this is the place to come to enjoy fishing,    you can swim with rays and small nurse sharks at
     snorkelling, diving or simply relaxing. Most cayes   Shark Ray Alley, or take a boat trip to meet the
     are uninhabited or home only to local fishermen,     weird and wonderful manatees as they rummage
     but the largest, Ambergris Caye, is the most         through the mangroves. If you are interested in
     developed with some lovely beachfront properties.    learning how to dive we can pre-arrange dive
     From the mainland you fly to the town of San         courses for you. For more experienced divers
     Pedro where you travel by motor boat or car to       full-day trips out to Lighthouse Reef, Half Moon
     your accommodation. Although the town itself is      Caye and the Turneffe Islands can easily be
     great for shopping for local gifts, nightlife and    arranged locally where you can dive famous sites
     delicious sea-food restaurants most people prefer    such as the spectacular Blue Hole.



                                                            VICTORIA HOUSE,                                          CAYO ESPANTO,
                                                          AMBERGRIS CAYE                                           NEAR AMBERGRIS CAYE
                                                          Victoria House offers a mix of casual ambiance           A tropical private island where you can be
                                                          and great service making it a fabulous Belizean          waited on hand and foot, Cayo Espanto is
                                                          experience. There are 42 air-conditioned guest           a spectacular five-star private retreat five
                                                          bedrooms, varying from casitas to private villas, all    kilometres from Ambergris Caye. The island
                                                          set in lush tropical gardens with tall swaying palm      can be booked out in its entirety or as individual
                                                          trees, sweeping views of the reef and a private white    plush and luxurious one and two-bedroom
                                                          sand beach. The restaurant serves a wide range of        villas, all with their own plunge pool. Award-
                                                          delicious meals in the evening and lunch time meals      winning chefs create personalised menus to suit
                                                          can be taken in the Palapa bar or by one of the          your taste, served either at your villa or the
                                                          pools. The hotel runs its own dive and activity centre   water’s edge.
                                                          to take you to the magnificent nearby coral reefs.




32
                                                                                                         Adventurous Belize


                                                                                                         An energetic tour for those seeking the more
                                                                                                         adventurous side of Belize combining a scuba
                                                                                                         diving or snorkelling trip with the opportunity to
                                                                                                         clamber and river tube through the magnificent
                                                                                                         caves in the Belizean jungle.

                                                                                                         Day 1         Fly to Miami. Spend the night.

                                                                                                         Day 2         Fly to Belize City and drive to your
                                                                                                                       jungle lodge, Pook's Hill Lodge.

                                                                                                         Day 3         Optional excursion to swim and
                                                                                                                       climb through the amazing Actun
                                                                                                                       Tunichil Muknal cave.

                                                                                                         Day 4         Optional excursion to experience
                                                                                                                       river tubing through caves.
Cayo Espanto, near Ambergris Caye
                                                                                                         Day 5         Drive down the Hummingbird
                                                                                                                       Highway to Hamanasi Dive Resort
                                                                                                                       in Hopkins, with a stop en route at
                                                                                                                       the Blue Hole National Park.

                                                                                                         Days 6-7      Scuba diving or snorkelling the
                                                                                                                       outer reefs.

                                                                                                         Day 8         Morning dive. This afternoon relax.

                                                                                                         Day 9         View Belize from the air as you fly
                                                                                                                       to Ambergris Caye via Belize City.

                                                                                                         Days 10 -11 Scuba diving or snorkelling the
                                                                                                                     outer reefs.

                                                                                                         Day 12        Day trip to see the manatees
                                                                                                                       and feed the sharks at Hol Chan
                                                                                                                       Marine Park.
Mata Chica, Ambergris Caye                        Victoria House, Ambergris Caye
                                                                                                         Day 13        Fly back to Belize City for your
                                                                                                                       international flight.
  MATA CHICA,                                       AZUL VILLAS,
                                                                                                         Day 14        Arrive in the UK.
AMBERGRIS CAYE                                    AMBERGRIS CAYE
Mata Chica is a peaceful getaway set on           Azul Villas has a beachfront location just 15
                                                                                                         EXTENSIONS
Ambergris Caye’s northern coast, reached          minutes by boat from San Pedro town. The
                                                                                                         To make a longer trip you can easily add in a few
only by motor boat. Each of the 14 air-           exclusive complex comprises just two villas either
                                                                                                         days to further explore the Belizean jungle up at
conditioned casitas are individually decorated,   side of a shared pool, next door to one of the
                                                                                                         Lamanai or Chan Chich. You could also combine
hand painted and enhanced by Belizean             island’s best restaurants. The villas have two         this trip with time in Guatemala.
furnishings. The hotel has a relaxed Belizean     bedrooms and a bathroom, with space for four
charm, a lovely restaurant and it can arrange     adults or a family of four. The atmosphere is that     TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
a number of island activities.                    of a fine private home coupled with the amenities      Our private tailor-made journeys offer
                                                  and services of a first class hotel.                   complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
                                                                                                         accommodation shown are designed to give you a
                                                    RAMON’S VILLAGE,                                     flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                  AMBERGRIS CAYE                                         your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
                                                                                                         accommodation and season, please telephone us
                                                  Situated on a lovely stretch of beach just a
                                                                                                         to discuss your individual requirements.
                                                  five minute walk from Ambergris Caye’s main
                                                  town, San Pedro, Ramon’s Village resort has
                                                  61 thatched roof cabañas, a lovely tropical
                                                  style swimming pool, pleasant gardens, a
                                                  restaurant and a bar. All the rooms have
                                                  air-conditioning and fans and are simply decorated
                                                  with Belizean murals on the walls. The hotel
                                                  has bicycles and golf buggies to explore the
                                                  island and can arrange numerous excursions
                                                  such as scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking
                                                  or windsurfing.
                                                                                                         Stingray


                                                                                                         Belize
                                                                                                         Telephone: 01993 838 690


                                                                                                                                                                   33
     Honduras
            onduras is a beautiful country, rich       Caribbean-infused culture are arguably           life and damage caused by the infamous
     H      in lush forests, green undulating          Honduras’ main attraction. White sand            hurricanes that sweep through the Caribbean,
     mountains and with a striking Caribbean           beaches, calm crystal clear waters, sheltering   the last major one being Mitch in 1998.
     coastline. Highlights for the traveller include   one of the finest coral reefs in the region,     The nation dealt with this disaster with
     the Mayan ruins in the charming town              and a smattering of tiny fishing villages        outstanding fortitude and resilience, bouncing
     of Copán surrounded by serene hills and           characterise this delightful archipelago. The    back to recovery remarkably well. The
     farmland. Further east the scenery changes        diving and snorkelling here is superb and        country’s past only adds to its fascination
     to sub-tropical mountainous rainforest with       simply unmissable if you are a fan of the        and the major routes throughout are now
     waterfalls, beautiful rivers and over 700         underwater world. Honduras has been deeply       very well-developed considering.
     species of bird. The Bay Islands, with their      affected in past years by the enormous loss of

34
Copán ruins


Audley in Honduras
Honduras is a peaceful and friendly country that
offers relatively straightforward travel in the
main. However, economically it is poor and the
mountainous interior has minimal road structure
so much of the country is still waiting to be
discovered, which our specialists are keen to
do as it opens up. We can recommend a variety
of routes around the country travelling by road
and air to suit your needs, and our local guides’
expert knowledge will make your trip an even          Scuba Diving
more rewarding experience. Honduras is a
fabulous country to visit in its own right,           If you are looking for first class diving, or the
especially for divers and snorkellers, but is often   perfect place to learn to dive, it doesn’t get much
and easily combined as an overland trip with          better than the Bay Islands. The spectacular coral
neighbouring Guatemala.                               reefs teem with sea-life and there are enough
                                                      prime dive sites to keep even the most
Climate                                               experienced diver happy. The water surrounding
                                                      the islands is pristine, clear and a magnificent deep
The dry season along the Caribbean coast              turquoise. One of the most incredible things
lasts from February to June which is generally the    about diving here is the proximity of the coral
best time to visit, with the coolest time of the      reef. Most dive sites are within just a 10-15
year being the months from November to                minute boat ride from the beach making diving
February. When the rains come they are usually        and snorkelling easily accessible. Diving can be
in short bursts, heaviest between August and          organised locally or we can pre-book packages
December. Inland it can rain all year round.          and dive courses for you. From February to May
The country is susceptible to hurricanes from         whale sharks pass through, offering the chance
June to November.                                     of a close encounter not to be forgotten.




                                                                                                              Scuba-diver, Roatán Island


                                                                                                              Accommodation
                                                                                                              There are charming places to stay in Copán
                                                                                                              and Pico Bonito, but throughout the rest of the
                                                                                                              mainland accommodation can be rather simple.
                                                                                                              On the Bay Islands our specialists have researched
                                                                                                              and chosen a few of their favourite options that
                                                                                                              are in keeping with the Caribbean atmosphere,
                                                                                                              thus avoiding the all-inclusive style resorts that
                                                                                                              seem to be making an appearance. They are of
                                                                                                              the more rustic luxury type but are unique and
                                                                                                              in fantastic locations.



                                                                                                                  Honduras
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 660
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, near Pico Bonito

                                                                                                                                                                   35
                                                                                                             The Lodge at Pico Bonito, near La Ceiba
     Copán                                                HACIENDA SAN LUCAS,
                                                        COPÁN
     The Copán ruins are set in the hills in the west
                                                        Hacienda San Lucas is a beautiful 100-year-old
     of Honduras, near the border with Guatemala
                                                        family-owned hacienda, with eight simple but
     and can be easily incorporated into a trip
                                                        comfortable rooms, excellent food and a
     combining the two countries. The ruins mark the
                                                        welcoming friendly atmosphere. All the rooms
     southeastern limit of Mayan dominance and are
                                                        are en-suite with hot water, solar lighting and
     the most significant in Honduras. As with many
                                                        ceiling fans. The Hacienda is situated in a
     of Central America’s archaeological sites they
                                                        gorgeous location overlooking the whole of the
     were buried in jungle when rediscovered in 1839.
                                                        surrounding valley and the ruins of Copán are
     The site was cleared in the 1930s to reveal
                                                        just ten minutes away by road.
     intricately carved stelae (three metre columns
     of stone), a hieroglyphic stairway and several     Pico Bonito
     ball courts. The nearby town of Copán Ruinas is
     a quiet and charming settlement with cobbled       A few hours’ drive north-east of Copán lies San
     streets: a perfect place to while away some time   Pedro Sula, the commercial capital of Honduras.
     before or after visiting the ruins.                From here you can fly or take the coastal road
                                                        through rolling hills and banana plantations to        THE LODGE AT PICO BONITO,
                                                                                                             NEAR LA CEIBA
                                                        La Ceiba, the country’s third largest city and
                                                        jumping-off point for the Bay Islands. The area is   The Lodge at Pico Bonito is located a ten minute
                                                        surrounded by beautiful sub-tropical forest and      drive from La Ceiba airport on the edge of the
                                                        numerous waterfalls, many of which are protected     Pico Bonito National Park. There are 22 luxury
                                                        by the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge and Pico       wooden cabins, surrounded by lovely tropical
                                                        Bonito National Park. Diverse in both flora and      gardens, all with en-suite showers, fans or air-
                                                        fauna and easily accessible, these parks provide     conditioning, and a balcony with hammocks.
                                                        great walking and wildlife spotting opportunities:   The lodge has numerous excellent walking trails
                                                        in particular monkeys and numerous species           leading from its grounds through the forest, but
                                                        of water birds. The more adventurous can raft        there are also many optional excursions that will
                                                        the Cangrejal River or take the bumpy boat           allow you to explore further afield. The restaurant
                                                        ride to visit the nearby Garifuna villages and       produces a good range of international dishes
                                                        Cayos Cochinos (the nearest cayes off the            and there is a beautiful pool, should you just wish
                                                        Honduran coast).                                     to relax.
     Hacienda San Lucas, Copán

36
                                                                                                                Honduran Highlights


                                                                                                                A trip combining fascinating Mayan ruins and
                                                                                                                explorations through sub-tropical rainforest to
                                                                                                                spot wildlife, trek or raft, ending with the relaxed
                                                                                                                Caribbean culture and beauty of the Bay Islands.

                                                                                                                Day 1         Fly to Houston. Spend the night.

                                                                                                                Day 2         Arrive in San Pedro Sula and drive
                                                                                                                              to the lovely town of Copán. This
                                                                                                                              afternoon relax in your hacienda to
Anthony’s Key Resort, Roatán Island
                                                                                                                              recover from the flight or visit the
                                                                                                                              tropical bird park.

                                                                                                                Day 3         This morning tour the Mayan
                                                                                                                              archaelogical site of Copán. This
                                                                                                                              afternoon explore the town of
                                                                                                                              Copán at your leisure or take in
                                                                                                                              the countryside on horseback.

                                                                                                                Day 4         Drive through beautiful scenery to
                                                                                                                              Pico Bonito Lodge.

                                                                                                                Day 5         Optional walks through the forest to
                                                                                                                              explore the rivers, waterfalls and lush
                                                                                                                              flora and fauna of the park.

                                                                                                                Day 6         Optional excursion by road and
                                                                                                                              boat into Cuero y Salado Wildlife
                                                                                                                              Refuge.

                                                                                                                Day 7         Relax by the pool or take a half day
                                                                                                                              river-rafting trip.

                                                                                                                Day 8         Drive to La Ceiba and fly to
                                                                                                                              Roatán Island.

                                                                                                                Days 9-12 Relax, sunbathe, snorkel or
                                                                                                                          scuba-dive.

                                                                                                                Day 13        Fly from Roatán.
The Bay Islands                                            ANTHONY’S KEY RESORT,
                                                         ROATÁN ISLAND                                          Day 14        Arrive in UK.
The Bay Islands are located approximately 60
                                                         Situated near Sandy Bay, Anthony’s Key Resort
kilometres off the northern coast of Honduras.
                                                         has 56 wooden bungalows, each with a private           EXTENSIONS
Accessed by air from San Pedro Sula or La Ceiba,
                                                         bathroom and sun deck or porch. It is a charming       For a longer, more diverse trip you can easily
the archipelago consists of three beautiful islands,
                                                         place to stay, rather like an island village, with     combine this trip with time in neighbouring
Guanaja, Roatán and Utila. All are surrounded by                                                                Guatemala.
                                                         cabañas both on the main island and across the
warm, clear tropical waters with extensive coral
                                                         water on a tiny islet reached by boat. The views
reefs: paradise for scuba-divers. The sea is literally                                                          TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
                                                         across the ocean are beautiful and guests can
teeming with tropical fish. Roatán is the most                                                                  Our private tailor-made journeys offer
                                                         simply relax, enjoy a variety of water-sports or
developed and largest of the islands and though                                                                 complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
                                                         interact with the dolphins at the on-site Institute
accommodation is not luxurious we can                                                                           accommodation shown are designed to give you a
                                                         of Marine Sciences. The resort specialises in
recommend some wonderful, unique lodges in                                                                      flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                         scuba-diving and has a fleet of state-of-the-art       your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
excellent locations. Most people are here to
                                                         boats and dive equipment. Please note that for         accommodation and season, please telephone us
dive or snorkel the spectacular reefs but the
                                                         most times of the year Anthony’s Key has a             to discuss your individual requirements.
lovely white-sand beaches also provide a great
                                                         minimum stay requirement of seven nights.
opportunity to relax and catch some sun.
Scuba-diving day trips can easily be arranged               PALMETTO BAY PLANTATION
locally but we can also pre-book seven night             RESORT, ROATÁN ISLAND
packages and dive courses. The clear, calm waters
                                                         The Palmetto Bay Plantation Resort is located
of the Bay Islands and the proximity of its reef to
                                                         near Roatán Island’s French Harbour, slightly
the shore make this the perfect place for learner
                                                         off the beaten track in a secluded bay. The 29
divers and there are a number of excellent dive
                                                         wooden Caribbean-style cabañas are extremely
operators that offer five day PADI courses if you
                                                         spacious and designed more like mini-houses with
are interested in taking up this sport.
                                                         fully equipped kitchens, huge balconies and a living
Palmetto Bay Plantation Resort, Roatán Island            room. Each is individually decorated with simple
                                                         furnishings and set amongst shady palm trees.
                                                         There is a good restaurant, a small pool and the
                                                         beach is right on your doorstep. For scuba divers
                                                                                                                Honduras
                                                         the resort has an onsite dive shop which operates
                                                         two or three dive boat excursions each day.            Telephone: 01993 838 660


                                                                                                                                                                          37
     Nicaragua
           fter years of political instability        visit including traditional villages, old          For many visitors the most striking feature
     A       Nicaragua has emerged to become          Spanish colonial cities, fertile hills, secluded   is the amazing inland sea of Lake Nicaragua
     one of the friendliest and most welcoming        quiet beaches and a whole string of active         with Ometepe, the world’s largest lake island,
     countries in Central America. Due to             volcanoes and deep volcanic crater lakes.          at its heart. Nicaragua is certainly a country
     its turbulent history it is also one of the      There are three main regions: the Pacific          for the more adventurous simply because
     least visited which has helped preserve its      region is made up of volcanoes, lakes, beaches     its infrastructure for visitors is relatively
     authenticity and adds to its fascination and     and mangrove swamps, the central region            undeveloped, however, this is part of its
     charm. Committed to welcoming visitors the       contains mountains, rivers and farm land,          appeal and those willing to make the effort
     Nicaraguans are proud of their country and       and the Caribbean region comprises rainforest,     will be all the more rewarded by what
     rightly so: there are some fantastic places to   mangroves, marine lagoons and coral reefs.         they find.

38
Audley in Nicaragua
We think this country is a real hidden jewel in
Central America and one to visit now. Nicaragua is
learning fast from its Costa Rican neighbour and it
is rapidly changing: delightful new hotels are opening
up, making whole areas of the nation accessible for
the first time. We are constantly keeping up to date
with the changes and we have sought out some
fantastic hideaways. Our guides’ excellent
knowledge will more than enhance your trip.
Although most definitely a destination in its own
right Nicaragua makes an excellent combination
with Costa Rica and we have researched the best
land routes between the two.




Climate                                                  Accommodation                                        Volcanoes
The best time to visit Nicaragua is in the dry           Choice of accommodation is limited outside of        The volcanic peaks and craters of Nicaragua are
season which runs from November through to               the major cities. There are some lovely converted    fascinating. Many of the towns and villages have
May, though please bear in mind temperatures             colonial mansions in Granada but elsewhere in        been destroyed by eruptions over the centuries
tend to become extremely hot in April and May.           the country hotels are mostly either of the larger   and several of Nicaragua’s volcanoes, particularly
The wettest months are between June and the              chain-type or more simple in style. Don’t let this   the Masaya volcano, remain active, spewing gas and
end of October when the rain makes it more               put you off though – Nicaragua is much more          ash into the air. Others, such as Maderas volcano,
difficult to travel on the many unpaved roads            than about a place to stay. We are monitoring        cradle spectacular crater lakes. They not only
throughout the country.                                  the situation closely for all new accommodation      provide a stunning and distinctive landscape but are
                                                         developments.                                        also havens for wildlife: explore them on foot, by
                                                                                                              horse, or simply admire their beauty from afar.




                                                                                                              Central Granada


                                                                                                                  Nicaragua
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 680
Masaya volcano

                                                                                                                                                                     39
     Convento de San Francisco, Granada


     Managua                                                                                                                LA GRAN FRANCIA, GRANADA
                                                                                                                       Located on the corner of the main square, La Gran
     Ravaged by decades of war, fire, earthquakes and
                                                                                                                       Francia is housed in a splendid ancestral building that
     hurricanes, it is a credit to the Nicaraguan people
                                                                                                                       is thought to date back to the years immediately
     that Managua still stands today. In its current
                                                                                                                       following the city’s foundation. The building was
     incarnation the Nicaraguan capital consists of a
                                                                                                                       lovingly restored during the 1990’s, recapturing its
     vast conurbation whose identity is buried under
                                                                                                                       original splendour. The hotel now offers 21 air-
     a low-rise sprawl. For most travellers, Managua
                                                                                                                       conditioned rooms with all modern comforts and
     is a springboard for the rest of the country but
                                                                                                                       amenities, a small pool, a fine restaurant and two bars.
     it does house a few points of interest: some
     museums, crumbling churches and reportedly                                                                             HOTEL COLONIAL, GRANADA
     the world’s oldest human footprints.
                                                                                                                       The Hotel Colonial provides a high standard
                                                           La Gran Francia, Granada
                                                                                                                       of accommodation located in the heart of the
                                                                                                                       city, recently built but designed and furnished in
                                                           Granada                                                     colonial style. The 37 air-conditioned rooms are
                                                                                                                       all individually decorated and positioned around
                                                           Granada, located 46 kilometres south of Managua, sits
                                                                                                                       two relaxing shady courtyards with two small
                                                           on the shores of the magnificent Lake Nicaragua in
                                                                                                                       pools and a wet bar. The hotel has a lovely
                                                           the shadow of the imposing Mombacho volcano.
                                                                                                                       restaurant and a deserved reputation for friendly
                                                           Dating back to 1524, it is considered the longest
                                                                                                                       and professional service.
                                                           continually-inhabited city on mainland Central
                                                           America. Today, Granada is the most visited city in
                                                           Nicaragua; and a key place to stay on any trip to the
                                                           country; drawing locals and travellers alike with its
                                                           wonderful colonial and neo-classical architecture,
                                                           colourful cobbled streets and laid-back, easygoing
                                                           atmosphere. Either strolling the streets or relaxing in
                                                           the main square this is a wonderful place to watch
                                                           the locals throng around food stalls, discussing politics
                                                           and work with ever-present soothing traditional music
                                                           playing in the background; or you can take a historical
                                                           ride in a horse drawn carriage around the city.
                                                                                                                       Hotel Colonial, Granada

40
León                                                                                                            Recoleccion Church, León




Local fishmarket                                      Coffee plantations, Northern Nicaragua


Masaya Volcano                                        León and
National Park                                         Northern Nicaragua
Lying between Managua and Granada, Masaya             León was once the main political, cultural and
Volcano National Park is a fascinating place to       religious centre of Nicaragua and is one of the
visit, en route between the two cities or as a day    oldest colonial cities in Central America. The
trip from either one. The main attraction is the      original city, León Viejo, was set at the foot of
huge Santiago crater which has formed between         the Mambotombo volcano, but was destroyed
the Nindiri and Masaya volcanoes. Throughout          in 1609 by a violent earthquake and eruption;
the 1900s there were frequent eruptions until, in     it was eventually rebuilt in its current location 90
1985, the craters collapsed; even now sulphurous      kilometres north of Managua. The city is home
gasses still bellow forth and you can hear the lava   not only to the National University and many
thundering past below ground. Surrounding the         striking buildings, such as the colonial cathedral,       El Convento, León
national park are some fascinating little market      with its collection of statuettes tracing religious art
and craft towns worth exploring.                      since the 1700s, but also Nicaragua’s favourite               EL CONVENTO, LEÓN
                                                      rum distillery - Flor de Cana.                            Centrally located just a couple of blocks from
                                                                                                                the cathedral, Hotel El Convento was one of the
                                                      Heading further north from León is a spectacular
                                                                                                                country’s earliest convents and dates back to the
                                                      drive through a maze of mountains and coffee
                                                                                                                17th century. After religious organisations were
                                                      plantations to reach the largest town in the north,
                                                                                                                expelled from the country it fell into disrepair but
                                                      Esteli, which has an interesting history of political
                                                                                                                has now been restored and is undoubtedly the
                                                      battles. Rarely visited, the northern regions provide
                                                                                                                best hotel in León. There are 32 rooms, furnished
                                                      even deeper insights into rural Nicaragua’s culture
                                                                                                                with antiques and decorated with original works
                                                      and way of life. The smaller towns of Jinotego and
                                                                                                                of art, positioned around a beautifully calm
                                                      Matagalpa are set amongst beautiful scenery and
                                                                                                                central courtyard, with a restaurant and lively
                                                      although accommodation options are basic, this is
                                                                                                                café, ‘El Patio’.
                                                      an ideal option for a couple of days excellent
                                                      walking and wildlife spotting in the surrounding
                                                      forests. These areas are also easily accessible on
                                                      day trips from León, for those that prefer to stay            Nicaragua
                                                      in a little more comfort.                                     Telephone: 01993 838 680


                                                                                                                                                                       41
     View over Ometepe Island


     Ometepe Island
     Rising proudly from the waters of Lake Nicaragua,
     Ometepe Island is made up of two magnificent
     volcanic cones and is a more than impressive sight as
     you gaze across to its shores. Consisting of 276
     square kilometres of unspoiled forest frequented by
     monkeys, armadillo, opossum and deer - on a clear
     day the views are simply spectacular. Reached by
     boat from the port town of San Jorge, an hour south
     of Granada, the lake crossing can be choppy but is a
     well worthwhile and wonderful trip. The word
     Ometepe developed from the original Aztec’s name
     for the island, Ome Tepelth, which means two hills.
     These days it has a population of 35,000, but the
     remnants of this ancient civilisation can be seen in
     petroglyphs around the island. If you fancy a challenge
     it is possible to climb Maderas volcano, if you’d prefer
     a less strenuous activity, horse-riding and walking are    Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco Lodge
     a great way to explore the area. Alternatively,
     relaxing for a couple of days on the surprisingly            VILLA PARAISO,                                      San Juan del Sur
     beautiful soft-sand beaches is a great option.             OMETEPE ISLAND
                                                                                                                      The friendly fishing town of San Juan del Sur is
                                                                Hotel Villa Paraiso is located at Santo Domingo
                                                                                                                      located on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, a two hour
                                                                beach on Ometepe Island, 24 kilometres from
                                                                                                                      drive south of Granada, beautifully set on a
                                                                the main port, Moyogalpa. The hotel has a
                                                                                                                      horse-shoe bay. This natural harbour is used by
                                                                selection of 16 en-suite bedrooms: we prefer
                                                                                                                      fishing boats and yachts, while its three kilometres
                                                                the suites as these have air-conditioning and lake
                                                                                                                      of beach mean you can find your own secluded
                                                                views. There is a small restaurant serving an
                                                                                                                      patch. The town is surrounded by a dramatic
                                                                international selection of dishes. Although simple,
                                                                                                                      landscape of dormant volcanoes, an unspoiled
                                                                the lodge provides an ideal base for exploring
                                                                                                                      region where small farms co-exist with Central
                                                                the island on foot, bike or horseback.
                                                                                                                      America’s exotic flora and fauna.
     Villa Paraiso, Ometepe Island

42
                                                                                                                Nicaraguan Discovery


                                                                                                                A tour encompassing the main highlights of
                                                                                                                Nicaragua, visiting the three major cities of
                                                                                                                Managua, Leon and Granada and their surrounding
                                                                                                                areas before exploring Ometepe Island. The trip
                                                                                                                ends with some time to relax at Morgan’s Rock
                                                                                                                Eco Lodge.

                                                                                                                Day 1         Fly to Managua.

                                                                                                                Day 2         Tour of the city.

                                                                                                                Day 3         Drive to León. Afternoon tour of
                                                                                                                              this historical city.

                                                                                                                Day 4         Trip to the famous Flor de
                                                                                                                              Cana distillery.

                                                                                                                Day 5         Full day’s excursion to the
                                                                                                                              Cerro Negro, Momotombo or
                                                                                                                              Telica volcano.
Viewpoint of Morgan’s Rock Eco-Lodge and beach
                                                                                                                Day 6         Travel by road to Granada visiting the
                                                                                                                              Masaya volcano en route along with
                                                                                                                              the ‘white towns’ of Catarina and San
                                                                                                                              Juan de Oriente.

                                                                                                                Day 7         City tour combined with a trip to
                                                                                                                              the Isletas de Granada.

                                                                                                                Day 8         Travel by road and boat to
                                                                                                                              Ometepe Island. Afternoon
                                                                                                                              exploration of the island.

                                                                                                                Day 9         Explore the island at leisure or take
                                                                                                                              optional excursions.

                                                                                                                Day 10        Travel by boat and road to San
Volleyball at Sunset, San Juan del Sur                Corn Islands                                                            Juan del Sur and the stunning
                                                                                                                              Morgan’s Rock.
  MORGAN’S ROCK                                       Indio Maiz Biological Reserve                             Days 11-13 Relax, sunbathe or take
HACIENDA AND ECO LODGE,                                                                                                    optional excursions.
NEAR SAN JUAN DEL SUR                                 The Indio Maiz Biological Reserve protects more
                                                                                                                Day 14        Drive back to Managua for your
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco Lodge is an            than 600 species of tropical birds and 200 species
                                                                                                                              international flight.
idyllic remote hideaway, half an hour by road         of mammals spread over a million hectares of land,
                                                      set on the banks of the Rio San Juan, in the south-       Day 15        Arrive in the UK.
from San Juan del Sur. Beautifully designed
bungalows have been carefully built using local       east of the country near the Costa Rican border.
                                                      This is an ultimate destination for adventurous           EXTENSIONS
materials, each with private decks overlooking
the Pacific Ocean and using solar power. Staff,       travellers looking to explore one of Nicaragua’s          To create a longer trip you could add a few days
                                                      least-known and little-visited regions. This area is by   by flying from Managua to the Corn Islands or
recruited from the local community, are highly
                                                      far the best place to observe wildlife in Nicaragua       the Indio Maiz Biological reserve from where you
trained and conscientious, and the restaurant is                                                                can travel overland into Costa Rica.
excellent. There is an infinity pool and a secluded   but accommodation is basic at best. We are closely
white-sand beach but there is much more to            monitoring any new eco-lodge developments.
                                                                                                                TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
do and see in the surrounding dry forest:                                                                       Our private tailor-made journeys offer
birdwatching, visits to local farms and kayaking.                                                               complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
This is one of Nicaragua’s most luxurious and                                                                   accommodation shown are designed to give you a
prestigious eco-lodges.                                                                                         flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                                                                                your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
                                                                                                                accommodation and season, please telephone us
The Corn Islands                                                                                                to discuss your individual requirements.

Isolated off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast are
two small islands ringed by palm trees and white
sand beaches: the Corn Islands. Undeveloped,
peaceful, incredibly laid-back and English
speaking, here the Caribbean casts its lilt on
Nicaragua’s own culture. There is little in the
way of hotels and infrastructure but intrepid
travellers are rewarded by pristine beaches
and some of the best diving and snorkelling
                                                                                                                Nicaragua
in the Caribbean.
                                                                                                                Telephone: 01993 838 680
                                                      Spider monkey

                                                                                                                                                                          43
     Costa Rica
         tunningly beautiful and with a wealth         springs, lush rainforests, rolling hills, huge       most adventurous countries in Central
     S    of flora and fauna, Costa Rica is also the   tumbling rivers, white sand beaches that stretch     America: they have devised hundreds of
     most advanced Central American country in         for miles, incredible wildlife as well as sweet-     different ways to experience the country;
     terms of both its economy and society. It is      smelling coffee and fruit plantations, all within    on foot, by horseback, motorboat, canopy
     progressive in its views on ecotourism, has a     easy reach of the capital, San José. The diversity   walkways and the more adrenaline stimulating
     long history of democracy and is peaceful         of the flora and fauna is on show everywhere         activities including ziplining, scuba diving,
     enough to not even warrant an army. For so        in a riot of vivid colours: this is one of the       river-rafting, mountain biking, volcano
     small a country there is an incredible amount     best places to spot tapirs, caiman, iridescent       climbing, sea-kayaking and surfing to name
     to see. There are mist-shrouded cloudforests,     butterflies and day-glow frogs, not to mention       but a few. The guides throughout the country
     smouldering volcanoes, beautiful bubbling hot     the elusive jaguar. Costa Rica is also one of the    are excellent, which just enhances any trip.

44
Audley in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in
Central America and is becoming ‘Americanised’
in places: it can be tough to avoid the numerous
people and large-chain hotels that have sprung
up. However, our specialists have travelled
extensively throughout the country to find the
smaller individually-owned lodges and less
travelled areas. Even with the country’s advanced
development the roads can be pretty rough so
we ensure all our drivers are skilled and used to
the road conditions, but be ready for an
occasional bumpy ride. Despite the relatively
small size of Costa Rica at times we may suggest
internal flights for some journeys.


Climate                                              Accommodation
Much of Costa Rica is covered by rainforest so       Costa Rica offers a good selection of hotels and
expect rain at any time of the year, but there       on the whole there is something to suit most
is a dry season on the Pacific coast that runs       people’s taste and budget. Where possible we try
from December to April and a wet from May            to avoid the chain-type hotels and suggest locally
to November with the heaviest rainfall being in      owned eco-lodges. There are numerous beach
September and October. It is harder to define        options along the Pacific coast, but we have
the seasons on the Caribbean coast though it         specifically chosen those we feel best represent
tends to rain less between March and September.      the country. In the more isolated areas such as
Generally the best time to visit is between          the Osa Peninsula and beaches along the
December and April. The only time we would           Caribbean coast, accommodation options are
actually recommend not travelling would be           less developed and of a more simple style, but
September and October.                               fantastically located.

                                                                                                          Wildlife
                                                                                                          There aren’t many places in the world you can wake
                                                                                                          to the bark of a troop of howler monkeys, walk
                                                                                                          along a deserted beach and spot a formation of
                                                                                                          scarlet macaws in the sky, watch a trio of toucans fly
                                                                                                          over your head as you raft a rapid or drive along the
                                                                                                          road to see a sloth asleep in a tree. The wildlife is
                                                                                                          simply spectacular in Costa Rica and the guides first
                                                                                                          class; you have real chances of seeing tapirs, sloth,
                                                                                                          ocelots, coatis, caiman, numerous species of
                                                                                                          monkey, margay, turtles, iguanas, frogs, butterflies,
                                                                                                          not to mention more than 850 species of birds.
                                                                                                          Even the elusive jaguar can be occasionally seen
                                                                                                          prowling through the jungle.


                                                                                                              Costa Rica
                                                                                                              Telephone: 01993 838 665
Poas volcano

                                                                                                                                                                   45
     Keel-billed toucan


     San José and Central Valley                                                                                       XANDARI PLANTATION INN,
                                                                                                                     ALAJUELA
     The capital of Costa Rica, the large, sprawling city of
                                                                                                                     The Xandari Plantation Inn consists of 22 spacious
     San José is the focal point of the Central Valley with
                                                                                                                     villas only 25 minutes from San José. Overlooking
     a spectacular setting, ringed by jagged mountains
                                                                                                                     Costa Rica’s Central Valley, the villas and gardens
     and volcanoes on all sides. Due to earthquakes
                                                                                                                     have been designed and furnished with original
     over the years, most of the colonial buildings and
                                                                                                                     paintings, mosaics, tapestries, stained glass and
     much of the charm of the city has disappeared.
                                                                                                                     sculptures which make Xandari truly unique.
     What remains today is a mixture of restored and
                                                                                                                     Within the tropical gardens is an extensive modern
     rundown buildings huddled under a modern skyline.
                                                                                                                     spa and there are two lovely swimming pools.
     The city still retains a good mix of museums and
                                                                                                                     The restaurant is superb, making use of a range of
     general attractions that are of interest for those
                                                                                                                     fresh produce grown in the Xandari’s grounds.
     willing to get under the skin of the capital. The
     surrounding countryside of the Central Valley is                                                                    GRANO DE ORO, SAN JOSÉ
     stunning, characterised by coffee plantations;
                                                                                                                     Hotel Grano de Oro is a beautifully converted
     pockets of rain and cloud forests teeming with
                                                                                                                     Victorian mansion within easy walking distance
     birdlife, butterflies and orchids; spectacular volcanic
                                                                                                                     of many shops and restaurants. The 35 rooms
     craters and tumbling rivers for rafting. It’s a great
                                                                                                                     are all individually furnished in a period style with
     place to begin any trip to the country.                   Aerial tram
                                                                                                                     high ceilings, wrought-iron beds and rich damask
                                                                 PEACE LODGE, LA PAZ                                 fabrics. The Grano de Oro restaurant serves
                                                               WATERFALL GARDENS                                     excellent Costa Rican and European cuisine and
                                                                                                                     there is a secluded roof terrace.
                                                               Peace Lodge lies in the Central Valley, two hours
                                                               from San José in the grounds of La Paz Waterfall
                                                               Gardens Nature Park. The 16 guest rooms and
                                                               villas are beautifully constructed from natural
                                                               materials, with waterfall showers, grand stone
                                                               fireplaces and oversized balconies with magnificent
                                                               views and hummingbird feeders. Alongside is a
                                                               butterfly observatory and hummingbird garden,
                                                               while trails lead deep into the rainforest to five
                                                               waterfalls and the La Paz river.
     Peace Lodge, La Paz Waterfall Gardens                                                                           Grano de Oro, San José

46
                                                                                                           Colours of Costa Rica


                                                                                                           A stunning trip to discover the main highlights of
                                                                                                           Costa Rica, combining wildlife explorations with
                                                                                                           forest walks, waterfalls, the exploding Arenal
                                                                                                           volcano and ending with a few days relaxing on
                                                                                                           one of Costa Rica’s wonderful beaches.

                                                                                                           Day 1        Fly to San José.

                                                                                                           Day 2        Visit the Café Britt Coffee Plantation.

                                                                                                           Day 3        Journey by road and boat to
                                                                                                                        Tortuguero National Park with a
                                                                                                                        stop en route at a banana plantation.
                                                                                                                        Afternoon wildlife excursions and
                                                                                                                        visit to Tortuguero town.

                                                                                                           Day 4        Wildlife excursions.
Spectacled caiman                                                                                          Day 5        Fly to San Jose. Take the scenic
                                                                                                                        drive to Arenal with a stop
                                                                                                                        en route at the beautiful La Paz
                                                                                                                        Waterfall Gardens.

                                                                                                           Day 6        Half day trip into the Arenal Volcano
                                                                                                                        National Park exploring the lava
                                                                                                                        fields. Evening relaxation at the
                                                                                                                        nearby thermal springs.

                                                                                                           Day 7        Full day trip to Cano Negro
                                                                                                                        Wildlife Refuge.

                                                                                                           Day 8        Take the scenic boat ride across
                                                                                                                        Lake Arenal and continue by road
                                                                                                                        to Monteverde cloudforest.

                                                                                                           Day 9        Early morning guided walking tour
                                                                                                                        into the Monteverde Cloudforest
Spoonbills                                            Pachira Lodge, Tortuguero National Park
                                                                                                                        Reserve. Afternoon tour
                                                                                                                        exploring the forest by zipline
Tortuguero and the                                      MAWAMBA LODGE,                                                  and canopy walkways.
Caribbean Coast                                       TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK
                                                                                                           Day 10       Travel overland to the central pacific
                                                      Mawamba Lodge is situated on a strip of land                      or Guanacaste coastline to your
One of Costa Rica’s most culturally diverse           between the Tortuguero canals and the                             beach hotel.
regions, the Caribbean coast has influences           Caribbean sea. The accommodation consists of         Days 11-13 Relaxing in your beach hotel.
that range from Hispanic and Miskito Indian to        58 comfortable rooms with private bathrooms,
Afro-Caribbean. There are some beautiful                                                                   Day 14       Travel to San José for your
                                                      hot water and ceiling fans. There is a lovely
                                                                                                                        international flight.
beaches and coral reefs to be found around            swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a good restaurant,
Cahuita but the main attraction is the Tortuguero     bar, butterfly house and frog garden.                Day 15       Arrive in the UK.
National Park. Accessed solely by plane or boat,
two or three days roaming this dense network            PACHIRA LODGE,                                     EXTENSIONS
of canals, swamps and waterways by boat and on        TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK                             To make a longer trip you can easily add a few
foot with your guide will provide an opportunity      Pachira Lodge is located five minutes across         days in the Osa Peninsula or stop en route from
to see an abundance of wildlife. Sloths, iguanas,     the river from the small town of Tortuguero,         Tortuguero at Puerto Viejo de Saripiqui. If you
brightly-coloured butterflies, poison dart frogs,     surrounded by a network of scenic canals. The        are looking for adventure you may like to raft
monkeys, crocodiles and even jaguars are just         swimming pool is adjacent to the rainforest and      the grade IV-V Pacuare river from San José.
some of the animals that make up a biodiversity       monkeys and birds are likely to come and watch
hot-spot that spans 19,000 hectares. The birdlife     you bathe. The 80 en-suite rooms with hot
here is prolific too with the waterways home          showers are comfortable and spacious and carefully
to numerous species of waterbirds such as             crafted to blend with the surrounding rainforest.
spoonbills, cormorants and herons, with the call
of toucans perched in the forest canopy above.          ALMONDS AND CORALS HOTEL,
From July to October endangered green                 NEAR CAHUITA
turtles climb from the ocean and lay eggs on          The Almonds and Corals Hotel is located in the
35 kilometres of protected shoreline, alongside       heart of the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge,
other nests dug by giant leatherback, hawksbill       near Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. The hotel
and loggerhead turtles. Though this area is one       consists of 24 individual bungalows. The hotel
of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica it     combines a rustic architectural design with an
remains an intriguing part of the country to visit,   exquisite decorative taste. Numerous nature trails
                                                                                                           Costa Rica
especially if you are a wildlife enthusiast.          throughout the property provide fantastic
                                                      opportunities for spotting wildlife.                 Telephone: 01993 838 665


                                                                                                                                                                  47
     Arenal volcano


     Arenal Volcano and the                               morning, but there are also canopy walkways
                                                          and adrenalin junkies can fly through the forest
     Cloudforest Reserves                                 by a system of zip wires. However, it is the
                                                          famed Arenal volcano that generally surpasses
     The central highlands encompass northern
                                                          all expectations. Considered to be one of the
     Costa Rica’s most fertile regions. Waterfalls,
                                                          world’s ten most active volcanoes it delivers daily
     mountains and forests are found amongst
                                                          eruptions of scalding hot lava that are not only
     undulating hills and near-perfect weather
                                                          visually stunning but also strikingly loud. It’s an
     conditions allow Costa Rica’s famous coffee to
                                                          incredible sight and the surrounding lava fields
     grow plentifully. Both the Monteverde and Santa
                                                          are also fascinating. The nearby hot springs are
     Elena Cloudforest Reserves are lush with foliage
                                                          a definite must; there is something very special
     and abundant with hundreds of species of birds,
                                                          about bathing beneath the stars with the eerie
     insects, butterflies and plants. Monteverde has
                                                          sounds of Arenal exploding in the background.
     six distinct ecological zones and is an excellent
                                                          The nearby Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is well
     place to seek out the resplendent but elusive
                                                          worth a day trip. This is one of the most densely
     red and green quetzal. It is a fabulous reserve
                                                          populated areas of Costa Rica but we have
     for walking, especially through the magical
                                                          found some fabulous accommodation in this
     shrouds of mist that drape the forest in the early
                                                          scenic and beautiful region.

                                                              FONDA VELA, MONTEVERDE
                                                          Nestled amongst the serene mountains of               Quetzal
                                                          Monteverde, the Fonda Vela Hotel is 1,400
                                                          metres above sea level, resulting in a refreshing          T RAPP F AMILY L ODGE , M ONTEVERDE
                                                          climate that is locally known as “eternal spring”.    The closest hotel to the Monteverde Cloud Forest
                                                          There are 38 rooms spread around nine separate        Reserve, Trapp Family Lodge offers 20 spacious
                                                          buildings, each comfortably furnished with views      rooms and suites, all simply but elegantly furnished,
                                                          to the rainforest or the Gulf. The elevation of the   with en-suite facilities. There is a cosy and welcoming
                                                          hotel provides spectacular views across the Gulf      bar and restaurant attached to the hotel. This is one
                                                          of Nicoya and the surrounding forests, while          of the more simple lodges in the Monteverde
                                                          excellent birding and hiking opportunities are        region, but is in one of the best locations for wildlife
                                                          available on every side.                              and has a warm, family atmosphere.
     Fonda Vela, Monteverde


48
                                                                                                           Central America Overland


                                                                                                           A truly diverse trip for those that enjoy the
                                                                                                           experience of travelling overland and have the
                                                                                                           time to see the highlights of Panama, Costa Rica
                                                                                                           and Nicaragua. It includes the Panama canal,
                                                                                                           secluded islands and beaches, the vibrant wildlife
                                                                                                           of Costa Rica, active volcanoes and lush forests
                                                                                                           ending in Nicaragua’s oldest city, Granada.

                                                                                                           Day 1        Fly to Panama City.

                                                                                                           Day 2        Full day tour of the city and Miraflores
                                                                                                                        Locks on the Panama Canal.

                                                                                                           Day 3        Part or full day transit (depending
                                                                                                                        on schedule) of the canal.

                                                                                                           Day 4        Fly to Bocas del Toro and travel by
                                                                                                                        boat to your lodge.

                                                                                                           Days 5-6     Relax or take excursions around the
                                                                                                                        archipelago.
Ziplining, Monteverde                                                                                      Day 7        Travel by boat and road crossing the
                                                                                                                        border into Costa Rica and on to
                                                                                                                        Cahuita. This afternoon relax by the
                                                                                                                        beach.

                                                                                                           Days 8-9     Take the scenic trip by road and
                                                                                                                        boat to Tortuguero National Park.
                                                                                                                        Take wildlife excursions by boat
                                                                                                                        and on foot.

                                                                                                           Day 10       Fly to San José and drive to Arenal
                                                                                                                        via La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Evening
                                                                                                                        relaxation at nearby thermal springs.

                                                                                                           Day 11       Half day trip to the Arenal Volcano
Hummingbird                                            Heliconia butterfly
                                                                                                                        National Park and lava fields.

                                                                                                           Day 12       Travel by boat across Lake Arenal
     LOST IGUANA RESORT, ARENAL
                                                                                                                        then by road to Monteverde.
The Lost Iguana Resort is a new hotel, beautifully
                                                                                                           Day 13       Early morning walking tour into the
set in over 100 acres of rainforest. The 42 rooms
                                                                                                                        Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve.
are dotted amongst the trees, each well-appointed
                                                                                                                        Afternoon tour to the cloudforest
and furnished to a high specification using local                                                                       canopy by zipline or canopy walkways.
materials and artwork. The large private terraces
                                                                                                           Day 14       Drive through lush scenery to Rincon
are surrounded by jungle and have stunning
                                                                                                                        de la Vieja. Relax in thermal mud
views to the Arenal volcano, with the constant
                                                                                                                        pools this afternoon or horse-ride.
drama of the volcano spewing smoke and lava
into the sky, a living part of the view. You can see                                                       Day 15       Travel overland across the border into
                                                                                                                        Nicaragua and on to Morgan’s Rock
hundreds of hummingbirds and other species, as
                                                                                                                        Eco-Lodge.
well as butterflies, without leaving your terrace
and on-site facilities include the Blue Hibiscus                                                           Days 16-17 At leisure to take optional
                                                                                                                      excursions from Morgan’s Rock.
restaurant overlooking the volcano, two swimming
pools and a spa.                                       Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal                          Days 18-19 Travel by road and boat over to
                                                                                                                      Ometepe Island. Take walking or
                                                                                                                      horse-riding excursions.
                                                            ARENAL KIORO, ARENAL
                                                       Hotel Arenal Kioro is the closest hotel to Arenal   Day 20       Travel by boat and road via
                                                                                                                        Mombacho volcano to Granada.
                                                       volcano, set in 27 acres of land bordered by
                                                       two crystalline streams. The 53 very spacious       Day 21       Full day city tour and visit to
                                                       rooms all have superb volcano views and each                     Masaya Volcano National Park.
                                                       are equipped with a Jacuzzi providing the           Day 22       Transfer to Managua for your
                                                       perfect place to unwind in the evening whilst                    international flight.
                                                       experiencing the breathtaking volcanic eruptions.   Day 23       Arrive in the UK.
                                                       A good range of facilities include a spa and an
                                                       outdoor swimming pool, while there are lovely
                                                       thermal springs just three kilometres away,
                                                       privately owned and at your disposal.
                                                                                                           Costa Rica
                                                                                                           Telephone: 01993 838 665
Arenal Kioro, Arenal


                                                                                                                                                                   49
     Northern Pacific coastline


     Central Pacific Coast                                      XANDARI BY THE PACIFIC,
                                                             PLAYA ESTERILLOS ESTE
     Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast is scattered
                                                             This newly built Xandari hotel has 20 beautiful
     with a diverse range of stunning beaches and
                                                             beachfront villas built along the Pacific Coast on
     protected areas of natural beauty: in all a fantastic
                                                             Playa Esterillos Este between Jaco Beach and
     opportunity to experience nature, adventure, and
                                                             Quepos. The architecture is similar to that of
     relaxation within easy reach of San José. Just a four
                                                             the original Xandari Plantation Inn in the Central
     hour drive or a short flight from the capital, the
                                                             Valley, with an abundance of original paintings,
     national parks of Carara and Manuel Antonio
                                                             mosaics and tapestries. The villas all feature a
     are two very important green zones, providing
                                                             large terrace with panoramic views of the
     sanctuary for an incredible variety of wildlife.
                                                             ocean and a private garden. The hotel’s facilities
     Hundreds of gorgeous butterflies, hummingbirds,
                                                             include a swimming pool, outdoor Jacuzzi and
     scarlet macaws, brightly-beaked toucans and
                                                             massage rooms.
     clambering monkeys are just some of the tropical
     life found here. Whilst Manuel Antonio has some           MAKANDA BY THE SEA,
     undoubtedly fantastic beaches it is busy and fairly     MANUEL ANTONIO
     built up so if you prefer quieter areas then
                                                             Located between Quepos and Manuel Antonio
     Esterillos, Bejuco and Palma slightly further south
                                                             National Park, Makanda by the Sea consists
     make excellent alternatives: their beaches are just
                                                             of 12 acres of natural sanctuary on a rugged          Three-toed sloth
     as beautiful. A few days spent along this wonderful
                                                             clifftop 116 metres above the ocean. Six villas
     coast are an ideal relaxing break in the middle or
                                                             and five studios have been carefully set in                EL PARADOR, MANUEL ANTONIO
     at the end of any trip to Costa Rica.
                                                             rainforest gardens to make the most of Makanda’s
                                                                                                                   Hotel Parador is located in one of the most
                                                             views of the ninety-six kilometre coastline, as has
                                                                                                                   pristine and tranquil areas of Manuel Antonio.
                                                             the spectacular infinity pool. There is a fabulous
                                                                                                                   The 108 rooms have been built in an elegant
                                                             restaurant for dinner and breakfast is brought
                                                                                                                   Mediterranean style modelled on Spanish
                                                             to your room. Facilities are excellent, but to
                                                                                                                   paradores. The lovely views from the rooms
                                                             explore there is also an extensive choice of
                                                                                                                   range from garden to jungle to Pacific Ocean.
                                                             tours, activities, and spa treatments: it’s also
                                                                                                                   A fantastic range of facilities include two infinity
                                                             adults only, maintaining a tranquil ambiance.
                                                                                                                   pools, one adult-only swimming pool, tennis
                                                                                                                   court, spa, fitness centre and nature trails
                                                                                                                   through the lush gardens.
     Makanda by the Sea, Manuel Antonio

50
                                                           Red-backed squirrel monkey, Manuel Antonio




Scarlet macaws, Manuel Antonio




Bahia de Sol, Playa Potrero                                Bird’s eye view of Manuel Antonio


Northern Pacific Coast                                          BAHIA     DE   SOL, PLAYA POTRERO                      CALA LUNA, TAMARINDO
                                                           Located on the wide tropical beach of Playa             Cala Luna is an oasis of calm, surrounded by
Slightly further afield than the central pacific coast,
                                                           Potrero with its calm water, Bahia del Sol is a         lush tropical vegetation, a short distance from the
the Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste coastlines
                                                           small but well-equipped beach resort with just          centre of Tamarindo. The hotel offers 20 deluxe
are fringed by some of the country’s most idyllic
                                                           13 rooms and 14 apartments. The peaceful                rooms and 16 beautiful and well-equipped villas
beaches. Tamarindo is the focal point of Guanacaste
                                                           rooms are privately set around well-tended              decorated with precious tropical hardwood.
with a long, west-facing beach that looks out over
                                                           tropical gardens, along with a spa, gourmet             There is a good-sized swimming pool next to a
unparalleled Pacific sunsets. It is the vibrant heart of
                                                           restaurant and swimming pool, while sun-beds            restaurant serving international cuisine. Playa
the coastline with an excellent selection of
                                                           shaded by palm trees dot the lawn.                      Langosta, with its pristine white sand, though not
restaurants and good nightlife. Whilst it is home to a
                                                                                                                   a swimming beach, is perfect for a stroll and only
few sprawling, all-inclusive resorts, there are a               TANGO MAR, TAMBOR                                  a five minute walk from the hotel.
number of smaller, more intimate hotels that provide
                                                           Located on a private beachfront reserve along
the seclusion and personalised service that we
                                                           the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast, the
favour. If you are looking for something a little more
                                                           35 rooms of Tango Mar offer the complete
secluded then there are great alternatives slightly to
                                                           isolation and exclusivity of a small, deluxe beach
the north, around the isolated beaches and small
                                                           resort. There is an excellent main pool right on
villages of Playa Potrero. To the south there are
                                                           the beach with a bar and the Cristobal restaurant,
some charming places around the Nicoya Peninsula
                                                           overlooking the ocean offering a casual yet
and Tambor, with dark sand beaches and gentle surf,
                                                           romantic setting to sample international cuisine
the small and intimate area of Punta Islita or the laid
                                                           or Costa Rican specialities.
back and untouched coastline around Malpaís. Slow-
paced and charming, this region provides a perfect              PUNTA ISLITA, GUANACASTE
place for a few days to relax either at the beginning
                                                           Hotel Punta Islita is located in a secluded paradise,
or end of a trip to Costa Rica.
                                                           two hours drive to the south of Tamarindo. The
El Parador, Manuel Antonio                                 hotel is set atop a hill and offers spectacular views
                                                           of the sweeping Pacific Ocean below. There are
                                                           50 rooms in total, wonderfully decorated, set           Tango Mar, Tambor
                                                           around a central facility comprising bar, restaurant,
                                                           wet bar, pool and gym. On the beach below
                                                                                                                      Costa Rica
                                                           there is a separate club building, with an
                                                                                                                      Telephone: 01993 838 665
                                                           additional restaurant and pool.


                                                                                                                                                                         51
     White-faced capuchin monkeys


     Corcovado and Osa Peninsula                                   LAPA RIOS, OSA PENINSULA                                AGUILA       DE   OSA, DRAKE BAY
                                                               On the southernmost tip of the Osa Peninsula,           Set on Drake Bay, the Aguila de Osa hotel offers
     The Osa Peninsula is one of Costa Rica’s most
                                                               Lapa Rios is built over 100 metres above the sea,       comfort in the jungle with pleasantly decorated
     unique and remote areas: tucked away in the
                                                               sitting above the canopy of the surrounding tropical    rooms, bamboo furniture, hot water showers
     south-west it is much less accessible than other
                                                               dry forest. The main lodge and 16 bungalows             and friendly staff. There are just two suites and
     parts of the country, which only adds to its appeal.
                                                               line three ridges, connected by paths and steps,        11 spacious rooms, and all meals are taken
     Travellers who make the effort are rewarded by
                                                               that catch the cooling sea breezes. Spacious            together in the communal dining room, creating
     beautiful beaches, meandering river-ways, tangled
                                                               accommodation features classic bamboo furnishings,      an informal and sociable atmosphere. Excursions
     mangroves, swamps and lush, dense rainforest. The
                                                               ceiling fans, mosquito nets, beautiful bathrooms with   are available to both Caño Island and Corcovado
     biological diversity in the area is huge, much of it
                                                               hot water, garden showers and private terraces          National Park, and many activities such as canopy
     protected since 1975 as the Corcovado National
                                                               overlooking the ocean. The main lodge and               tours, horse-riding, fishing and birdwatching can
     Park. The park is particularly excellent for spotting
                                                               restaurant have great views and there is a 16 metre     be arranged by the lodge, with experienced
     rare tropical forest mammals, especially margays,
                                                               observation tower, fabulous for birdwatching.           English-speaking guides.
     ocelots, tapirs and even – on occasion – jaguars.
     The birdwatching opportunities are fantastic too,                                                                    CASA CORCOVADO
     with hundreds of different species, most easily                                                                   JUNGLE LODGE, CORCOVADO
     found on early morning walks. For snorkelling and
                                                                                                                       A beautiful property, the lodge is located in a
     scuba-diving Isla del Caño has pristine coral reefs
                                                                                                                       private reserve on the edge of the Corcovado
     thronged with schools of tropical fish as well as
                                                                                                                       National Park. The 14 deluxe bungalows and
     turtles, sharks and rays. Most of the accommodation
                                                                                                                       suites are dotted around pristine gardens with
     on the peninsula is only accessible by boat, which
                                                                                                                       views of the rainforest. The bar and restaurant
     in itself is an experience, zooming along the Pacific
                                                                                                                       also overlook the jungle, making dining an
     coastline to your hotel. Upon arrival it’s easy to feel
                                                                                                                       extremely pleasant occasion. The swimming pool
     you are staying on an isolated tropical island, as the
                                                                                                                       offers a relaxing retreat after a day’s activities that
     lodges are miles apart and often the only sound
                                                                                                                       can include anything from scuba diving and sea
     that will interrupt your thoughts is the screech of
                                                                                                                       kayaking to guided wildlife walks or simply relaxing
     macaws or the howl of monkeys. This is truly a
                                                                                                                       on the beaches of Caño Island.
     fabulous way to escape and a real highlight of any
     trip to Costa Rica.



                                                               Scarlet macaw

52
                                                                                                                       Costa Rica Naturally


                                                                                                                       This comprehensive itinerary takes in the main
                                                                                                                       wildlife highlights of Costa Rica. It also includes
                                                                                                                       some of the lesser known locations, such as
                                                                                                                       Sarapiqui and San Gerardo de Dota for those
                                                                                                                       real nature enthusiasts.

                                                                                                                       Day 1         Fly to San José.

                                                                                                                       Day 2         Full day visit to the Central Valley
                                                                                                                                     including Irazu volcano, Orosi Valley
                                                            Lapa Rios, Osa Peninsula
                                                                                                                                     and Lancaster Gardens.

                                                                                                                       Day 3         Travel by road and boat to
                                                                                                                                     Tortuguero National Park with a
                                                                                                                                     stop en route at a banana plantation.
                                                                                                                                     Afternoon wildlife excursions and
                                                                                                                                     visit to the town of Tortuguero.

                                                                                                                       Day 4         Wildlife excursions by boat and
Osa Peninsula coastline                                                                                                              on foot in Tortuguero National Park.

                                                                                                                       Day 5         Journey by boat and road to Puerto
                                                                                                                                     Viejo de Sarapiqui.

                                                                                                                       Day 6         Optional excursions: horse-riding,
                                                                                                                                     birdwatching, or water-rafting.

                                                                                                                       Day 7         Take the scenic drive to Peace
                                                                                                                                     Lodge and spend the afternoon
                                                                                                                                     exploring the beautiful trails in
                                                                                                                                     La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

                                                                                                                       Day 8         Drive to Manuel Antonio on the
                                                                                                                                     central pacific coast.

                                                                                                                       Day 9         Early morning birdwatching excursion
                                                                                                                                     into Manuel Antonio National Park.
Aguila de Osa, Drake Bay
                                                                                                                                     This afternoon explore the park at
                                                                                                                                     leisure or relax by the beach.
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui                                   Rincon de la Vieja                                         Day 10        Travel by road to Quepos and take
                                                                                                                                     a short flight to the Osa Peninsula
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui lies two hours north-             Rincon de la Vieja National Park protects a
                                                                                                                                     and your rainforest lodge.
east of San José. It is a wonderful area for the            beautiful dry forest landscape in the northwest of
wildlife and nature enthusiast, less-visited than           Costa Rica. Named after the active Rincon de la            Days 11-12 Wildlife excursions.
Tortuguero or Monteverde. Right in the heart lies           Vieja volcano, the park is still relatively visitor-free   Day 13        Travel by road to the tiny hamlet
La Selva Biological Station which provides a superb         and is home to some 200 bird species. Though it                          of San Gerardo de Dota.
scientific insight into the life of the rainforest. It is   can easily be visited in a day trip from Tamarindo         Day 14        Early morning birdwatching excursion
home to some 400 species of birds, 450 species              the walking trails, boiling mud pools, thermal                           in search of the resplendent quetzal.
of trees and over 100 species of mammals and is             springs and horse riding opportunities make it                           Afternoon birding walk.
situated in one of the last remaining areas of              a good place to stay for a night or more.
                                                                                                                       Day 15        Travel to San Jose for your
primary rainforest in Costa Rica. Lodges are simple                                                                                  international flight.
but if you are looking for something a little off the
                                                                                                                       Day 16        Arrive in the UK.
beaten track it is well worth spending a couple of
nights here. The area is increasingly becoming a
focus of adventure activity with ziplines, canopy                                                                      EXTENSIONS
walkways, tubing, river-rafting and horseriding all                                                                    To make a longer trip you could easily include
on offer. For the more intrepid traveller, Puerto                                                                      a trip to Arenal and Monteverde National Park
Viejo de Sarapiqui is also a great base to take an                                                                     or a few days on the beach in Cahuita.
alternative and less travelled route into Nicaragua
                                                                                                                       TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
and the jungle lodges along Rio San Juan.
                                                                                                                       Our private tailor-made journeys offer
                                                                                                                       complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
San Gerado de Dota                                                                                                     accommodation shown are designed to give you a
                                                                                                                       flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
The sleepy hamlet of San Gerado de Dota is about                                                                       your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
three hours south of San José and famous amongst                                                                       accommodation and season, please telephone us
the world’s birdwatching community. This is a quieter                                                                  to discuss your individual requirements.
alternative to Monteverde with year-round sightings
of the resplendent quetzal. Other activities include
walking, horse-riding and trout-fishing trips, making                                                                  Costa Rica
San Gerado de Dota a great place to stay for a                                                                         Telephone: 01993 838 665
couple of nights in comfortable cloudforest lodges.
                                                            Tapir

                                                                                                                                                                                 53
         Panama
     ‘         he Crossroads of the Americas’, as         one of Spanish exploitation, its wealth built   quaint colonial towns, cool highlands,
         T     Panama is known, is an unusually           from plundered South American gold being        tumbling waterfalls, varied birdlife,
         shaped country, in overview resembling a         shipped back to Europe. This swashbuckling      beautiful undeveloped beaches and exquisite
         crooked, winding road. The country has           age continued well into the 20th century,       Caribbean islands with their own
         been put on the world map by the Panama          and its strategic importance made it prey to    fascinating traditions, providing unique
         Canal and to navigate its waters amongst         international politics. Engaging in Panama’s    getaways unlike any other in the world.
         the towering cargo-vessels and cruise ships      history is undoubtedly fascinating but the      These natural assets, combined with a mix
         is an unforgettable experience, but this         visitor will also be intrigued to discover      of Spanish, Afro-Caribbean, American and
         awe-inspiring feat of engineering is just one    undisturbed pristine rainforests, traditional   indigenous cultures, make Panama a truly
         aspect of the country. Its colonial history is   Indian villages, fine coffee plantations,       enthralling destination.

54
Audley in Panama
Panama can easily be combined with travels to
Costa Rica or regarded as a destination in its
own right – there certainly is enough to see and
do to fill a couple of weeks. The country also
makes for an ideal and alternative stop on the
way to or from South American destinations
such as Peru, Ecuador or Venezuela. Panama is
still very much in the process of developing its
visitor infrastructure and we keep a very close
eye on new developments and opportunities as
regions open up for travel. Whether your
curiosity principally lies around the engineering
feat of the Panama Canal or you wish to venture
further afield on paths less travelled, our Panama
specialists have the in-depth, on-the-ground
knowledge to advise you.




                                                        Climate
                                                        You can travel to Panama at anytime of the
                                                        year, however, the dry season runs between
                                                        mid-December and mid-April which is generally
                                                        considered the best time to visit. Temperatures
                                                        remain a pretty constant high throughout the year,
                                                        30 degrees centigrade and over. On the Caribbean
                                                        coast there are short heavy bursts of rain almost
Kuna Indians, San Blas Islands                          daily, while the Pacific coast has a pronounced wet
                                                        season from May to November.
The Panama Canal
                                                        Accommodation
Over 40 vessels a day, of all conceivable shapes
and sizes, transit through the Panama Canal,            There are many excellent hotels in Panama City
making it one of the leading attractions for visitors   and in the region surrounding the canal – some
to the country. It began as an idea by the French       of them part of international chains and
in 1881 but after years of trying the Americans         accommodating, in considerable comfort, the
took over the project and it was eventually             numerous business travellers to the country. We
completed in 1914. Without doubt it is a                have also sought out some smaller boutique
fascinating and incredible engineering marvel,          options in Panama City. Beyond these areas,
awe-inspiring in scale that passes through 80           accommodation is often (but not always) far
kilometres of beautiful countryside as it links the     more simple, but provides unique opportunities
Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea.                   to explore remote and beautiful locations.
                                                                                                              Walking in the Chiriqui Highlands




                                                                                                              Statue of Simón Bolívar, Panama City


                                                                                                                  Panama
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 675
San Blas Islands

                                                                                                                                                     55
     Caso Viejo, Panama City


     Panama City                                                the original ruins of the capital founded in 1517. This
                                                                was the first city to be built on the Pacific coast of
     Home to half of Panama’s population, Panama City           the Americas, only to be burnt to cinders by the
     is a heady combination of historic crumbling colonial      notorious British pirate, Henry Morgan. At night it is
     buildings and high-rise ultra modern structures, set       the city’s causeway that comes alive with locals and
     around a large bay on the Pacific Ocean. In                visitors gathering for drinks at sunset overlooking the
     someways the city combines three cities in one.            entrance to the canal, and dinner amongst the
     The first impressions are usually of the sleek and         candlelit restaurants.
     prosperous infrastructure of the business and
     entertainment districts, a vibrant, sophisticated and           THE BRISTOL, PANAMA CITY
     truly international commercial hub that exists largely     The Bristol is a lovely 56 bedroom hotel designed
     to serve the neighbouring canal. Beyond this, at the       with a touch of Latin American charm. The lobby is
     extreme southwest of the bay, Caso Viejo is an             adorned with paintings by Panamanian artists and the
     attractive district comprised of beautiful 17th and        hotel facilities are excellent. Guest rooms are large
     18th century churches, where convents and                  with marble bathrooms, there is a fitness studio and
     museums are interspersed with stunning colonial            a first class restaurant serving a range of Panamanian
     mansions built by the Spanish and French. Drawing          specialities. Its location is in the centre of the financial
     from a period still further in the past is Panama Viejo,   district, within walking distance of the city’s cultural
                                                                attractions, shopping quarters and the Bay of Panama.          Panama Viejo, Panama City


                                                                     HOTEL DE VILLE, PANAMA CITY                                   T HE A LBROOK I NN , P ANAMA C ITY
                                                                The Hotel de Ville is situated in the banking                  Until 1999 the Albrook Inn served as a military
                                                                quarter of Panama City, a region of art galleries              guest house. It is now a 30 bedroom hotel for
                                                                and shops with something of a village feeling.                 those looking to stay away from the hustle and
                                                                With just 33 rooms it is a boutique hotel offering             bustle of Panama City centre. It is situated on a
                                                                guests a personal welcome, with luxurious                      beautiful hilltop, overlooking an exclusive
                                                                furnishings, good amenities and a professional                 neighbourhood, just 15 minutes drive from the
                                                                service. The hotel’s restaurant is excellent, featuring        bars and restaurants on the causeway and close
                                                                international and local specialities. With countless           to the Panama Canal. The Albrook offers simple
                                                                bars and restaurants within walking distance this              but spacious and comfortable guest rooms, a small
                                                                is the perfect place to experience Panama City                 pool, restaurant and patio area along with nature
                                                                by night.                                                      walks that can be taken around the hotel’s gardens.
     Panama City

56
Slaty-tailed trogon, Panama Canal                        Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Gatun Lake                        Caiman, Panama Canal




Bird’s eye view of the Panama Canal                                                                                  Canopy Tower, Soberania National Park


The Canal Zone                                           extraordinarily diverse flora and fauna of the                GAMBOA RAINFOREST RESORT,
                                                         extensive and remote backwaters, only to be then            GATUN LAKE
To experience the magnificent Panama Canal is            intimidated and dwarfed by the huge ocean liners
                                                                                                                     Beautifully located on the shores of Gatun Lake
many a traveller’s sole reason to visit the country      and container vessels that ply the principal route of
                                                                                                                     in Soberania National Park in the midst of the
and there is really nothing quite like watching the      the canal. Over on the Caribbean side of the canal
                                                                                                                     rainforest, this 150 bedroom resort overlooks the
huge ocean liners navigate through the locks.            you will find the ruined forts of Portobello and San
                                                                                                                     Chagres River which flows into Gatun Lake. The
Visitors can join a boat tour to travel the entire       Lorenzo overlook the sea. Strategically located during
                                                                                                                     resort has a large range of facilities and offers
length of the canal, these operate once or twice a       the early days of Spanish rule, these forts were
                                                                                                                     activities such as fishing, kayaking, walking, boat
month and the trip takes about eight hours. More         repeatedly ransacked by the notorious pirates of the
                                                                                                                     rides, golf, cycling, tennis and swimming. An aerial
popular are ‘partial transits’ which begin at the        region, who sought the Inca gold from Peru being
                                                                                                                     tram is ideal for observing the upper rainforest
Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side, where              shipped back to Spain. The colonial town of
                                                                                                                     canopy and spotting some of the abundant bird
enormous container ships queue up to manoeuvre           Portobello itself is still home to the original custom
                                                                                                                     species that live in the area. There is a well-
themselves, with only inches to spare, through the       house, where all the treasures were stored and
                                                                                                                     equipped fitness centre and spa and a good
tall gates, and continue to Lago Gatun, a natural        where, in the nearby church, you can find the famous
                                                                                                                     selection of restaurants and small bars for
lake and the mid-point of the canal. Here the canal      statue of a black Christ. For train enthusiasts, the only
                                                                                                                     relaxation after each day’s activities.
is engulfed by Soberania National Park, an               railway to link two oceans travels from Colon to
overwhelming rainforest with spectacular bird-life. It   Panama City, offering a different perspective of the
is possible to take a canoe ride here, exploring the     canal as it makes its way back to the capital.



                                                           CANOPY TOWER,
                                                         SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK
                                                         Canopy Tower, once a radar lookout for the
                                                         U.S Army, is located on top of Semaphore Hill,
                                                         in a well preserved semi-deciduous forest in the
                                                         heart of Soberanía National Park. The top floor
                                                         is covered by a geo-tangent dome, 18 metres
                                                                                                                     Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal
                                                         above the main dining area. The floors below
                                                         house 12 basic twin-bedded rooms, all with
                                                         large windows and bathrooms with                                Panama
                                                         hot water.                                                      Telephone: 01993 838 675
San Lorenzo Fort, Caribbean coast

                                                                                                                                                                            57
     San Blas Islands                                    on tiny cayes (islands) with barely enough room
                                                         to manoeuvre. A visit to these unique islands
     The stunning San Blas archipelago is an idyllic     involves not only an opportunity for relaxing and
     group of over 400 palm-fringed islands ringed by    fabulous snorkelling but also the chance to
     white-sand beaches and surrounded by the clear,     integrate into the community and learn about the
     turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Reached      fascinating cultural traditions the Kuna struggle to
     by small plane from Panama City, many of the        uphold. The women’s colourful intricate costumes
     islands remain completely uninhabited with only     are particularly intriguing. Coupled with the simple
     a handful occupied by the indigenous Kuna           magical beauty of the islands, this ethnographic
     Indians, who gained self-rule from the Panamanian   experience is a real highlight of any trip to
     government in the 1920s. The Kuna villages are      Panama: even though accommodation is basic
     dusty affairs packed with bamboo thatched huts      we recommend spending at least a couple of
                                                         nights here.
                                                                                                                Uaguinega Eco-Lodge, San Blas Islands

                                                           U A G U I N E G A E C O -L O D G E ,
                                                         SAN BLAS ISLANDS
                                                         Uaguinega literally translates as “House of the
                                                         Dolphins”. It has 11 basic cabins and three junior
                                                         suites. The rooms are simple but comfortable
                                                         all with en-suite facilities and cold water showers,
                                                         with electricity supplied by solar panels. The
                                                         restaurant serves delicious seafood freshly caught
                                                         that day and there is a central courtyard with a
                                                         number of hammocks strung between palm trees
                                                         in which to relax. The lodge organises various
                                                         excursions to the nearby islands to visit the local
                                                         Kuna communities and to snorkel or sunbathe.




     Kuna Indian, San Blas Islands                                                                              Kuna Indian, San Blas Islands

58
Red poison dart frog, Bocas del Toro                       Bocas del Toro




Kuna village, San Blas Islands                                                                                       Kuna Indian, San Blas Islands


Bocas del Toro                                                  TRANQUILO BAY, BASTIMENTOS                                P UNTA C ARACOL , B OCAS         DEL   T ORO
                                                           Tranquilo Bay is a small, family-run hotel set back       Set on a two kilometre long stretch of coral-reef
The islands of Bocas del Toro dot the Caribbean,
                                                           in the rainforest overlooking the Caribbean Sea.          coast, Punta Caracol consists of nine cabins built
close to the border with Costa Rica. Accessed by
                                                           It is just 30 minutes by boat from Bocas del Toro         on stilts over the Caribbean Sea and reached by
plane, road and boat from Panama or Costa Rica,
                                                           and is a perfect base to explore the neighbouring         boat from Bocas. The lodge is environmentally
the main settlement is the small surfing town of
                                                           islands. The hotel consists of six eco-lodges, four       friendly with each cabin constructed from natural
Bocas, with its many delightful restaurants and
                                                           of which have stunning ocean views. The lodges            materials and powered by solar panels with the
coffee shops. The surrounding region is made up
                                                           are minimalistic yet comfortably decorated with           master bedroom on the second floor, providing
of lush rainforest, pretty coral reefs, crystal-clear
                                                           local handcrafted furniture and each has a tiled          stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. The terrace
waters, extensive mangrove forests and some of
                                                           interior with French doors leading onto a covered         in Punta Caracol’s restaurant is an excellent place
the best beaches in the Caribbean. These empty
                                                           porch. A multitude of activities can be arranged          to enjoy the variety of local, international and
stretches of golden sand are also the nesting
                                                           including birding, fishing, jungle hiking, snorkelling,   Caribbean dishes. Though fairly simple, Punta
place of at least three species of marine turtle:
                                                           diving or simply relaxing on a deserted tropical          Caracol provides an unforgettable rustic ambiance
hawksbill, leatherback and green.
                                                           island beach.                                             in a romantic and peaceful setting.

There are some fabulously located, comfortable
lodges in which to base yourself for a few days.
There’s plenty to see and do including visiting Swan
caye, the only known Caribbean nesting place of
the red-billed tropic bird as well as the home of
numerous brown boobies, frigates and a diverse
range of gulls and terns. The waters off the islands
are teeming with a wealth of marine life making this
one of the best places to snorkel in the Caribbean.
The archipelago is very much influenced by a laid-
back Afro-Caribbean culture but is also home to
several communities of Ngobe Indians. You can visit
                                                                                                                     Punta Caracol, Bocas del Toro
their friendly villages to learn of their fascinating
customs and have them guide you through their land,
filled with sacred, medicinal or edible flora and fauna.                                                                 Panama
This relatively untouched corner of Panama opens                                                                         Telephone: 01993 838 675
up a whole new aspect of this surprising country.
                                                           Tranquilo Bay, Bastimentos

                                                                                                                                                                           59
     Chiriqui Highlands
     Panama’s highest peaks, its only volcano, Baru
     volcano, and some of its longest rivers are found
     in the Chiriqui Highlands, a two hour drive from
     Panama’s northernmost city, David. One of the main
     attractions is the cool climate: a welcome respite
     from the hot and humid lowlands. Boquete is the
     main town with the best accommodation options
     and is a great base for exploring the area, known for
     its orange and coffee plantations. The surrounding
     countryside is stunning and we can offer a number
     of superb activities for all tastes such as birdwatching,
     walking, mountain biking and horse-riding excursions
     as well as trips to the family-run Café Ruiz coffee
     plantation. For the adventurous, the Chiriqui River
     offers some of the best white water rafting in Central
     America. If you prefer staying in the peace of the
     countryside Finca Lerida is a lovely working coffee
     farm offering simple but comfortable accommodation.
                                                                                                                                                    Local children in the Darien

                                                                     PANAMONTE INN, BOQUETE
                                                                 The Panamonte is situated on the fringe of
                                                                 Boquete but still offers easy access to and from
                                                                 the town centre. Founded in 1928 it has been run
                                                                 by three generations of the Elliott-Collins family.
                                                                 The hotel has 12 rooms decorated in a distinctive
                                                                 style, many with original early 20th century prints
                                                                 and photos. There are lovely gardens to the rear
                                                                 of the hotel and fireplaces in the lounge for the
                                                                 cool mountain evenings. Their restaurant is
                                                                 excellent and one of the best in Boquete.
     Bird of paradise flower                                                                                           The Panamonte Inn, Boquete

60
                                                                                                                A Taste of Panama


                                                                                                                A trip encompassing the main highlights of
                                                                                                                Panama giving you a full insight of the country at
                                                                                                                a relaxed pace. It includes Panama City, the canal,
                                                                                                                rainforest and cool northern highlands, whilst
                                                                                                                also giving you the opportunity to unwind and
                                                                                                                experience the two very different cultures in the
                                                                                                                beautiful Caribbean archipelagos of Bocas del
                                                                                                                Toro and San Blas.

                                                                                                                Day 1         Fly to Panama City.

                                                                                                                Day 2         Full day tour of Panama City and the
Darien Province                                                                                                               Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.

                                                                                                                Day 3         Part or full day transit (depending
                                                                                                                              on schedule) of the Panama Canal.
                                                                                                                              At the end of the trip transfer to
                                                                                                                              Soberania National Park.

                                                                                                                Day 4         Birdwatching in Soberania
                                                                                                                              National Park.

                                                                                                                Day 5         Relax or enjoy optional excursions
                                                                                                                              in the park.

                                                                                                                Day 6         Take a trip to the Caribbean coast
                                                                                                                              to visit San Lorenzo and Portobello
                                                                                                                              Forts. In the afternoon take the
                                                                                                                              Trans-Oceanic train back to
                                                                                                                              Panama City.

                                                                                                                Day 7         Fly to the San Blas archipelago.
                                                                                                                              Afternoon excursion to explore
                                                                                                                              these unique islands.

                                                                                                                Days 8-9      Excursions to the the Kuna villages
Quetzal, Chiriqui Highlands                               Emberá Indian, Darien                                               and beautiful beaches of the San
                                                                                                                              Blas Islands.
Darien                                                    Pacific Coast Beaches                                 Day 10        Fly back to Panama City and on to
                                                                                                                              David, from where you will drive
The Darien National Park is one of the wildest,           In recent years, the Pacific coastline has begun                    through stunning scenery into the
most inhospitable parts of Panama, ideal for              to develop a number of lovely eco-lodge beach                       cool highlands of Boquete.
those with a desire to experience the outdoors,           escapes. They are good alternatives to the more       Day 11        Full day walking trip along the
indulge a spirit of adventure, and sacrifice              well-known islands of Bocas del Toro and San                        beautiful Quetzal Trail.
creature comforts. In return you’ll discover              Blas on the Caribbean coast and although they
                                                                                                                Day 12        Travel back to David and fly to
plenty of wildlife, birds (including the endangered       do not offer the cultural elements they have
                                                                                                                              Bocas del Toro.
harpy eagle), wonderful flora and an opportunity          wonderful swimming, snorkelling, fishing, whale
to learn more about the history and way of                watching, surfing and kayaking in peaceful and        Days 13-14 Relax or take optional excursions
                                                                                                                           around the archipelago.
life of the Emberá and Wounaan people. Trips              untouched surroundings. The coastline is vast,
to the Darien are arranged by local operators             extending from the Chiriqui province in the           Day 15        Fly back to Panama City for your
with particular experience in the area. Solely            west of the country through to the Pearl Islands                    international flight.
restricted to travelling to certain parts of the          some 100 kilometres south-east of Panama City.        Day 16        Arrive in the UK.
region, these trips are run in small groups,              Comfortable accommodation options are available
generally for at least four nights and leave on           throughout, such as Hacienda del Mar, Villa Camilla   EXTENSIONS
set dates: by sacrificing flexibility you gain a          or the Coiba Ranger Station. Our specialists will
                                                                                                                To really get off the beaten track you could add
fabulous chance to explore one of the world’s             advise you of the most suitable option, depending     a few days in the Darien or you could travel
most remote regions.                                      on your requirements.                                 overland up the Caribbean coast into Costa Rica.


Cocle Province                                                                                                  TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
                                                                                                                Our private tailor-made journeys offer
Located to the west of Panama City, Cocle Province                                                              complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
provides a great contrast to the cosmopolitan capital                                                           accommodation shown are designed to give you a
and is a great place to escape if you only have a                                                               flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
                                                                                                                your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
day or two to spare. Some beautiful cloud forest
                                                                                                                accommodation and season, please telephone us
lodges give access to pretty colonial towns, varied
                                                                                                                to discuss your individual requirements.
agriculture, birdwatching and endless walking
options. The village of El Valle plays host to a lovely
Sunday crafts market and is also worth visiting for                                                             Panama
its petroglyphs and jungle-canopy walkways.                                                                     Telephone: 01993 838 675
                                                          Rafting the Chiriqui River

                                                                                                                                                                          61
     Cuba
         haped like a languid crocodile, the island   and turbulent history weaves a fascinating         Cuba’s desire to increase visitor numbers, but
     S   of Cuba lies just 170 kilometres south of    tale through Spanish colonial rule and the         has served to preserve Cuba’s proudly Hispanic
     the Florida Keys but is a world away from its    slave trade to Batista’s dictatorship and          culture in a region that can all-too-easily
     powerful American neighbour. The largest and     Castro’s revolution. This is mirrored in its       become over-Americanised. Anyone visiting
     most populous island in the Caribbean, Cuba      vibrant culture, thriving arts scene and           with an open mind, a sense of humour and a
     is an addictive mixture of lavish Spanish        flamboyant music. Since the collapse of the        willingness to explore beyond the all-inclusive
     colonial architecture, Castro’s communism,       Soviet Union Cuba’s economy has struggled,         resorts will be rewarded by a country which
     sublime powder white beaches, teeming coral      its problems exacerbated by the continuing         offers so much more than classic cars, cigars
     reefs, densely forested mountains and verdant    US embargo. The fact that Americans aren’t         and beautiful beaches.
     tropical plantations. The country’s unique       officially allowed to visit has rather de-railed

62
Audley in Cuba
There is no doubt Cuba is a stunning destination
and visitors flock to its sun-drenched shores
mostly on all-inclusive package holidays
because, compared to other Caribbean islands,
it’s inexpensive: often they never leave their
holiday complex. We do not deal with the
all-inclusive package side of the market but
instead concentrate on designing tailor-made
journeys throughout Cuba to discover the
country’s fascinating history, passionate people
and beautiful landscapes. We use knowledgeable
local guides to help you make the most of your
time and experienced drivers to navigate
surprisingly long distances. At the time of writing
the Foreign Office advice is to avoid internal air
travel within Cuba, hence we do not recommend
flying as a means of transport around the country.
Although Cuba’s focus is now on tourism to
ensure its future prosperity, the country is a law
unto itself when it comes to service levels and
quality of food. Our trips are designed to
discover the less-visited places, avoiding high-rise
hotels and though they may not be luxurious,
are in unique locations that incorporate the
essence of the country. UK passport holders
require a Cuban Tourist card to visit Cuba:
we can arrange this on your behalf. As well as         Farming the tobacco fields, Viñales                    Classic American car
being a fantastic country to visit in its own right
Cuba can very easily be combined with Costa            Accommodation                                          La Musica
Rica or Mexico.
                                                       Cuba does have some fine accommodation but             The soul of Cuba is in its music and dance.
Climate                                                this is generally confined to Havana and the           Any visitor will find the vibrant rhythms of Cuban
                                                       larger beach resorts. All hotels are state-owned       music providing a permanent background beat to
Cuba has a warm tropical climate with two              and the best are those with foreign investment or      their travels. There are theatres for drama and
distinct seasons. The best time to visit is from       foreign-managed contracts. Where possible we will      ballet, concert halls for classical music and
December to May with dry sunny days. From              always try and make use of character properties        flamboyant nightclubs for salsa, rumba and jazz.
June to November Cuba can be hot, humid                and Havana in particular has a wealth of fine hotels   Cubans take every opportunity to serenade
and wet. During the winter months of                   in colonial buildings. Outside of the capital there    visitors, even in the airport departure lounge.
December and January daytime temperatures              are a number of large all-inclusive resorts which      Most of the action takes place in Havana, but
can drop below 20 degrees centigrade whilst            offer high standards and plenty of facilities but      every town has a ‘Casa de la Trova’ for traditional
in the summer months of July and August                often lack character or soul. In rural areas and       music. The city of Santiago de Cuba is in many
temperatures soar, especially in Havana and            smaller cities such as Trinidad and Cienfuegos we      ways Havana’s equal, with its own unique musical
Santiago de Cuba. The hurricane season begins          have found a small number of lovely historic hotels    style influenced by its more Afro-Caribbean
in June and in some years can continue through         that offer good accommodation. To escape the           culture. ‘Son’ is perhaps the country’s most well
to November.                                           crowds and find your own stretch of Cuban              known music and is a passionate and sultry mix
                                                       paradise there are some pristine pockets of the        of Spanish guitar and African drum, made famous
                                                       country we can suggest, but you do need to bear        by Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club.
                                                       in mind the further you travel off the beaten trail    Their rhythm, skill and innovation make Cuban
                                                       the more basic the lodgings and food.                  musicians world leaders.
View of the Capitolio building, Havana




                                                                                                                  Cuba
                                                                                                                  Telephone: 01993 838 685


                                                                                                                                                                    63
     Old Havana


     Havana                                                                                                                NH P A R Q U E C E N T R A L , H A V A N A
                                                                                                                       Located in the very heart of Havana the NH
     Havana’s streets are filled with countless vintage
                                                                                                                       Parque Central is one of the city’s best
     cars and there are no advertisements, apart from
                                                                                                                       accommodation options. The hotel has 277 well-
     political exhortations giving Cuba’s capital a
                                                                                                                       furnished rooms and is surrounded by numerous
     wonderful air of nostalgia. Wars and revolution
                                                                                                                       famous buildings, just a stroll away from quaint
     have done little to damage its heritage making it
                                                                                                                       street cafes, bars and restaurants. Service is warm
     one of the finest examples of a Spanish colonial
                                                                                                                       and professional and this combined with
     city anywhere in the Americas. Many of the city’s
                                                                                                                       comfortable modern amenities, provides a welcome
     lavish palaces have been converted into museums,
                                                                                                                       sanctuary after a day’s exploring, especially the
     such as the Museo de la Revolución, housed in
                                                                                                                       rooftop pool and bar, with its fantastic city views.
     the former Presidential Palace. Combine all this
     with the vibrant music, the arts scene and the                                                                        HOTEL SANTA ISABEL, HAVANA
     resourceful, outgoing and enigmatic habaneros and
                                                                                                                       This hotel was built as a mansion for the Santovenia
     it is easy to see why people return time and again
                                                                                                                       Counts and became, through the 1800s, the
     to this intensely romantic, beautiful and intoxicating
                                                                                                                       favourite hotel for ship owners, artists, traders and
     city. Havana was originally founded in 1519 and
                                                                                                                       distinguished travellers. The hotel was reopened in
     prospered from the Spanish conquest of Mexico
                                                              Club Tropicana dancer, Havana                            the late 1990s and still retains many period features.
                                                                                                                       The 27 colonial rooms are decorated in a 19th
                                                              and Peru, as an important stopping off point for         century style and there is a lovely restaurant, an
                                                              looted treasures bound for Spain. It quickly             elegant inner courtyard and terrace with picture
                                                              became the most important port in the region and         perfect views of the bay and the city.
                                                              its wealth built from trade in sugar, rum, tobacco
                                                              and coffee is beautifully reflected in its magnificent
                                                              architecture, plazas and monuments. It’s a
                                                              fabulous place to wander through the streets,
                                                              sitting in restaurants and outdoor cafes soaking
                                                              up the atmosphere. The museums are excellent
                                                              but it is well worth while making time to visit a
                                                              few of Hemingway’s old haunts, a cigar factory
                                                              and the craft markets.
     NH Parque Central, Havana                                                                                         Hotel Santa Isabel, Havana

64
Trinidad                                                                                                   Viñales




Old truck, Trinidad                                          Musicians, Cuba


Viñales and                                                  Cayo Levisa and                                         Trinidad and Around
Las Terrazas                                                 Maria la Gorda                                          A four hour drive from Havana, nestled between
Just a few hours west of Havana is the province              The pristine islet of Cayo Levisa on the north coast    the Escambray mountains and the Caribbean coast,
of Piñar del Rio, a region of impressive limestone           of Piñar del Rio province is easily reached from        Trinidad is perhaps Cuba’s most picturesque and
‘mogotes’ (hills) impassively guarding verdant tobacco       Havana, Viñales and Las Terrazas, making it a good      architecturally important town. Founded in 1514,
plantations, where the world’s best dark tobacco is          extension when exploring western Cuba. Powder           Trinidad today has a time-warp charm with baroque
processed into its finest cigars. The landscape of Valle     white sands, crystal clear aquamarine seas and          church towers, red-tiled rooftops and a maze of
de Viñales is a designated UNESCO World Cultural             colourful reefs offering good snorkelling make it an    cobbled-stone streets beautifully preserved as a living
Landscape and is particularly striking as the mogotes        ideal place to relax and unwind. For those keen to      museum. To escape the summer heat excursions
rise almost vertically out of the flat ground. This          scuba-dive, further west Maria la Gorda offers          can easily be arranged into the cool air of the
dramatic valley is popular for walking, exploring caves      arguably the best dive sites in the country. The        surrounding mountains, ideal for those interested
or simply relaxing and taking in the surroundings. You       Guanahacabibes Reserve stretches away from Maria        in walking and beautiful scenery. Just a few miles
can overnight down here but day trips can be easily          la Gorda to Cabo de San Antonio, the western-           from Trinidad lies the Valle de los Ingenios, an area
arranged from Havana with a fascinating stop in the          most tip of the country. The reserve is good for        of fertile plains framed by the Escambray mountains,
Biosphere Reserve centred around the farming                 birdwatching and is also home to iguanas, deer,         that are rich in history. The valley affords a
neighbourhood of Las Terrazas. Here you can spot             boar and large rodents called jutias. Undeveloped       fascinating insight into the slave trade through
Cuba’s national bird, the tocororo, canoe or explore         beaches face the Strait of Yucatán and boat, fishing    visiting old 19th century sugar cane estates. Between
the forest canopy walkway. If you have the time, Las         and diving trips can all be arranged. Accommodation     Havana and Trinidad, the city of Cienfuegos lies in
Terrazas also offers you a rare opportunity to stay          throughout this region is simple but comfortable        a picturesque bay and has a well preserved colonial
with a local family, giving you a fascinating insight into   and those willing to make the effort will be richly     centre and a proud musical history. North of
the lives of a rural community.                              rewarded by these stunning locations.                   Trinidad, the city of Santa Clara was made famous
                                                                                                                     by the battle between Ché Guevara’s guerrillas
                                                                                                                     and Batista’s army in 1958. There is an imposing
                                                                                                                     memorial to Cuba’s pre-eminent revolutionary icon,
                                                                                                                     Ché. Cienfuegos and Santa Clara can be explored
                                                                                                                     from Trinidad or Havana but work especially well
                                                                                                                     as a stop on the way to or from either city.

                                                                                                                         Cuba
                                                                                                                         Telephone: 01993 838 685


                                                                                                                                                                               65
     Santiago de Cuba                                                                                                Baracoa
     Set in an attractive bay surrounded by the                                                                      At the tip of eastern Cuba, sleepy Baracoa was
     impressive Sierra Maestra mountains, Santiago de                                                                Christopher Colombus’ landing site in 1492,
     Cuba is a vibrant, cultured city that used to be the                                                            Cuba’s first settlement and the original capital city.
     country’s capital - second only to Havana in size it                                                            Like Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa has more of a
     rivals the capital in many ways. Throughout Cuba’s                                                              French influence, due to settlers from Haiti, and
     history Santiago nurtured the seeds of revolution                                                               enjoys a tropical atmosphere unmatched
     which then blazed west to Havana. The city’s roots                                                              elsewhere in Cuba, with rich, verdant forests,
     are predominantly Afro-Caribbean but today it is                                                                coconut palms and citrus groves on every side.
     a true cultural melting pot and a music lovers’                                                                 Baracoa is remote but can be reached by a very
     dream. In July the city explodes for carnival into      El Morro fort, Santiago de Cuba                         picturesque five hour drive from Santiago de
     a rum-fuelled musical street party, a riot of colour,                                                           Cuba. Arriving by road is particularly dramatic as
     drum and dance. Fidel Castro’s original command         Guardalavaca                                            you descend from the mountains in a series of
     post is in the beautiful Sierra Maestra mountains                                                               hairpin bends, with beautiful views over the lush
     together with excellent hiking trails and Cuba’s        Located on a striking stretch of coastline indented     landscape to the sparkling Atlantic. Hotels are
     highest peak, Pico Turquino. Compared to Havana,        with picturesque horseshoe bays and glorious            simple here but this is a perfect place to absorb
     Santiago has more limited accommodation options,        beaches, Guardalavaca and its surrounding area,         the colonial charm of the city, or walk amongst
     but there is a simple historic hotel and a larger,      in the east of Cuba are popular alternatives to         the surrounding mountains.
     more comfortable hotel ten minutes drive from           Varadero. The beaches and resorts here are easily
     the city centre. Staying here for a few days is a       accessible by road from Holguin and Santiago
     highly rewarding experience, especially for those       de Cuba. There are a number of all-inclusive
     interested in music.                                    resorts offering a full range of facilities, set on
                                                             three kilometres of beautiful beach. Despite
                                                             ever-increasing visitor numbers and a lack of
                                                             character hotels Guardalavaca is still something
                                                             of a tropical idyll, much quieter than Varadero
                                                             and with excellent and pristine reefs offshore - it’s
                                                             a better option for scuba diving and snorkelling.
                                                             Further west Playa Esmeralda provides a far more
                                                             peaceful and picturesque location with better
                                                             quality, newer resorts.
     Guardalavaca                                                                                                    Baracoa

66
                                                                                                                Vintage Cuba


                                                                                                                This trip allows you to get an insight into Cuba
                                                                                                                at a relaxed pace. There’s plenty of time in the
                                                                                                                vibrant capital, Havana, giving it the attention it
                                                                                                                deserves, and a day trip to Viñales for a taste of
                                                                                                                rural Cuba before exploring the colonial gem of
                                                                                                                Trinidad. The trip finishes on a pristine beach
                                                                                                                along the northern coast.

                                                                                                                Day 1         Fly to Havana.

                                                                                                                Day 2         A walking tour of the colonial old
                                                                                                                              part of the city, including lunch at
                                                                                                                              the La Bodeguita del Medio.
                                                                                                                              Afternoon at leisure.

                                                                                                                Day 3         Visit a cigar factory and enjoy an
                                                                                                                              excursion in a classic American car.

                                                                                                                Day 4         Day trip to Viñales with its
                                                                                                                              impressive limestone ‘mogotes’ rising
                                                                                                                              from tobacco plantations.
Cayo Las Brujas                                                                                                 Day 5         Drive to the picturesque city of
                                                                                                                              Trinidad with a stop en route at the
                                                                                                                              colonial centre of Cienfuegos.

                                                                                                                Day 6         A morning tour of Trinidad.
                                                                                                                              Afternoon at leisure to take in the
                                                                                                                              atmosphere of this beautiful town.

                                                                                                                Day 7         Take the scenic drive across the
                                                                                                                              country to the northern cayes.

                                                                                                                Days 8-11 Relax, sunbathe or snorkel.

                                                                                                                Day 12        Drive back to Havana with a stop
                                                                                                                              en route to visit the famous Ché
Harvesting bananas                                     Locals playing dominoes
                                                                                                                              Guevara memorial.

                                                                                                                Day 13        This morning time at leisure to enjoy
Beaches                                                The large all-inclusive resorts, aquamarine sea and
                                                                                                                              old Havana or to shop before your
                                                       world famous beach make it the perfect tropical
                                                                                                                              international flight.
Cuba has countless beaches, one of the world’s         package paradise if that’s what you’re after.
largest reef systems and thousands of low-lying        However, we feel it lacks the intimacy, character        Day 14        Arrive in the UK.
islets, called cayes, so there’s always a stretch of   and charm that can be found elsewhere in Cuba.
idyllic sand close by. The north coast is more                                                                  EXTENSIONS
prone to weather fronts than the south coast, but      Northern Cayes                                           If you have more time then you can continue
the north shore is where you’ll find the powder-                                                                from Trinidad and visit Santiago de Cuba and
white beaches lapped by languid turquoise and          In recent years, the remote northern cayes, east         the eastern beaches.
emerald swirls. The southern coast can be more         of Varadero, have also been developed. Cayo
rugged, with jagged rocks, mangroves and swamps        Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo las Brujas         TAILOR-MADE TRAVEL
lining the shore but there are a few beautiful         are all small islets connected to the mainland by a      Our private tailor-made journeys offer
remote cayes and unexplored pockets of clear,          causeway. They are covered in thick mangroves            complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and
                                                       and are important bird nesting sites with idyllic        accommodation shown are designed to give you a
calm waters with impressive reefs, such as around
                                                                                                                flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit
Maria la Gorda. Our specialists all have first-hand    beaches and sparkling seas. The resorts here are
                                                                                                                your preferences. Prices vary according to selected
knowledge of these areas so that we can advise         mainly large but are newer than many in Varadero
                                                                                                                accommodation and season, please telephone us
you as to what would best suit your needs.             and provide a quieter alternative, in a pristine         to discuss your individual requirements.
                                                       setting, whilst still offering a high standard of
Varadero                                               accommodation, and excellent facilities. Cayo las
                                                       Brujas in particular has a delightful small hotel with
Varadero is Cuba’s principle beach resort with         wooden cabins connected by a boardwalk offering
one of the Caribbean’s longest beaches. More           comfortable and peaceful lodgings with a stunning
than 20 kilometres of unbroken powdery white           beach. These cayes are all within a four hour drive
sand stretch along the Peninsula de Hicacos, lined     of Havana and Trinidad. Further to the east lie
by dozens of large resorts and hotels. It is easily    Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, two well
accessible by road from Havana and has its own         established built up cayes, with a good selection
international airport, hence its popularity with the   of all-inclusive resorts. Cayo Guillermo is home
package holiday market. Varadero’s sublime beach       to Playa Pilar, reputed as one of the best beaches
has been attracting visitors since the 1930’s and      in the Caribbean and also resident to a large
large scale development continues today.               flamingo population.                                     Cuba
                                                                                                                Telephone: 01993 838 685


                                                                                                                                                                          67
    New Mill, New Mill Lane, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 9SX, United Kingdom
                     Telephone: 01993 838 638 • Fax: 01993 838 010
         Email: centam@audleytravel.com • Website: www.audleytravel.com



                                           W8501


       All of our brochures are printed on paper produced from sustainable resources.
     Should you wish to dispose of your brochure, we kindly request that you recycle it.

                          With special thanks to the following photographers:
Jamie Marshall, Jose Resino, Steve Macauley, Robert Leon and members of the Audley Latin America team.

				
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