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Scarlet Macaws, Corcovado National Park
Mayan ruins at Tazumal, El SalvadorSanta Ana CathedralColonial building on the streets of GranadaCorcovado National ParkTapir, Corcovado National ParkConception Volcano, Ometepe IslandManagua CathedralMasaya VolcanoMasaya Volcano

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
Oct 14 – 28, 2018
15 Days
$7,495 (exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $1,300
All Breakfasts, 9 lunches & 12 dinners included


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

All meals included


March 2018
Prof William Saturno

October 2018
Dr. Nicholas James


This morning we arrive in San Salvador, the leafy capital of Central America’s smallest country, El Salvador. Upon arrival, we check in to our central hotel and take the afternoon to relax at our leisure. This evening we enjoy a welcome lecture from our Guide Scholar at our hotel, before coming together for our first dinner as a group.
Hotel: Sheraton Presidente, San Salvador 

After another illuminating lecture from our Scholar we head out to explore the local sights. Founded in 1525, San Salvador was built on the pre-Columbian capital Cuzcatlan, home of the Pipil people, who fled with the arrival of the Spanish.

There is plenty here to see, and as part of our tour we visit some of the city’s major monuments, including the radical Iglesia el Rosario, a modernist church designed by Ruben Martinez in the 1960s, where light floods through multi-colored windows. Following lunch we depart San Salvador and drive into the highlands, to the volcanic crater at El Boquerón, or “Big Mouth”, which last erupted in 1917. We return to the capital in plenty of time for a delicious evening meal.
Hotel: Sheraton Presidente, San Salvador 

After breakfast we drive to the town of Chalchuapa, a World Heritage site which has been continuously occupied for at least three millennia. Within Chalchuapa’s wide and fertile valley we find some of the most important archaeological destinations in El Salvador, beginning with the ceremonial center of Casa Blanca, a Mayan site featuring several pre-Classical and Classical pyramids. We also visit the Mayan complex of Tazumal, a superb settlement with trade and cultural links stretching as far as central Mexico. It is here that some of the earliest metal artifacts of Mesoamerica have been discovered: three gold ornaments dating back to the 8th century.

We continue to Santa Ana, where we pause for lunch before exploring the city’s National Theater and fine Neo-Gothic Cathedral. We return to San Salvador this evening.
Hotel: Sheraton Presidente, San Salvador 

This morning we venture from the capital once again, driving to Cihuatán, a major pre-Columbian site founded in around 950 CE, which was later destroyed by fire. Though occupied for only 100 years or so, Cihuatán was an expansive city, and its remains include a large pyramid, ballcourts, and residences.

We continue to Joya de Cerén, the “Pompeii of the Americas”. This farming village was buried under volcanic ash in around the 7th century and is exceptionally well-preserved: here the remains of tools and domesticated animals – even crops – shed light on the minutiae of an ancient agricultural life.

This afternoon we tour San Andrés, a pre-Columbian site that dates back as far as 900 BCE, and which was also partly covered by a volcanic eruption. Climb the pyramids for wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, and discover the historic techniques involved in indigo production.

Following this we return to San Salvador for a final night in the capital.
Hotel: Sheraton Presidente, San Salvador

We could not leave San Salvador without a visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, a small institution dating from the 1880s, where we find a host of national artifacts on display, including a selection of traditional arts and crafts. This afternoon we fly to Managua, the bustling capital of Nicaragua, where we take an evening to rest before the next phase of our tour.

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.
Hotel: Westin Camino Real Hotel, Managua 

On our first full day in Nicaragua we drive out to the ruins of León Viejo, a town founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524, and abandoned after 1610 thanks to local seismic activity. León is the only colonial town in America to retain its original 16th-century layout – and boasts UNESCO World Heritage status as a result.

We continue to Granada, a lake-side destination generally considered to be the first European city in all of mainland America. We spend an afternoon strolling Granada’s narrow cobblestone streets and viewing its fine colonial churches. Later, those of us who dare can embark on a Masaya Volcano tour within Nicaragua’s earliest and largest national park: an incredible chance to get up close to a true natural phenomenon.
Hotel: Hotel Plaza Colon, Granada 

This morning we travel to the Zapatera Archipelago National Park, where we enjoy a boat tour of Las Isletas, a calm, island-strewn lake with beautiful views of the dormant Mombacho Volcano, as well as some impressive palm-fringed houses. A wealth of local birdlife surrounds us: parrots, herons, hawks and vultures soar through the skies above.

In the afternoon we return to Granada where we visit the Ethnographic Museum, viewing the many fine archaeological and anthropological artifacts that have so far been discovered in the region.
Hotel: Hotel Plaza Colon, Granada 

We take a whole day to tour Isla de Ometepe today, an island formed of two volcanoes – and the largest in Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is famous in the archaeological world for its stone idols and petroglyphs: thousands of carvings depicting turtles, humans and other anthropomorphic figures, as well as more abstract designs. While here we tour the most important sites, the oldest of which date back to 1000 BCE, and keep our eyes peeled for the island’s resident white-headed capuchin monkeys. We return to the mainland this evening.
Hotel: Hotel Plaza Colon, Granada 

Our ninth day begins with a flight to colonial San José, the historic capital of Costa Rica. Upon arrival we enjoy an introduction to the art and archaeology of the country via the dazzling Jade and Gold Museums. The former contains the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade anywhere in the world, including carved pendants, vases and even jade-embedded teeth! The Gold Museum, meanwhile, houses some 1,600 glittering artifacts from 500 – 1500 AD, including Costa Rica’s first minted coin and the remarkable replica of a pre-Columbian tomb.

Tonight we rest and dine in the capital.
Hotel: Grano de Oro, San José 

Driving out of San José, we make our way to the archaeological site of Guayabo de Turrialba. Still relatively unexplored, this magnificent city once covered over 218 hectares, before being abandoned in mysterious circumstances in around 1400 CE, before the arrival of the Spanish settlers.

Dramatically set in a series of jungle clearings, Guayabo still features the remains of aqueducts, roads, tombs, stone carvings and many dwelling places – some with man-made ponds. We attempt to unlock the secrets of the site before returning to San José this evening.
Hotel: Grano de Oro, San José 

As the day begins, we waste no time in touring the National Museum of Costa Rica. Located in a forbidding fortress, which was built in the early 20th century and used during the country’s civil war, today the museum displays all manner of artifacts, including “metates” – grinding stones used for ceremonial purposes – as well as a room full of gold.

Following this we fly south to San Isidro del General and transfer to our award-winning hotel in the unspoiled Valle del General. The rest of the day is free for us to enjoy the hotel’s many facilities at our leisure: hike or bike within its 900 luscious acres of land, or simply unwind in the sumptuous spa. A delightfully indulgent afternoon.
Hotel: Hacienda Altagracia, Péréz Zeledon

We start the day with a drive to Finca 6. Though somewhat unromantically named, this unique site is an unmissable stop for any archaeology enthusiast. Here we find an enigmatic assortment of over 300 stone spheres, ranging from just a few inches to over six feet in diameter. A newly opened site museum attempts to shed some light on these strange monuments, which are thought to have been created by native pre-Columbian tribes.

This afternoon we travel by boat through the breathtaking jungle backdrop of Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula – one of only a few remaining lowland tropical forests still in existence. We spend the first of our two nights in a sustainable jungle lodge within the park itself, where we fall asleep to the sound of lapping waves and exotic calling birds.
Hotel: Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

Today we take a full day to experience the incredible biodiversity of Corcovado National Park, home to jaguars, pumas, sloths, tapirs, howler monkeys and over 500 indigenous tree species.

Our terrific tour includes time at Caño Island Biological Reserve, a breeding ground for humpback whales, where manta rays, bull sharks and dolphins can also be spotted. We end the day back at our jungle lodge, reveling in the vibrant hum of the dense vegetation around us.
Hotel: Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge

The final day of our tour begins with a morning flight back to San José. We enjoy free time here this afternoon: shop for souvenirs in some of the local markets, wander the picturesque streets of Barrio Amón, with its colorful mansions and restaurants, or dip in to some of the city’s more unusual attractions, such as the marvelous Museum of Insects, where the brave can taste meal worms, beetles and crickets. This evening we reconvene as a group for a fabulous farewell dinner and drinks.
Hotel: Grano de Oro, San José 

We transfer to the airport for departures home or onward travel.

Additional Information

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2018 Accommodation

March 2018

Sheraton Presidente Sheraton-1

Feel your everyday stress slip away in the calm space of this hotel. You can reenergize in the pool, or grab a drink in the club lounge. The hotel is situated in a prime location, so why not grab your tour partners and venture into the town to explore the local delights. This hotel boasts the ‘Sheraton sleep experience’ so you’ll be well rested to start the day’s adventure.



Westin Camino Real Hotel ManaguaHotel_Camino_Real-1

With palm-leaf thatched umbrellas around the pool outside and warm terracotta décor on the inside, this hotel will leave you soaking up the classical Central American vibes. The rooms are clean and crisp and don’t miss the fresh fruit and pastries for breakfast!



Hotel Plaza ColonHotel-Plaza-Colon-1

This luxury hotel has beautifully preserved the very essence of Granada. The boutique hotel was the old colonial building and special care has been taken to keep within the traditional style and architecture of the original house. Keeping with the local culture, you are invited to start your day enjoying a breakfast packed full of local ingredients and Nicaragua Coffee grown in the northern mountains.



Grano De Oro 4* grano-de-oro-4

This authentic hotel overlooks the central valley skyline. This is a Victorian mansion within walking distance of the town center of San José. The cozy rooms are clean and crisp and bathrooms are contemporary. The hotel has lots of private cobbled courtyards with water fountains dotted throughout and looks out on the palm trees which surround it.



Hacienda AltagraciaHacienda-1

Claimed no.20 of the ‘World’s Top Hotels’, you are in for a treat while staying here. This is a truly authentic Costa Rican experience, in an untouched part of the country, surrounded by the lush mountains of Pérez Zeledón. The resort is equipped with lavish facilities, and also plays its part to look after this stunning landscape with its own sustainable farm and ‘farm-to-fork’ dining.



Casa Corcovado Jungle LodgeCosta-Rica-Travel-Guide-Casa-Corcovado-1

This lodge the crown jewel of eco luxury. Picture waking up to the sounds of the neighbouring Corcovado Nature Reserve, looking out on the palm-fringed beach below and pristine rainforest stretching for as far as the eye can see. This is where luxurious comfort and adventure come together. All this and the hotel even sets an example of responsible tourism. This is reflected throughout the hotel, from its earthy colours to the open-air showers – a refreshing experience to be at one with nature.