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Touring Central America: El Salvador, Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Monumental Maya ruins set in lush forests, colorful colonial towns in stark relief with volcanic skylines: it could only be Central America. Join us on a grand tour taking in El Salvador’s volcanically preserved villages, Nicaragua’s jewel-like islets and Costa Rica’s dense, colorful rainforests, with a biodiversity like nowhere else on Earth — and then some.

March 11 – 25, 2018
15 Days
$7,495 (exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $1,300


Tour Description


  • Travel to the remarkable pre-Columbian site of San Andrés, a former Maya capital
  • Take an evening tour of the Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua
  • Explore the pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site of Casa Blanca in Chalchuapa

  • View the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica at the Finca 6 Archaeological Site in Palmar Sur
  • Tour the colorful, colonial town of Granada in Nicaragua
  • Discover Corcovado National Park, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions


Sunday, March 11
We arrive in El Salvador. We enjoy a welcome lecture at our hotel this evening.

Monday, March 12
Today we explore San Salvador, capital of El Salvador. Founded in 1525, the city was built on the pre-Columbian capital Cuzcatlan, of the Pipil people. We visit the major monuments of this colonial city, including the radical Iglesia el Rosario, a modernist church designed by Ruben Martinez in the 1960s. We leave the city and drive into the highlands to visit Boquerón volcano crater.

Tuesday, March 13
This morning we drive to Chalchuapa, situated in a wide fertile valley and home to some of the most important archaeology in El Salvador. We visit the ceremonial centers of Casa Blanca and Tazumal. We continue to Santa Ana, where we explore the National Theater and fine Neo-Gothic Cathedral. We return to San Salvador this evening.

Wednesday, March 14
Today, we once again venture out from San Salvador and drive to Cihuatán, a major pre-Columbian site dating to c. 950-1200 CE. We continue to Joya de Cerén, the ‘Pompeii of the Americas’. This farming village was buried under volcanic ash around 200 CE and is exceptionally well-preserved. We tour the site of San Andrés en route back to San Salvador.

Thursday, March 15
On our final morning in San Salvador we visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología, home to major finds from around the country. We then fly to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, where we will have a short tour this afternoon if time permits.
We rest this evening before beginning the next phase of our tour.

Friday, March 16
On our first full day in Nicaragua, we visit the ruins of León Viejo, founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. It is the only colonial town in America to retain its original sixteenth-century layout. We continue to Granada, where we tour the narrow streets and fine colonial churches. Those who dare can join us for a Masaya volcano tour in the evening.

Saturday, March 17
Today, we travel to the Zapatera Archipelago National Park and enjoy a boat tour of Las Isletas, a calm, island-strewn lake with beautiful views of the volcano and impressive local houses. We return to Granada where we visit the Ethnographic Museum, home to many fine archaeological and anthropological artifacts.

Sunday, March 18
We spend a whole day touring the Isla de Ometepe, an island formed of two volcanoes, situated on Lake Nicaragua. The island is most famed archaeologically for its thousands of petroglyphs which include humans, anthropomorphic figures and more abstract designs. We tour the most important sites, the oldest of which date back to 1000 BCE. We return to Granada this evening.

Monday, March 19
This morning we fly to San José, the capital of Costa Rica. Here, we have an introduction to the art and archaeology of the country at the Jade and Gold Museums. The Jade Museum holds the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade anywhere in the world, including carved pendants, vases and even jade-embedded teeth! We stay in San José this evening.

Tuesday, March 20
Today, we drive from San José to the archaeological site of Guayabo de Turrialba. Still relatively unexplored, this magnificent city once covered over 218 hectares, before being abandoned around 1400 CE, before the advent of Spanish settlers. Set in jungle clearings, the settlement included aqueducts, roads, tombs, stone carvings and many dwelling places. We attempt to uncover some of the mysteries of the site before returning to San José this evening.

Wednesday, March 21
This morning, we remain in San José where we tour the National Museum of Costa Rica, located in a rather forbidding fortress, built in the early 20th century. This afternoon we fly south to San Isidro del General, where we have free time in our excellent hotel this evening.

Thursday, March 22
Today we drive to the unromantically named Finca 6. This unique site is home to over 300 stone spheres, which range from a few inches to over six feet in diameter.
The newly opened site museum attempts to shed some light on these strange monuments. This afternoon we travel by boat through the spectacular jungle to Corcovado National Park, and to the jungle lodge where we will be staying this evening.

Friday, March 23
We spend the day exploring the incredible biodiversity of Corcovado National Park, home to jaguar, puma, sloth, tapir, howler monkey and over 500 tree species. Our touring includes Caño Island Biological Reserve, a breeding ground for humpback whales. We end the day back at our jungle lodge, enjoying the call of exotic birds and lush, dense vegetation all around us.

Saturday, March 24
On the final day of our tour we fly to San José where we enjoy free time this afternoon, perhaps for a little souvenir shopping in the many local markets. We reconvene as a group this evening for a final farewell dinner.

Sunday, March 25
We transfer to the airport for departures home or onward travel.

We stay in a selection of hotels in San Salvador, Managua, Granada, San José, San Isidro del General and Corcovado.


March 2018
Prof. William Saturno

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