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Central America Gold Tour
30 days duration (32 days including travel days to and from Central America).
This morning you will make your own way to your state capital city airport for your flight to South America via Auckland. As you cross the International Date Line you ‘gain’ a day so you will arrive in Santiago later on Friday. On arrival we connect with our flight to Lima, Peru. On arrival we will be met on arrival and taken to our luxury hotel for tonight. (Meals Inflight)
This morning we will be transferred to Lima Airport for our flight to Havana, Cuba. We will be met on arrival and transferred to our well-appointed and historic hotel for a memorable four-night stay. Havana, the capital of Cuba, was founded in 1514 by explorer Diego Velazquez. The original city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. With narrow streets and a rich diversity of Colonial buildings, decorative balconies, shuttered windows and museums, Havana is one of the most appealing cities of the Americas. At sunset Havana’s bars and cafes come to life with the rhythm of Salsa and Jazz, embracing all those who stroll her streets. (B)
After breakfast we will be taken on a comprehensive tour of old and new Havana. Our tour includes the Arms Square, the Cathedral, Calle Obispa and Floridita. We also visit the traditional Del Medio Bar (an old haunt of writer Ernest Hemingway) and then have lunch at one of Havana’s most traditional restaurants. Later we visit the Museo de la Revolucion.
Revolution Museum - Cuba's current leader, Fidel Castro, rose to power with a historic assault on the capital that has resulted in almost 50 years of Communist rule. Depending on who you ask, Castro is either a hero or a villain, but if he is nothing else, than he is at least a most interesting character study. Together with Che Guevara and a band of other revolutionaries, Castro managed to overthrow Fulgencio Batista to become Cuba's President. The Museum of the Revolution in Havana offers exhibits that pertain to the Cuban Revolution, as well as to the Cuban War of Independence. (BL)
After breakfast we will visit a Cuban Cigar Factory where we will see firsthand the process of rolling these world class cigars. This is followed by a visit to Havana’s famous Havana Club Rum factory. The remainder of the day is at leisure. A casual lunch in Plaza Vieja watching local activity and enjoying the atmosphere is a good way to pass some time. Tonight we are taken out for dinner and then to enjoy a typical Cuban cabaret. Ooh la la! (BD)
Today is at leisure to further experience Havana, its museums and its unique way of life. There are several museums to visit, or maybe take a day trip to the Cuevas de Bellamar or Vinales. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) is worth a stop in Old Havana, and here you can view works from both Cuban and international artists. The Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), which is found at the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, is another example of a museum whose building alone is an exhibit. Cuba's colonial-era is the focus here, and the well-appointed museum rooms are dazzling, to say the least.
Old Car Museum - Built for a warehouse in 1891 in neoclassical style, the Office of the Historian decided to exhibit a collection of old cars here. The most attractive pieces are the classics in the history of the automobile, the oldest ones, or a model linked to a certain personality.
The Cuevas de Bellamar will both impress and confound you all at once. Hidden underground, away from the tropical sun, a magical world exists here where mesmerizing crystalline domes and formations come in an astonishing range of shapes and sizes. Mind-boggling stalagmites and stalactites are found within, in conjunction with pictographs from indigenous peoples and a network of mostly clear rivers and streams. Believed to have been formed some 300,000 years ago, the Bellamar Caves have had plenty of time to “decorate”, and you are rewarded with a most spectacular array of galleries. The cave system found here extends over 3 km’s and wasn't discovered until 1861, when legend has it, a slave's quarry tool was lost to a hole in the ground, thus leading to subsequent excavations.
Vinales – located in the Pinar del Rio province this lush valley is famed for its picturesque tobacco farms. The level valley floor is also interrupted by giant humped formations faced with pitted limestone cliffs and capped with greenery. The effect is stunning and a photographers paradise. (BLD)
The city of Cienfuegos, with its strong French influence depicted in its imposing Neoclassic architecture, sits on beautiful Cienfuegos Bay in the Caribbean Sea. This morning we depart by road to Cienfuegos. On arrival we will take a walking tour of the old city before visiting Punta Gorda, the aristocratic quarter of Cienfuegos, and home to the outlandish Moorish-style Palacio de Valle. This palace was built in 1917 and has a stunning view from its tower. We enjoy lunch here before proceeding to Trinidad. On arrival check-in to hotel. (BL)
Trinidad was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 and today this “Museum Town” offers a great Spanish Colonial atmosphere of pastel painted buildings with tiled roof tops, cobbled stone streets, Baroque church towers and wrought iron gates. The classic old American cars and horse drawn carts add to the ambiance of a by-gone era. Today we undertake a tour of the old town of Trinidad with its museums and churches. One of the highlights is a visit to the Borrell Family Mansion. This 1820’s home now houses the Municipal History Museum. There is also a splendid view from the tower overlooking Trinidad. Tonight we enjoy dinner in a typical Cuban home renovated as a local restaurant. (BD)
This morning we will be driven from Trinidad to Havana Airport for our flight to Panama City. On arrival we will be met and taken to our luxury hotel for two nights. (B)
Early this morning we will be transferred to the pier to board our vessel for a visit to the greatest engineering masterpiece of last century—the Panama Canal, considered the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World! This afternoon we take a brief driving tour of the Old City before returning to our hotel. The Spaniards’ efforts to settle colonies in the Atlantic Region of Darien failed due to the unhealthy location and food scarcity. This led to a move to the Pacific Ocean, founding Old Panama City on 15th August 1519. Panama rapidly became an expensive, rich, legendary place, attracting buccaneers who roved along its coasts. The pirate-captain Henry Morgan attacked and ‘sacked’ the old city in 1671. A viewpoint photo stop reveals the old city, new city and view towards the Panama Canal. (BL)
Early this morning we will be transferred to Panama City Airport for our flight to San Jose in Costa Rica. On arrival, we will be met and taken on a scenic drive to Santa Elena, where the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is situated. This afternoon we undertake a guided walk through the cloud forest. We will hear about the fauna and flora of the reserve from our expert naturalist guide and may be lucky enough to view the spectacular and rare Resplendent Quetzal. Later check-in to our hotel for the night. (BL)
This morning we enjoy a canopy walk along suspended bridges through and high above the tree tops of the cloud forest. You can often see monkeys, sloths and a variety of birds, but the most striking feature is the forest itself and the myriad shades of green. We have time to enjoy a cable car ride above the canopy before we depart Arenal and travel across the Cordillera Tillaran to the Arenal Volcano Region. Passing through quaint villages, rolling mountains and dense tropical jungle, we will stop for lunch enroute. We then travel along the shores of Lake Arenal, from where we will be afforded spectacular views of the beautiful and classic cone shaped 1,633 metre high volcano. (BL)
Costa Rica’s main attraction is its countryside, nature and wildlife. With 23% of this tiny country preserved in national parks and wildlife conservation areas, a trip to Costa Rica would not be complete without visiting Cano Nego National Wildlife Refuge. This is Costa Rica’s most important wetland. Today we drive north towards Nicaragua before taking a boat trip through dense, tropical vegetation into this wildlife paradise. An endless variety of birdlife live here along with caimans, turtles, monkeys, sloths, iguanas and lizards. Our local guides will point out all manner of wildlife as we slowly cruise the lake. On return to our Arenal hotel tonight, you the opportunity to visit the hot springs to soak in their natural thermal waters. (BL)
Today we depart for Manuel Antonio. (Please pack a small daybag as your luggage will be transferred by vehicle and meet you later today). We are transferred to Arenal airport for our short and scenic flight to the port town of Quepos. A short drive takes us to our destination of the beach-side village of Manuel Antonio with its beautiful beaches, views and national park. Tonight we will dine high above the Manuel Antonio cliff face, with Pacific Ocean sunset views. (BD)
Early this morning we take a guided walk in the private grounds of our hotel which is home to 3 types of monkey, sloths, iguanas woodpeckers, toucans and a variety of other wildlife. You can then enjoy a leisurely breakfast and the rest of the day is at leisure. A short walk from the hotel is a beautiful and safe swimming beach. You may like to take a snorkeling, diving or fishing trip which can be arranged at the hotel. Late afternoon you can usually watch the troupes of monkeys as they return through the grounds of the hotel to their resting place for the night. (B)
This morning we will be transferred by road to San Jose Airport for our flight to Guatemala City. On arrival in Guatemala City we will be transferred to our nearby hotel for tonight. (B)
Very early this morning we will take our flight to Flores. Today we visit the Tikal National Park. We will see the ‘Q’ Complex, the Great Plaza, squared-off with the pyramids of the Grand Jaguar and the Masks, the Palace of the Nobles and Pyramid IV. This is the highest of the Mayan Pyramids, from the top of which a complete view of Tikal and its surrounding jungle can be enjoyed. We also visit the Lost World Complex, recently discovered structures from the late Pre-Classical period, more recent than Tikal itself. This afternoon is at leisure. (BL)
Early this morning we transfer back to Flores Airport for our flight to Guatemala City. On arrival we drive to Chichicastenango, the centre of the Maya-Quiche Highlands. We will visit the magnificent Church of Santo Tomas with its famous markets offering a variety of handmade textiles, pottery and crafts. As we wander around the square, we may also witness the ancient incense-burning ritual on the steps of the Santo Tomas Church. We will then continue on to Lake Atitlan, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Here we will spend two relaxing nights in the bohemian lakeside village of Panajachel. (BL)
Today is at leisure. (B)
Today we will be met and taken to Antigua, Guatemala’s cultural centre. On arrival we check into our spectacular hotel for two nights. (B)
This beautiful Colonial City was founded in 1543 and then partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Antigua is surrounded by three volcanoes, providing a dramatic backdrop to this quaint town. It overflows with fine churches, beautiful Colonial architecture, ruins and Spanish language schools. This morning we undertake a city tour including the Main Square, the Cathedral Palace of the Captain General, the Arms Museum and the University. This afternoon is at leisure to wander. (B)
This morning we will be transferred to Guatemala Airport for our flight to Mexico City. On arrival in Mexico City we will be transferred to our hotel where we will stay for three nights. Mexico is the third largest country in Latin America and the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world. Its geography ranges from swamp to desert; from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation above the tree line; from thin arid soils to others so rich that three crops a year are grown! Mexico City, founded by the Spaniards in 1521, was built upon the remains of Teotihuacan, the Aztec Capital. (B)
This morning we take a comprehensive city tour, visiting the Main Square with its centuries of tradition, the National Palace with its famous murals and the Metropolitan Cathedral. This afternoon take a tour to Xochimilco – Mexico city’s original waterways and evidence of how this city has now been built over the lake. Tonight we enjoy a typical Mexican dinner and mariachi music. (BLD)
We start the day with a tour of the world famous National Anthropology Museum. Later we drive out of the city to see the spectacular Teotihuacan Pyramids. This vast archaeological site contains some of the world’s most remarkable relics of an ancient civilisation. It is believed to date from around 300 BC and housed 250,000 inhabitants. One of the largest of the pyramids covers almost the same area as the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. On the way back to Mexico City we stop at the Shrine of Guadalupe Virgin, the Patron Saint of the Americas. (BL)
This morning we will be transferred to Mexico City Airport for our short flight to Merida, called the “White City” because of the cleanliness and beauty of its Colonial streets and houses. Many Meridanoes wear immaculate embroidered costumes and speak the language of their Mayan ancestors, as well as Spanish. On arrival in Merida we will undertake a brief city tour before enjoying lunch in this beautiful Colonial setting. We then have time to enjoy the main square which is closed off every Sunday for music and markets. (B)
This morning after a leisurely breakfast we travel to Chichen Itza. On arrival we check-in to our hotel for a two night stay. (BD)
Chichen Itza was the capital of the ancient Mayan Empire. Founded in 432 AD, re-founded in 987 AD and taken over by the Toltecs in the 10th Century, the site is now surrounded by jungle, with iguanas occupying the palaces. Today we will be taken on a very comprehensive tour of the site. We will see the Temple of Tigers and the Ball Court, where the first known ball games were played, as well as the Sacred Cenote, a sacrificial pool, which illustrates the paradox of a civilisation so barbarous and yet so scientifically advanced as to baffle archaeologists. After visiting this amazing site your afternoon is at leisure. (BD)
This morning we will be taken by road to Playa del Carmen for a memorable three-night stay. On arrival, the day is at leisure to just relax or enjoy the atmosphere of this newborn Caribbean Riviera where the sun shines brightly and the unpolluted waters are warm and sparkling clear. Enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening. (BD)
Enjoy two full days at leisure in this idyllic location. A selection of superior restaurants are available to choose from for lunch and dinner at your hotel. (BLD)
This morning we will be transferred to Cancun Airport for our flight to Santiago. On arrival this evening we will connect with our flight back to Australia. (B)
As we recross the dateline we lose a day. Today is inflight. (Meals Inflight)
We will arrive in Australia this morning.
All prices are subject to currency fluctuations, additional airline charges and changes in costs from ground suppliers. We reserve the right to vary any part of the tour at our sole discretion as circumstances may require.
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