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: firstname.lastname@example.org • 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.