ACROSS CENTRAL AMERICA
Zigzagging North to South along botch Oceans
> Journeying 3+ months from Mexico over Belize, Guatemala,
El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to Panama <
On this journey, we decided to travel across Central America during three months. We wanted to experience the confluence between the Pacific west and the Caribbean lands in the east by zigzagged our way along the tropical isthmus that connects North America to South America, thus changing between the indigenous cultures and habits of the western and central parts, and the customs and traditions of the Caribbean ports and islands in east.
In our experience, Central America is a real explosion of nature, cultures, and beliefs – all set in a messy, musical arrangement which is hard to find anywhere else. On a cultural and diversity scale, the seven countries and many offshore islands was big stuff. The entire region may be small, but its tapestry of cultures has created a diverse and dynamic society.
Let's take an example: One day, we woke up in the cold mountains during a freezing village-to-village hike among indigenous village-people. In Spanish, we would order breakfast in a small settlement and they would dish up over-boiled beans with rice and muddy coffee grounds. The next day, we woke up in a bungalow on a white-sand beach fringed with palms, and with the azure sea and the reef just outside our doorstep. After a morning rinse, we ordered breakfast in a hole-in-the-wall café and they supplied seafood so fresh it almost wriggled. Next, we asked for plain water, but the girl shook her head and said with a singing Creole accent: “we only have rum”. This is our Central America!
Here is a quick breakdown of our experience during this journey: Mexico City and surroundings is quite charming, and the entire Yucatán Peninsula boasts lovely Caribbean white-sand beaches, offshore reefs, and Mayan Pyramids, plus its own spicy cuisine. Next, Guatemala is de facto the region's true indigenous heartland, with an incomparable collection of ancient Maya ruins and numerous volcanoes. In Belize, and on the islands off Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, African culture is very visible from Congo rebel traditions to Garifuna drumbeats. Honduras and El Salvador are the two bad boys in the Central American hood, although Honduras' Bay Island is a blessing to the diver and good value for money. Nicaragua, the largest country in the hood, lives up to its reputation: the land of lakes and volcanoes. Yet, despite its many rural mountain villages and untouched offshore islands, we saw very few tourist on the ground. Nicaragua remains the least visited country in the region despite the fact that Nicaragua’s days of armed conflicts are long over. In Costa Rica, we saw that most trails seem to lead to waterfalls or jungle-fringed, deserted beaches. Finally, traveling in Panama is one big surprise. Panama is much more than a strategic canal – it’s a hidden gem, a truly tropical paradise with many off-shore bounty islands and tropical beaches on both oceans.
Like climbing adventures? Check our scaling of the wild Guatemalan Volcanoes. For splendid island hopping adventures in LATAM check our pages on the Corn Islands in Honduras, the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama, or the Mesoamerican Reef off Belize and Honduras.