Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Wonders of Central America

It's incredible how much can be packed in so relatively small a territory. World's best diving spots, pristine beaches, ancient Mayan temples buried in thick jungle vines, wildlife at your fingertips, and multicolored colonial towns spreading at the foot of ominous volcanoes – that'sCentral America in a nutshell. Let's have a look at some of the most amazing sights to behold on a trip along this narrow strip of land joining North and South Americas.

Belize

Sandwiched between thick jungles and the Caribbean Sea, Belize is a mecca for both beach bums and adventurous souls. Encounters with wild animals and creepy treks to the cobwebbed Mayan sites will appeal to fearless explorers, while the less intrepid ones will find delight at palm-dotted shores and in the splendor of the underwater world.
Great Blue Hole
Great Blue Hole. By TravelAmerica360
Around a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) across and 480 feet (145 m) deep, the hypnotizing Great Blue Hole is one of the most astounding dive sites in the world.
Caracol
Caracol. By rharrison
Make sure you don't miss Caracol. Hidden in a high-canopy forest, this largest known Mayan site in Belize covers around 30 square miles and makes for a truly unforgettable trek into the heart of mystery.
Sunrise at the Placencia Jetty
Sunrise at the Placencia Jetty. By BlueSoul97
Sun-kissed and laidback Placencia is the best place to stretch your hammock, sip ice-cold drinks, frolic in the azure waters and get a taste of Belizean village life.

Costa Rica

26 national parks on an area of less that 20,000 square miles (51,000 sq km) say it all. Costa Rica is a place to go if you crave close rapport with nature in all its variety. Divine coves, creepy jungles, smoldering volcanoes, crater lakes, rambling waterfalls and exuberant wildlife explain all too well why the country is called "Rich Coast".
Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna
Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna. By Wha'ppen
The youngest volcano in Costa Rica is at the same time one of the most active and threatening ones in the world. Silent for hundreds of years, Arenal erupted violently in 1968 and destroyed the small town of Tabacón. Yet in its power rests irresistible beauty … to be best admired from a distance.
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park. By halmorgan
Located on the wild Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park belongs to one of the most biologically versatile places on Earth, with fantastic rock formations, pristine beaches, majestic waterfalls and thick rainforest teeming with more than 600 animal species.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park. By D Breezy
Tiny but definitely worth visiting, Manuel Antonio National Park preserves a series of charming beaches fringed by an evergreen forest. Just dig your feet into the warm, snow-white sand and watch dolphins playing in the azure waters.

El Salvador

Small, plagued with cataclysms, and quite ill reputed when it comes to safety, El Salvador may not have the best PR, but beyond the screamy headlines (often exaggerated in fact), there lies a country full of raw beauty, colonial ambiance, unmatchable surfing opportunities, fabulous art and the warmest of hearts.
Perquin
Perquin. By perkinron
Surrounded by green pinegroves and coffee plantations, the little town of Perquin is home to the Museum of the Revolution, which tells the stories of El Salvador's civil war era.
El Sunzal beach
El Sunzal beach. By heLMut G.
Thanks to El Sunzal and a couple of other fabulous beaches, El Salvador is slowly transforming into the surf capital of the world.
Puerta del Diablo
Puerta del Diablo. By Pukita_
It's a pretty good workout to climb up, but the view you can get through the famed Devil's Doorover the extensive countryside is worth every sweat drop on your forehead.

Guatemala

Guatemala is a place that caters to all tastes. If you want to make it rough, days long treks to ancient Maya sites abound. If you don't feel like parting with luxury, top-notch hotels line the fabulous coast. On the one hand, the country is totally immersed in the pre-Columbian history, and on the other, it's successfully trying to catch up with modern standards.
Volcan de Agua in Antigua
Volcan de Agua in Antigua. By Fernando Reyes Palencia
Take in the perfectly preserved colonial architecture and authentic flair in one of Guatemala's loveliest cities. Don't forget two snap a picture of Antigua's most recognizable landmark: the majestic Volcan de Agua that appears in a delightfully orange framing of the equally famed Santa Catalina archway as you're looking south through it.
Tikal
Tikal. By Quasebart
Set off on a trek of a lifetime, make your way through jungle vines and stay in primitive bamboo huts to be eventually rewarded with the amazing experience of the wondrous Tikal, one of the greatest urban achievements of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.
Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan. By Ze Eduardo...
Lake Atitlan is the jewel of Guatemala's highlands. It is here that you find the Maya culture at its liveliest. About a dozen of tiny villages are scattered in the astounding landscape of monumental volcanoes and calm, sparkling waters that reflect the towering shapes.

Honduras

Although its share of turquoise waters, ancient ruins, green slopes and untraversed jungles is sufficient a reason to pick Honduras for a vacation, the true measure of its awesomeness is in fact the people who call it home. A trip through this rather overlooked spot in Central America is virtually an experience of fabulous artistic expression, inspiring folklore, simplicity of life and the kindest of hearts.
Howler Monkey in Punta Sal
Howler Monkey in Punta Sal. By Luis Diaz Madrid
Dolphins frolicking in secret bays, howler monkeys dangling from mossy branches, and the Garifuna village of  Miami built directly on the beach make a visit to charming Punta Sal National Park an thrilling natural and cultural experience.
Roatan
Roatan. By rnoltenius
If you love all sorts of water-related activities and don't mind crowds of holidaymakers, Roatanwill truly make your day. With some of the most gorgeous white beaches and the best diving spots in all of Central America and the Caribbean, no wonder it has turned into a tourist magnet.
Copan Ruinas
Copan Ruinas. By El Soñador
Unbelievable artistic heritage is to be found in the ruins of Copan, one of the preserved centers of Maya civilization and a major tourist attraction in Honduras. Gigantic face sculptures are the major highlight here.

Nicaragua

Poor tourist infrastructure and unstable political situation don't make Nicaragua a likely holiday pick. But if you're ready to look beyond the headlines and do without even basic comforts, the country will enchant you with its raw beauty and make you dizzy with the opportunities for extreme experiences. Swimming in a crater lake, climbing an active volcano and diving with sharks are only a handful of options to test your nerves. And if that sounds too adventurous, there are a number of spots to wind down and take in the authentic quality of Nicaraguan seaside life.
Volcan Concepción
Volcan Concepción. By Nouvelles_Mexicaines
Rising from sparkling Lake Nicaragua and forming Ometepe Island with a twin cone Maderas,Volcán Concepción has been frequently erupting since 1883. The best part is that you can climb it, although it takes a lot of stamina to complete it.
Big Corn Island
Big Corn Island. By www.globalmultiplelisting.com
Nicaragua has its own spot of paradise as well … or two spots to be exact. Once a haven for pirates and buccaneers, today the Little and Big Corn Islands pamper the senses of adventurous visitors with exotic smells, turquoise waters, delicate sand, splendid diving, and fabulously simple hospitality. And all this for less than a song.
Cordillera de Maribios
Cordillera de Maribios. By Raleigh photographs
21 volcanic cones, of which 5 remain active, make the awesome crown of Nicaragua - Cordillera de Maribios. Climb a few of the country's fire mountains on a single trek and your life will erupt in a totally new quality.

Panama

Of all the extreme experiences you may have in Central America, Panama provides for a good share of the most spine-tingling ones. The roughest of rainforests, frequent guerrilla fights and deadly animals scare away comfort-seeking tourists and leave ground for the most adventurous ones. Of course, if you wish to go but steer clear of dangers, Panama has plenty to offer. Friendly national parks, lush hills to trek and adorable islands, to mention just a few, are perfect representations of the country as well.
Playa Polo. Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro
Playa Polo. Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro. By tomrobinsonphotography
The Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro may be Panama's main tourist magnet, but it somehow still manages to resist the temptation for growth and remains quite authentic. Anyway, if crystal clear waters, swaying palms and idyllic atmosphere are your things, Bosas del Toro is the right place to head to while in Panama.
Razor Surgeonfish in Coiba National Park
Razor Surgeonfish in Coiba National Park. By laszlo-photo
The fact that the 38 islands of Coiba National Park have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site speaks volumes of how amazing the place really is. Both the forests and adjacent waters are teeming with life, making Coiba a haven for explorers, bird watchers and divers.
Indigenous peoples inhabiting Darién National Park
Indigenous peoples inhabiting Darién National Park. By Rita Willaert
Another world heritage site of Panama, Darien National Park is a harsh but magical realm of remarkable wildlife, a staggering variety of flora and indigenous tribes, who will be happy to show you into the reality of life in the heart of the jungle.

So, where are you heading first?

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