Places with photo galleries in Central America
This must be the hidden jewel of Belize. Tucked away in the lush borderland to Guatemala are these astonishing Mayan ruins. The main pyramid, Caana, is towering the dense jungle and apparently is, with its height of 43 metres, still the tallest building in Belize. There are amazing stone carvings along with ball courts and tombs. The ruins are so difficult to get to that hardly anyone knows them, even less visits them. The only way is by a horrendous dirt road which luckily has a couple of great side trips (like "Rio on Pools" and "Big Rock Falls"), so half the adventure is getting here. So go now before the road gets sealed and puts Caracol on the tourist map.
Note: Locals recommend you join the armed escort from the military camp (located 35 km before the ruins) for the last leg of the journey, since random robberies have occurred in the past.
Belize is very different from the rest of Central America: Black people, dreadlocks and reggae are predominant here. A great opportunity to slow down and get into the Belizy vibe is a trip to some of the cays (islands). The easiest one to get to from Belize city is Caye Caulker, only 45 minutes away with speed boat taxi. Here, the sea is warm and tempting, but the shore is full of sea grass. Fortunately, the second greatest reef in the world is just offshore, so you will be a lazy bastard not to do some snorkeling or diving. Try the "Blue hole", a sink hole which offers a 40 meters deep dive, if not for the depth, then for the chance to see sharks up close.
Turquoise pools on top of a natural limestone bridge makes this place quite special. You can swim in the calm water at the pools or have a look over the wobbly fence where the river plunge into the cave beneath the limestone bridge. Considering how damn hard it is to get here, there are surprising many travellers kicking back in the pools. Maybe it is because it has been hyped as one of prettiest spots in Guatemala - and that says something.
Peeking over the canopy of the jungle are these outstanding Maya temples. Their constructions are steeper and taller than any other Maya sites making them a truly impressive sight. As if that was not enough, their location deep in the jungle offers surprisingly good chances to see some fairly exotic wildlife, like toucans, monkeys or just curious Coatis. Temples are still being excavated while more lie hidden under the jungle carpet as small hills just waiting to tell another story from the lost Mayan world. Without the towering temples (up to 61 meters) as landmarks it would be easy to get seriously lost in the maze of jungle trails, but a trip to the top will give a little perspective. These Maya ruins are more than a been-there-done-that sight, they will for sure knock your flip-flops of.
One of the greatest and most powerful Mayan kingdom through times has left some grand temple complexes close to the Guatemalan border. It located among soft hills and big shady trees. The temples are constructed in a low fashion with many remarkable ornamental details. The main thing here are the hundreds of hieroglyphs and sculptures which is unique to Copan. Furthermore the archaeologists have cleverly excavated one of the temples from the inside to uncover the fact that temples were often built over previous existing temples. If you are a bit ruin-out and need a break, you can have a chat with the squawky macaws in the treetops at the entrance.
Nicaraguans don't consider dogs and cats as pets, roosters are their thing. They care for them, train them and the best ones will be put into the ring for cockfighting. Though death (for the rooster) can occur the game usually ends way before, when one of cocks puts the beak to the ground. They owners gamble for big money and even bigger pride. Even if you don't approve of this kind of "sport", it is still a great way to mingle with the locals. Make sure you are welcome and get permission before taking pictures.
The centre of this little colonial town is lovely and neat. The colorful traditional houses are cared for, the street signs are made of tiles, and the fine cathedral is freshly painted. But down the side streets the facades are decayed and it gets a little more gritty. Here the elders drag their rocking chair out in the evening to keep track of life. Right outside town the two volcanoes and Lago Nicaragua offers a range of nice day trips. This is the classic colonial town of Nicaragua.
If you take the Pan-American highway all the way south, this is where you will end up. Here, the road ends unannounced in the little settlement of Yaviza and leaves only dense jungle all the way to Colombia. Though Yaviza is a friendly village, the meaning of the place is the real attraction. This is the start (or end) of the legendary Darién gap, which many travellers wish to cross... but refrain from doing the trek. The possible dangers are too numerous, and getting kidnapped by some of the guerrillas seems to be the least of one's worries. There are other alternatives to get to Colombia, like sailing, so why risk it?