Found in the dense Guatemalan rain forests in the northeast of this Central America country are the ruins of ancient Mayans. One of the largest and most significant archaeological sites is Tikal. This pre-Colombian city was an important political, military, and economic area and was inhabited from 600 BCE to 900 CE. The site of Tikal not only includes its buildings and monuments it encompasses the vast jungle and nature surrounding it. The area is located within Tikal National Park in the Peten Province and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, including both the historic buildings and the diverse nature of the land. Tikal is a popular place to visit by both those touring Guatemala and day trippers from Belize’s San Ignacio Town as it’s only 2 hours away.
The Central American country of El Salvador is home to a significant archaeological site that some call ‘the Pompeii of the Americas’. Joya de Cerén was a pre-Hispanic farming village of approximately 200 people that had been buried under volcanic ash since the 600s C.E. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 though it was discovered in 1976 during a government agricultural project, quite by accident. When the volcano named Loma Caldera erupted around 590 CE the villagers of this Mayan village escaped (no bodies have been located there) yet the town was left as is under blankets of ash. Homes and the wares inside were intact as well as various vegetation of the time. It is believed that an earthquake prior to the eruption was what prompted the small amount of villagers to flee and therefore avoiding the flow of lava and blackened smoke pouring out of Loma Caldera. Because of the ash covering the village it was preserved remarkably well allowing archaeologists to learn and understand about Mesoamerican life during that era.
Located 36 km / 22 miles outside of the capital city of San Salvador, Joya de Cerén offers visitors a glimpse of how the life of these humble farmers was before nature drove them from their homes. Tours of the site and the 10 exposed buildings are available. Well preserved housewares such as furniture, clay pots, kitchen items, and food storage are showcased in the park’s modest museum. This area would certainly be of interest to history buffs along with El Salvador’s other archaeological sites. It would be like stepping back in time. Imagine that.
Hello and welcome to the Monday Sessions where I post questions to some of my traveling friends. Everyone has a story to tell of what they have seen with their own eyes. Travelers are no different. Be it fun, practical, eye opening, a learning experience, or a shift in thinking the experience of new places and people can be an incredible thing. These sessions aim to provide a bit of travel motivation so you may be inspired to craft your tales of adventure.
Starting the series is my friend Bobby whom I met a number of months ago. Earlier this year he and a friend went travelling to Central America. Of the countries they visited Nicaragua was a his favourite. Here’s what he has to say about this gem of a country.
WTW: You visited several countries in Central America on this trip. Why did you choose Nicaragua for today’s focus?
Bobby: To tell you the truth I did not know much about Nicaragua before I went. One of my best friends is in a punk rock band and his drummer is from Nicaragua so they told me “you have to go, its awesome.” They showed me some pictures and I was sold. Once I got there I have to say it was amazing. This tiny little country has something for everyone.
WTW: What areas of the country did you visit? Which was your favourite?
Bobby: I visited San Juan del Sur, Ometepe, Rivas, Grenada, Masaya, Esteli, Somoto, Leon, and Las Penitas. We went on many excursions and hikes in between these as well.
I liked different places because of different reasons, but my favorite experience was hands down in Ometepe. It was mostly to do with with the people I met there and the fact that the island was not as touristy as other places I’ve been to in Nicaragua. This island is made of two volcanoes in the middle of Nicaragua lake, which is the only place in the world you will find fresh water sharks. The island does not have much traffic and most people get around using scooters or motorcycles. There’s a natural spring there which is awesome, and a few good hikes as well.
WTW: That sounds amazing! I can see why you enjoyed it. What type of activities did you do while in Nicaragua?
Bobby: I surfed a lot in San Juan. I watched a couple baseball games in Ometepe between Moyogalpa and Altagracia (the two rival towns on the island). Rode scooters around Ometepe and my friend and I got our licences suspended in the process. Got to experience the Nicaraguan legal system getting our licences back in Rivas. Amazing Spanish colonial architecture in Grenada. Saw real lava at the Masaya volcano. Had some amazing coffee and cigars in Esteli. The Somoto canyon hike was the best hike in all of Nicaragua. And I got to board down a volcano in Leon.
WTW: Those make for great stories. What surprised you the most about the country?
Bobby: What surprised me the most is the diversity and beauty of the country; there is so much to do and so much to see for such a small country. And contrary to what people say it was extremely safe. The prices are also very affordable which was nice. There is a little something for everyone in Nicaragua: young or old, shy or bold, just look at some pictures and you’re sold.
WTW: Can you name a favourite memory?
Bobby: There are so many but one of them has to be hiking through Somoto Canyon. It was a hike that involved both swimming and hiking through a gorgeous canyon. We did some cliff jumps at one point and rode in a boat at another point. The hike was one of the most beautiful I have seen.
WTW: That is fantastic! Nicaragua sounds amazing. Any tips or suggestions for travellers considering visiting Nicaragua?
- Just go, you won’t regret.
- Take the local buses (chicken buses) they are really cheap and fun. Every once in awhile people get on the bus and sell a wide variety of stuff. For example: food, drinks, candy, medicine, groceries, electronics etc. It’s like experiencing going to the mall from your seat on the bus.
- Travel a bit off the beaten path, this way you will see the true Nicaraguan hospitality. Ex: one of the person that worked at the hostel lent us his spare scooter. He just met us and trusted us with it. Wow.!
- If you like to party go to San Juan del Sur for “Sunday Funday” it’s a massive pub crawl. Also stay at Big Foot Hostel in Leon, they are the original volcano boarding hostel.
WTW: Thank you so much Bobby. I agree with you that it sounds like it has much to offer everyone. Below are a few photos that he agreed to share (all photos taken and owned by him). If anyone has comments please add them below.
Happy Travel from Wanders The World.
Not long ago a couple friends spent some time in Belize and absolutely loved it. So I though I’d take a look at this small Central American country that does not have a Pacific Ocean coastline. Since it is on the eastern portion of Central America its shores are the Caribbean Sea with neighbouring countries of Mexico and Guatemala. Those shores are one of the big attractions to this locale. Beaches are plentiful along the seacoast as well as on the many islands found nearby. Ambergris Caye is the largest island and possibly the most well known.
So what are all the wonderful things to see and do in this adventure-packed country? Plenty from what I have garnered. Let’s take a look.
- The plentiful and beautiful beaches, as mentioned above
- Adventure sports such as zip lining, jungle treks and hikes, repelling and spelunking, caving, kayaking, and diving are yours to enjoy
- Mayan history and ruins, many of which can still be visited. These include the impressive El Caracol and ceremonial site of Altun Ha
- Marine and underwater activities – with the world’s second largest barrier reef and the impressive Great Blue Hole make it a haven for divers and snorkelers
- Food! Try Creole Johnny Cakes for breakfast, some ceviche for lunch and rice and beans or conch for dinner
Belize sounds like it has plenty to offer!
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Belize’s Great Blue Hole – Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain