I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front for a couple of weeks because I’ve been working on my own personal blog challenge. During the months of September and October I will be blogging about my favourite sites to visit in Mexico and Central America. There are way more than 15 awesome places to visit but I’ve tried my best to narrow the list down to my top 15.
My heart really does belong to Latin America as I keep coming back to it year after year. When all my friends were exploring Bali and Thailand and doing gap years in the Uk and Europe, I was hiking the Inca Trail and venturing into the Peruvian and Bolivian jungles, scuba diving in Colombia and pretending to salsa in Cuba. For the last 12 years, I have been learning Spanish and exploring all of the different cultures throughout this special region.
I've also seen it develop as more of a tourist region. Costa Rica is now the eco-playground of Americans and Cuba is open for business! Columbia is the "must-visit" country on the gringo trail where before it was only visited by the brave few who ignored the media reports about guerilla warfare.
Central America and Mexico are easy to tackle on a shorter trip by breaking it up or you could do a quick tour in three months. Six months will give you a decent amount of time to really go with the flow and see where fate may take you.
You can use this round-up to help give you some inspiration on where to go and what to see. If you have any questions or want help planning a trip then don't hesitate to contact me. I'm a solo travel expert and have spent a total of three years over my lifetime in this region.
Stay tuned here for updates everyday or you can follow along on my Facebook or Twitter pages. I’ll also be updating my Instagram feed each day with my favourite picture from each location. I hope you enjoy this virtual trip through the best of Mexico and Central America!
1) Somoto Canyon
The Somoto Canyon is one of oldest rock formations in Central America and has become one of the main attractions of Northern Nicaragua. The canyon is located fifteen minutes west of the city of Somoto and is also called "the structure" or “Namancambre” by locals.
The canyon walls run for five miles where the waters from the Comali River (from Honduras) and Tapacali River join to form the extensive Coco River. The cliffs have a height between 120 and 150 meters. In the narrowest area, they are situated just five meters away from each other.
Boquete is a charming little mountain town that has captured the imagination of expats and tourists alike. It’s located in the province of Chiriqui about 60 kilometres from the border of Costa Rica. When you’ve been suffering in the heat in the rest of Panama, you might enjoy spending some time cooling off in Boquete as it situated 1,200 metres above sea level.
I really enjoyed my time here and suggest a stay of at least two or three days. Read on to discover some of the activities and sights available including coffee farm tours, rafting, hiking, rock climbing and hot srings.
The ruins at Quirigua are smaller than some of the better known ruins in the region, like Copan in Honduras and Tikal in Guatemala but still worth at least a couple of hours as stop over if you’re heading between the Rio Dulce/ Livingston area and Antigua or Guatemala City.
I enjoyed taking my time to walk through the site and explore on my own. Also if you’re lucky you might get to witness a traditional ceremony taking place!
I would highly recommend these ruins since they were the only ones that allowed me to see temples and stelae up close and without 100 people milling about. You really get a sense of the place and imagine what it was like a thousand years ago when you can pretend that you're the only person there.
4) Corn Islands
The Corn Islands in Nicaragua are a special place to visit. There are no cars or motorbikes on Little Corn and besides the main "street" which is more of a path, there are no paved roads. When wandering around the island you can easily spot the local wildlife including a resident pig.
There's no electricity from 5am to 2pm which really forces you to get up early and out of your hot cabins!
You can also walk around the whole island in less than two hours and I did this a couple times with some snorkel gear. Even though there is really great diving here, snorkelling is also full of fishy adventure. There are 8 main snorkel spots around the island that are accessible from shore and just past this beach is where I saw my first spotted eagle ray! Read more -->
Of all the beaches I’ve been to on the Pacific coast, Mazunte is definitely my favourite. During the day there are huge pelicans diving for fish and beautiful hummingbirds flitting around. Everyone seems to respect the peace and there is rarely any loud music blaring, at the most you might hear the strains of a guitar or drumming.
Here you can do yoga every morning for as little as 50 pesos. You can sleep in a swinging bed looking out into the coast for 90 pesos ($3.80). You can eat like you’re in Europe or indulge in local Mexican fare. You can do nothing at all and still end the day with a contented sigh and a stupid grin on your face because you’re just so happy to be there.
6) Laguna de Apoyo
Apoyo Lake is a crater lake said to be the result of Volcano Apoyo imploding on itself over 20,000 years ago. It is 48 square kilometres and the deepest point has been measured at 200 metres. If you imagine the big cone that would have been left behind by the volcano you can get a good idea of the shape of the lake.
After attempting a volcano hike in Central America this was a perfect place to come and relax while still admiring the nearby Mombacho volcano in the background.
The town of Bacalar and Laguna Bacalar itself are popular amongst budget travelers and backpackers but due to its remote location and importantly, the distance from Cancun Airport, it’s one of the least touristy places you can visit this close to the Caribbean Coast of Mexico.
I visited Bacalar on a two week trip with my family with a goal to show them what I love about Mexico away from the margaritas and novelty sombreros of the Mexican Riviera. Although there’s nothing wrong with those things, I really wanted to show them another side of Mexico.
A gallery of images from Tikal, one of the Mayan Cities in Guatemala dated over 1,000 years ago during the Classic Period. I was lucky enough to spot monkeys and also witness the sunset from one of the tallest pyramids.
See if you can spot a famous shot from a Star Wars movie!
Omoa, Honduras is small town on the Caribbean Coast, a short trip from San Pedro Sula. Omoa used to be the main Caribbean port of Honduras until the mid 19th century. Now it is a very laid back beach town where you can be one of the only tourists in sight. As you can see, I had the whole place to myself!
One of the main reasons to visit is to see the historical 18th century San Fernando Fort. It's also a great stop over on the way to or from the Guatemala Border.
When I first walked off the boat in Livingston I was greeted with Garifuna music and I really felt like I’d found somewhere I could explore for a few days. It’s a small town but there are several places to explore, including some great food options. The best part for me was just wandering around town, chatting to the local people and experiencing life in this very different part of Guatemala.
One of the best ways to spend half a day in Livingston is to visit the Siete Altares site. When you get there you don’t need a guide so you take your time to walk to the waterfall and then have a picnic or just bathe in the cool pool below. There is also a jump off the falls that you can attempt if you’re not too afraid of climbing up there.
Tulum is located on Mexico's Caribbean Coast just south of Playa Del Carmen. It can be considered the "green resort" town because you can still find many luxury resorts and stylish beach clubs but there's also a growing number of eco style hotels and beach cabins available.
Right outside of town there is a small set of Mayan ruins known for its picture perfect setting on the beach. The Tulum Ruins are the third most-visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza.
12) Lake Atitlan
The Indian’s Nose viewpoint sits at at 2,863 meters looking over the pueblos of San Pedro, Santa Clara and San Marcos. Its name comes from the fact the profile of the mountain looks like a sleeping Indian with the viewpoint as its nose. The hike is 1.5 to 2 hours of a very steep climb.
13) El Valle de Anton
El Valle is a beautiful little mountain town located in the largest inhabited volcano crater in the world. It enjoys a lovely spring climate all year round. I spent hours wandering the streets of the town enjoying being surrounded by the amazing views and greenery, feeling very safe and at peace.
14) Osa Peninsula
The Osa is everything I wanted Costa Rica to be. Still relatively untouched by mass tourism, remote, and easy to find real grassroots local experiences. The Osa Peninsula offers a variety of experiences including wildlife spotting, water sports, and cultural activities that allow you to see the heart of the area.
15) Semuc Champey
If you’re up for a 6 hour bumpy ride into the middle of the Guatemalan jungle then I would suggest staying in Lanquin for 2 or 3 days, relaxing poolside at Zephyr Lodge and doing a day trip to Semuc Champey. The highlight of my time in Lanquin was visiting the Kam’ba cave system during the Semuc Champey day trip and putting on my Indiana Jones hat for a couple of hours. It was so much fun and months later I have not been able to stop talking about.