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With cheap chicken busses across

Zigzagging from Mexico City to Panama City along the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans.

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 zigzagging 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.

​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. The entire region may be small, but its tapestry of cultures has created a diverse and dynamic society. So, on a cultural and diversity scale, the seven countries and many offshore islands is big stuff.

The transport often is slow and hard-hitting, traveling in ramshackle chicken-buses on remote mountain roads. But Central America simply is one of the western hemisphere’s most exciting and picturesque regions, and it takes time to see the best of it.


Locations: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; during 3+ months

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. We spend +1 month exploring the many villages and temples in Mexico and Guatemala: Chichicastenango, Quetzaltenango, and Huehuetenango… or what about: Uxmal, Sololá, Altun Ha, Poptún, Finca Ixobel, El Zotz, Xpujil, Ezdná, or Yaxchilán. These are all exotic places on our journey on "La Ruta Maya": the ancient Mayan “route” that penetrates the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexica, Belize, Guatemala, and Western Honduras. We've decided to insert hashtags in “route”. Because we couldn't find the La Ruta Maya on any of our road maps or in the index of any of our geography books. This is because La Ruta Maya is not a single route or itinerary. It is much more than a place. La Ruta Maya is a concept formulated by National Geographic in the late 1980s. They wanted to create a unique travel route that could connect thousands of greater and lesser archaeological sites, and create hiking routes into the untold square meters of pristine jungles, forests, wetlands and wildlife habitats.

Travel here still is very interesting and exciting. To us, it is one big show-off of how the Mayans forged a powerful and mysterious empire, thus making it is quite easy to see why this region has captivated historians, archaeologists, and travelers since its discovery. The ancient Mayan civilization is very apparent in the customs, language and dress of the Indian towns and villages across the entire region. We believe that even the most jaded traveler will be rewarded by the strong indigenous culture, grandeur landscapes, colorful Indian markets, and chilly highlands. 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, in Belize, 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”. 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.

If you want more travel content on the slice of Earth, then check out our scaling of the wild Guatemalan Volcanoes, or some of our island hopping pages in the region, .e.g. our trips to the Corn Islands in Honduras and Bocas del Toro i Panama or the Mesoamerican Reef off Belize and Honduras.



Selected pics from this journey:

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