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My Trip to Central America in 2011 – The Itinerary

On January 6th of next year I’ll be flying back to Central America for the second time in 6 months. I spent 5 weeks in Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras last summer and am incredibly excited to get back to Central America. This time my trip will take me on a brief visit back to Guatemala before I head south into El Salvador and eventually Nicaragua, to experience, what some say, are two of the most travel worthy countries in Central America.

The map above is a brief outline of some of the places in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua that I plan to travel to. I haven’t figured out the order of most of these stops but I’ve read enough about each one of these cities that I know I want to make sure I spend some time in them. So here is a brief breakdown of my Itinerary.

Note – Next to each city name that I mention I’ll include the letter that corresponds to the location of the city on the map.

Guatemala
-I’ll land in Guatemala City in January 6th and head straight to a city close to my heart, Antigua(A).
-The next day I’ll head to Montericco (B) on the coast of Guatemala for some black sand beaches and Guatemalan beer!
-During this portion of the trip I’ll have a friend with me who I’ll need to take back to the airport so I’ll return to Antigua (A) and spend a few days showing him my favorite sights, as well as hopefully exploring some new ones. And then, it’s off to El Salvador!

El Salvador
This is where the schedule gets really loose. I know some of what I want to see, but have no idea how long I’ll spend in each area or if I’ll be adding and subtracting stops as I go. I really don’t have any plans here and I’ll be searching for couchsurfers, cheap hostels, and maybe, just maybe, even some cheap hotels as I’m traveling through if their prices are low enough. If you know of any good places to stay, feel free to send me a message as I slowly plan my route. But for now, here is what I’ve got….

-Just across from the Guatemalan boarder is the Ruta de las Flores, which is a 36 km string of small towns that are famous for their food festivals and the abundance of wild flowers that cover the hills between the towns. I hope to eat a lot of great food and get some awesome photos of the area while I’m hear. The towns I’m planning on visiting on the route are Ahuachapan(C), Ataco(E), Juayua(F), and maybe another small town or two. For those of you who have been there, feel free to leave some suggestions in the comments
-There are also a number of towns and sites around the Ruta de las Flores that I hope to visit that aren’t technically on the route. They include Tacuba(D) and the nearby national park, Santa Ana(H), the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Joya de Ceren(G), the beaches of Playa Atami(J) and the distant town of Suchitoto(I). All of these stops are in the western half of El Salvador and will keep me busy for a few weeks most likely.
-After these I’ll begin heading east making a stop at one of the beaches near La Libertad(K), possibly El Tunco which has been highly recommended to me.
-Finally, I’ll end my time in El Salvador with some relaxing in the mountain town of Alegria(L) and some lessons on the history of El Salvador and its recent civil war in the town of Perquin(M).
-I’ll cross over from El Salvador to Nicaragua by bus most likely, but am exploring any boat options that exist so let me know if you know of any!

Nicaragua (I should note, some of the map pins are off a little bit but you can read the names)
-Depending on where I cross the boarder into Nicaragua I’ll either be heading to the town of Esteli(N) or the town of Leon(P)
-While near Esteli I’ll also visit Matagalpa(near O) and while near Leon I’ll visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ruins of Leon Veijo and the nearby beaches of Las Penitas(R).
-After exploring these parts of northern Nicaragua I’ll be heading south to the towns of Masaya(T) and Granada(S). I’ll probably take a short trip from Granada(S) to the beaches of La Boquita(U) or something nearby.
-After some time on the beach I’ll head back to Grananda(S) where I’ll make my way to the volcanic Ometepe Island(V) in the middle of NIcaragua’s largest lake.
-I’ll most likely end my time in Nicaragua on the pristine beaches of San Juan Del Sur(W) soaking up some sun and enjoying this picture perfect beach town.

At this point in time I’ll either be flying home from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, or possibly heading south in Costa Rica. It really depends on how long I’ve spent at all of the stops listed above. If there is time to head into Costa Rica I might try to take a trip down the Rio San Juan from El Castillo into Costa Rica. We’ll see how adventurous I’m feeling once I get to this part of the trip.

So there it is. My plan for my 2ish months back in Central Amerca.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in this post, this is a very rough itinerary. It is based off of about an hour or two of browsing the internet and reading other peoples posts from these areas. I’m always looking for suggestions of place I should be sure to visit, whether they are completely different towns, or just your favorite restaurant or bar in one of the locations I am already stopping in. Please feel free to comment and let me know where else I should visit. My favorite way to plan my travels is by hearing from people who’ve already been to these areas.

{ 41 comments }

Laurel December 7, 2010 at

Loved Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, but haven’t been to El Salvador or Nicaragua, but would love to go. I wasn’t a big fan of Belize. It sounds like you’ve got an amazing trip planned. I also loved Tikal in Guatemala and the nearby town of Flores.

Matt December 7, 2010 at

Belize just isn’t very similar to the rest of Central America. I had an amazing time though on the island of Caye Caulker and the sail boating trip my friends and I took. Loved Tikal and Flores as well. I’ll definitely return there one day.

inka December 7, 2010 at

Can’t add any tips because I have never visited that part of the world, but it sounds like a fabulous trip to me.

Matt December 7, 2010 at

I hope it will be! Less than one month and counting!

Adam December 7, 2010 at

Sounds awesome! We have yet to travel through Central America, so I’m eager to read about your trip.

Matt December 7, 2010 at

you should definitely make plans to visit if you have the time. I really loved my time in Guatemala.

Cathy Sweeney December 7, 2010 at

Thanks for sharing this itinerary. Nice idea to show it on the map as you have done. It must be so exciting to have this coming up.

Matt December 7, 2010 at

I am very very excited about it! For the map, all I did was go on google maps and just plan a trip like you would when you try to get directions. Then I took a screen shot and edited it. Easy as that :)

Jade December 7, 2010 at

Wow- sounds incredible!! We planed our trip out like this too, and I think it really helps put time and travel into perspective and not over estimate how short the distance is and not try to do too much too fast. Can’t wait for your journey to begin and read about it!

Matt December 7, 2010 at

If there is one thing my first trip taught me, it’s never to under estimate how long it may take to get from point A to point B. You might find out your next destination is only 20 miles away…. but that doesn’t mean it won’t take 2 hours.

jamie December 7, 2010 at

i would say skip monterrico and hold out for the beaches in el sal and nicaragua, they are BY FAR better. dont forget to get your surf on.
check out las capuchinas in antigua. and stay at the black cat hostel! we worked there. and drink cabro. its better than gallo.
if you are up for a real chilled experience stay at the beach called maderas near san juan del sur. when you get to the beach turn right and walk a few hundred metres. you will come across a place called matildas. it rocks. bring your own food and drink and stay a few days.
make sure you do the volcano boarding in leon!
enjoy!
cheers, jamie from cloudpeopleadventures.com

Matt December 7, 2010 at

Awesome advice Jamie! Thanks so much. I’m going to Montericco early because a friend of mine will only be with me for the first portion of the trip and he wants to snag some beach time. I’ve had some fun at black cat in the past so I’ll check out their accommodations once I get there. Thanks again!

The NVR Guys December 7, 2010 at

Wow! What a great itinerary. We will be looking forward to dispatches from the road!

Jim December 7, 2010 at

What an exciting itinerary. Keep posting about this Matt as we’ll be reading. Part of the world we’ll make it to…one day.

adventureswithben December 7, 2010 at

Wow, that’s a lot of planning!

Matt December 7, 2010 at

Haha, believe it or not that is only about an hour and a half of reading through some other blogs, the lonely planet forums, and a couple of other resources. Some of the areas with multiple dots are misleading as they are all ridiculously close together and some may be done in single day trips from the other cities.

Michael Figueiredo (StruxTravel) December 7, 2010 at

Hey Matt,
I think this is the first time I’ve come across your blog…. I love the layout and header. Very cool! I look forward to following your adventure through Central America!

Matt December 7, 2010 at

Thanks a lot Michael, I’m really glad you like it. A lot of work has gone into it.

ayngelina December 8, 2010 at

Nothing to see at the ruins of Leon, you can surf at the beach though. Seek out Siesta Perdida hostel, they have very cool tours that you will not find anywhere else.

Also don’t forget volcano boarding in Leon!

Matt December 8, 2010 at

Ayngelina! I was going to message you for suggestions eventually so thanks for this!

Robin December 8, 2010 at

looks like a “once in a lifetime”…

MaryAnne December 8, 2010 at

I spent 2 months in Central America in late 2008 (Mexico to Costa Rica) and, in addition to the bits you noted, had a lovely time in Santa Ana, Suchitoto and La Palma (awesome murals). We hadn’t expected to like El Salvador as much as we did ( San Salvador was a bit overwhelming) but we ended up cutting through the country quite happily on our way to Honduras, overland, via La Palma. We had a tree growing through our roof in our hotel room. It was awesome.

Matt December 8, 2010 at

I plan on hitting that whole list except I hadn’t heard about La Palma. I’ll have to check into it! The hotel room sounds pretty cool!

Kyle Morgan December 8, 2010 at

While you’re in Granada, its worth staying a night on Laguna de Apoyo if you can work it into your itinerary.

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler December 8, 2010 at

I’m so excited for you! This sounds like a great trip. I was really hoping to make it to Nica this Christmas, but it looks like the tickets got too expensive. I look forward to reading about your adventures!

Ted Nelson December 8, 2010 at

Looks like an awesome trip. Look forward to the posts.

Ryan December 8, 2010 at

Matt – Sounds like you’ve done your planning. Way to go! I wish I had my trip this well prepared…

Did I read somewhere you are from central FL? I am in Gainesville.

Matt December 8, 2010 at

Hey Ryan, yea I live in Orlando, grew up in Ocala, and sometimes work in Gainesville. If you are on TBEX you should check out the Central Florida group that was recently started.

Nicolas December 10, 2010 at

Nice itinerary for a two month trip, time enough to enjoy the countries to the fullest… And if it’s not enough, you can always come back :-)
I’ve did most of your itinerary myself (Guatemala – El Salvador – Nicaragua), I don’t want to use this comment as advertising, but if you’re interested, I’ve written articles called “Off the beaten track: El Salvador” and “Bienvenidos in Nicaragua”. The latter one might be interested if you decide to take the bus from El Salvador to Nicaragua.
Both articles are published on BootsnAll, but of course I prefer if you would read them on my website :-)
There you can also find lot’s of pictures on that subject.

I bet you’ll have a great time, El Salvador is a great country!

Matt December 10, 2010 at

Hey, I appreciate the info and I’ll be sure to check out those posts. Congrats on being published on BootsnAll.

Globetrottergirls December 12, 2010 at

Great itinerary! It seems you are planning to skip San Salvador which we can only agree with! Was our least favorite place in El Salvador. We loved Suchitoto, and Alegria was nice too (try to stay at Entre Piedras, it’s a fairly new hostel), we went on an excellent hike there around the Laguna de Alegria. In Juayua you can do a 7-waterfalls hike – you don’t need to pay for a guided tour if you just follow the signs in town to Los Chorros de la Calera. Feel free to get in touch for any more tips :-)

Zablon Mukuba December 13, 2010 at

would love to go to central America, i will be coming back to read more tips and advice about Central America

Devin the Travel Writer December 16, 2010 at

Just returned from Central America: 12 days in Honduras and Guatemala. I am a huge fan. Looks like a great plan

John in France December 19, 2010 at

In NZ, where my home is, no-one goes to these places!!! I think too complicated and long to get to?? So will look forward to reading your dispatches from the front line!! Cheers.

Jaime January 1, 2011 at

I am so glad I have been reading your blog for quite a bit this morning. I am going to be following it closely since I recently made a HUGE change of plans and am now starting my RTW trip in Central America. Looks like I will be arriving when you are leaving. I am starting in San Jose, Costa Rica. I have no plan or any idea on what to do anywhere. I have not started doing research but will soon…i hope!!!

Matt January 3, 2011 at

Glad to hear you’ll be heading to Central America. Feel free to email me on the contact page with any questions and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Mica January 17, 2011 at

Your itinerary rocks! I’ve also done Belize, Guate, and Honduras but never been to Nicaragua.. I keep hearing nothing but great things about its beaches and surfing. I will be in Nicaragua(working at an eco hotel in Playa del sur called Buena Vista Surf Club) in April so I look forward to reading about your adventures till then!
Happy Travels!

Mica January 17, 2011 at

Whoops! The buena vista surf club is in San Juan del Sur. If you get a chance to check it out let me know how it goes!!

Matt January 17, 2011 at

I’ll be in San Juan Del Sur in late February or March, so be sure to read along then!

Adri L. February 3, 2011 at

Hey I live in El Salvador! Its pretty awesome if I may say so! You should definitely check out Lago Coatepeque…which is a beautiful lake in a volcano crater! Its pretty awesome if you ask me… make sure you try pupusas! I noticed you aren’t visiting the city… its pretty fun there are various malls, museums, and lots of bad drivers… but apart from that its fine… if you’re into party scenes at night, go to La Zona Rosa which is in the city, near a Crowne Plaza Hotel that has various clubs and bars next to each other… half the people you’ll find there are English speakers and its a safe area… anywhooo enjoy your trip over here!

Matt February 3, 2011 at

Hey! Thanks for all of the suggestions! I actually already went to Lago Coatepeque, and you are right, it is beautiful! I also actually spent a few days in Santa Tecla near the city and toured through the city a couple of times. I’m going back there tomorrow to have a look around and go out to some of the bars/clubs with them, so hopefully I’ll get to experience it all. If you’re free and around the city tomorrow send me an email (on my contact page) and maybe we can meet up!

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