Nicaragua is still mostly off the beaten path. Exploring this country will lead you to stunning canyons, smokey volcanoes, wildlife-packed cloud forests, out of time islands, friendly communities living from ecotourism and sustainable agriculture, historical cities, diverse beaches, and homey fincas (farms) to stay.
Panama is world famous for its engineering masterpiece linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. But Panama has a lot more to offer and is probably one of our coup de coeur in Central America! From gorgeous islands with Caribbean vibes, jungles, wildlife-packed cloud forests, exciting white waters, and coffee plantations where the best coffee in the world is grown, join us for our Panamanian adventures ending in the cosmopolitan capital with its rich history, great nightlife, skyscrapers and colonial areas, interesting museums and world-famous Panama Canal. Keep traveling!
El Salvador is the smallest country of Central America: it is a compact version of stunning coast lines, great surf beaches, mountains coloured by wild flowers, cute villages, delicious pupusas, and active volcanos. Going beyond its unsafe reputation, you will discover the hospitality and friendliness of its inhabitants, always ready to engage a conversation, especially to advise you on where to go, that are second to none in Central America. Keep traveling!
From stunning Maya ruins, sometimes completely lost in the rainforest, to traditional villages with vibrant markets, lovely colonial towns, active volacanoes, gorgeous canyons of limestone pools, hot springs, and diverse wildlife, Guatemala seems to have it all. Best of all, Guatemalans are open, curious and kind, happy to share their customs with travellers. Despite its unsafe reputation largely due to a still recent civil war, Guatemala is a fantastic country to explore. Keep travelling!
Costa Rica is world famous for its rich biodiversity and progressive approach to nature conservation. From gorgeous coastlines, jungles, wildlife-packed cloud forests, stunning volcanos to exciting white waters, explore Costa Rica off-the-beaten-path while it is still possible.
Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Panama and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Panama to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, browse through our articles or photos of the day. Keep traveling!
Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Nicaragua and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Nicaragua to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, browse through our articles or photos of the day. Keep traveling!
Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Guatemala and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Guatemala to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, look for the corresponding photo of the day, or browse through our articles. Keep traveling!
Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Costa Rica and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Costa Rica to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, look for the corresponding photo of the day, or browse through our articles. Keep traveling!
The Monteverde butterfly garden is a fantastic place to admire butterflies and learn more about them and other insects. Keep traveling!
Costa Rica was the first country to realize the value of its biodiversity for the planet, and its economy has been converted into a green economy, promoting eco-tourism. As such, the butterfly garden of Monteverde aims at educating the public about the fascinating world of insects before admiring butterflies in four different gardens representing different climates.
Try to take this short quiz and discover some fascinating fact about creepy crawlers! Keep guessing!
The colourful roof of Panama’s Biomuseo designed by the world-famous architect Frank Gehry rises above the horizon of the Amador Causeway. Located along the entrance of the Panama Canal, the causeway used to be owned by the USA and was left barren after Panama regained its territory on 31 December 1999. Frank Gehry’s Panamanian wife took part in the discussions about what to do with the land, and soon crucial decisions were made to build the extravagant Biomuseo. Keep traveling!
The Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama is world-renowned for its stunning beaches, islands, surfing and snorkelling spots. And there is one more reason to go to Bocas: the mountainous forests on the mainland by the harbour town of El Almirante are home to one of the best organic cacao producers in the world! Keep traveling!
About 32°C and a bright sun, walking the streets of Panama City. I would kill for an ice-cream! But I must admit that the traditional Central American ice-creams sold in the streets, consisting of grated ice in a plastic cup topped off with a chemical colorant, or the industrial ones packed with sugar are really not tempting to me. That is precisely when I remember my discussion with Maria from Café Ruiz in Boquete and the fact that she supplies a high-end ice-cream store in Casco Viejo, the charming neighbourhood of the capital… Keep traveling!
After three months on the road through Central America, crossing the bridge of the Americas, we arrive in Panama City, our last stop before flying back home. It is by far the most modern and vibrant capital of the eight countries we have visited during this trip: its modern skyscrapers, architectural landmarks, and well maintained parks show its prosperity, mainly due to the business revolving around the canal. When the sun sets on the Pacific ocean, lights colour the skyline, fancy cars take the streets, and dressed-up locals make their way to Casco Viejo, the old quarter of Panama City where its booming nightlife is about to start.
“Position your nose inside the cup and inhale. Just close your eyes and smell thoroughly.” My hands are wrapped around a warm coffee cup while I am distinguishing the elegant flavours. “Now move your nostril along the ridge of the cup and smell again. What do you smell now?”
I am trying to recognize the different scents: honey, a trace of jasmine, a hint of fruits, an orange aftertaste. This coffee is not just a regular coffee: I am tasting the best coffee of the world! Indeed, the Geisha coffee from the mountains of Boquete, Panama, has been acclaimed by worldwide independent tasters as the best, with its price reaching up to $350 for a pound of its unprocessed green beans.
The young ayudante holds his balance gracefully when the colectivo (the mini-van turned local bus), sets off to the next bus stop on the winding road. The engine makes more noise as the gradient of the road gets steeper and the view on the rolling hills surrounding us more beautiful. Behind the next curve lays the remote mountain village of Santa Fé, about five hours South-West of Panama City.
A street cat tries to climb into a bin. On one of the many doorsteps a dog is sound asleep. Kids run around, playing tag while a few teenagers are listening to some music blasting through their phones. Laundry is drying above the sidewalk and a woman has a loud conversation with her opposite neighbour from her colourful wooden balcony. We are walking the streets of Casco Viejo, Spanish for old quarter, in the historical centre of Panama City.
Visiting Panama City, eating a ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime) is a must for every food-lover. The freshest seafood in town can be found at the Mercado del Marisco, a huge fish market where all sorts of fish can be bought. Compared to the many markets we visited in Central America, this indoor market place is surprisingly hygienic. Mystery solved when we see the plate explaining it is funded by Japan! Sweet memories of the fantastic Tsukiji fish market…
Walking the charming streets of Casco Viejo in Panama City and passing by numerous Panama hat stores, I get tempted to try some. I head into a traditional store and start chatting with the charismatic owner, curious to know where in Panama these hats are made. “In Ecuador!”, he laughs.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute displays the impressive biodiversity of Panama’s coastal ecosystems at Punta Culebra in Panama City. Knowledgable and multilingual guides led us through bunkers built during the First World War, now hosting exhibitions about Panama’s nature. Keep traveling!
Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!
Millions of years ago, when the isthmus of Panama was formed, it connected South and North America together. This lead to animal migrations and a fantastic mix of species that adapted to new environments and fought for survival in the new food chain: the giant ground sloth, which could grow up to 6 meters and weigh 3 tons faced deadly saber tooth tigers. Keep traveling!
The Panama Canal took global trade to the next level, putting San Francisco only 9 000 kilometres from New York City instead of 22 000 via the dangerous Cape Horn. In a global economy, the canal is also used to link Asia to Europe: if you are sitting in Europe or the east coast of the USA eating a banana from Peru reading this article, or using a cell phone or laptop made in Asia, chances are they went through the Panama Canal. However, the construction of this engineering masterpiece came at a high price. Keep traveling
The beauty of the archipelago of Bocas del Toro made quite an impression on Christopher Columbus who discovered it in 1502: Columbus island (isla Colon), Christopher island (isla Cristobal), or the admiral’s bay (bahía del Almirante) are some of the names one can see on its map. Later, the islands developed into ship supply and repair bases, as indicated by their names: isla Bastimentos translates as supplies and isla Carenero as ship careening. Isla Colon is the largest island of the archipelago and hosts the local capital of Bocas del Toro. Founded in 1826, it became the third most important city in Panama until the 1920s. The United Fruit Company, the biggest producer of bananas that is known today as Keep traveling!
The small town of Santa Elena has expanded massively since the Monteverde Cloud Forest gained popularity, and Costa Rica became the destination for biodiversity. Hesitating between exploring the very touristy Monteverde Cloud Forest, or the off the beaten path Keep traveling!
One of Central America’s most picturesque hikes runs between the mountain town of Boquete and the lesser known Cerro Punta in Pamana. Both lay in different valleys putting them a good three-hour bus ride away from each other. They are also linked by the famous 9-kilometre Quetzal trail, squeezed between two dead end roads, for a total of about 23 kilometres. Given the elevation gain, Keep traveling!
He is insisting, really insisting on me wearing my life jacket. It is just a short crossing, and with a lake filled with aggressive bull sharks, I think it doesn’t matter whether you drown or float. But I gently put the bright red jacket around my neck while one of the crew members of this packed ferry is watching me closely. Keep traveling!
Since the archipelago of Bocas del Toro was discovered in 1502 by Christopher Columbus, the island of Bastimentos has served as a base for vessels; hence its name that literally translates as “supplies”. Its fertile soil and tropical climate are ideal for a wide variety of plants to grow plentifully as we are about to discover, setting off for a jungle and beach hike with our specialized guides. Keep traveling!
If you have been planning your trip through Central America with the best-selling Lonely Planet guide, this waterfall may look very familiar. Indeed, Keep traveling!
The Sarapiqui River is powerful and brownish, as it has been raining non-stop for the past 24 hours. Seated in a kayak, resting on the river bank, I observe how David flips himself over with his kayak in the current. The short red embarkation is now floating downstream, upside down. Within a few seconds though, David appears from underneath the water, with a huge smile. “So this is how we do the underwater exit”, he says. “Your turn now!” Keep traveling!
I am having a déja-vu: a 4:45AM alarm clock to catch an early bus en route for our next adventure. The now familiar chicken bus, the bumpy ride on the unpaved road, the farm workers getting on and off… It reminds me a lot of Carmelita, Guatemala. Except that instead of blasting music, the radio screams out the local news: challenges faced by women working in tobacco factories letting their kids alone for the day, a call for blood donations, free medical consultations on the main square of Estelí,… We are in the north east of Nicaragua, where the left Sandinista movement has been the strongest and still prevails. Keep traveling!
Chiriquí Viejo river, Panama, 1991
I finish pumping up the raft before boarding it with a small team of daredevils. I check the safety gear one more time. We are about to start the first white water rafting descent of the Chiriquí Viejo River in Panama. No one has ever done so. Keep traveling!
“Where are they?” I think concerned while guarding the bags containing our camera gear. A few guys with machetes keep an eye on me from a distance, so I cannot leave the spot. The half of best regards from far has disappeared in a low, narrow and dark tunnel filled with water, dug into the rocks. Its entrance is barely visible as it is hidden behind a curtain of water. It has been almost 30 minutes and Keep traveling!
The whistle from the ayudante (the helper of the bus driver) signals that the overcrowded bus must stop. We get off quickly, and not even coming to a complete halt, the bus drives off. A few bright red tuk-tuks, which surround us instantly, indicate in which direction to go. “Up to the park entrance, very far, cheap price, want a ride?” We are at the foot of the Mombacho volcano in Nicaragua, and we don’t want a ride. Instead, we have decided to conquer the 1344 metres of this dormant volcano, from bottom to top with our own little legs! Keep traveling!
Nicaragua is crossed by a long volcanic chain running from north to south, with volcanoes such as Telica, Masaya, Mombacho, Concepcion, Maderas… many of which still active. Close to Granada, a 6-kilometer-diameter and 100-meter deep crater is filled by fresh water: this is the stunning Laguna de Apoyo, and most likely one of the most enjoyable swims in the country! keep traveling!
San Juan de Oriente, close to the Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua seems like a small sleepy village. Turning a street corner by the church, we see a display of pots by a house prompting us to give it a closer look. Keep traveling!
The sun burns my exposed skin while I am making my way among fumeroles. A slight smell of sulphur fills the hot air as we walk on a dusty trail. The backpack, stuffed with a tent, a few litres of water and some more gear to spend the night in the wild, presses on my shoulder. We are on our way to the top of the active Telica volcano in Nicaragua, in a quest to observe its massive crater. Keep traveling!
The delicate brown little bird with its bright yellow beak dances elegantly on its high grey legs on a large waterlily leaf. It is a challenge to capture it from my unstable 1-person kayak that rolls violently on the waves caused by a lancha (a small passenger motor boat) passing by. I am kayaking around Las Isletas de Granada, (the islets of Granada), in Nicaragua. According to the legend, there would be 365 islands scattered around the peninsula, one for each day of the year… Quite a lot to explore!
“Pupusas are the specialty of El Salvador! We eat pupusas all day. There is even the National Pupusa Day every November where the biggest pupusa was cooked reaching a diameter of 4.5 meters! And if you ever fly from San Salvador, you will see that Salvadorans buy pupusas before the flight to bring them abroad!” With this enthusiastic answer of our Salvadoran friend to our local specialty question, we had to try as many pupusas as possible while traveling through El Salvador! Keep tasting!
It is night time and we are having sangria outside, in the street, with our latest iPhones on the table and the blasting music of all surrounding bars, while pedestrians seem to own the pavement, bar hopping, laughing, talking, singing at the popular karaoke’s, or buying pupusas at the many food stalls. We are experiencing El Salvador by night, one of the most unsafe countries of Central America. Keep traveling!
Passing a few women washing their clothes in the river and drying them on the warm volcanic boulders on this sunny Sunday morning, we are entering the Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua, a beautiful playground of soft boulders, steep cliffs, clear pools and wild rapids for a 6-hour self-guided canyoning adventure. Keep traveling!
Comfortably seated in a cosy room, I am overlooking the Esteli River running through the sunbathed valley circled by green mountains, in what used to be the dodgy area of Estelí, Nicaragua. Contemplating my surroundings, I enjoy looking at the graffiti art hanging on the walls: the Manhattan bridge, the shadow of a motorbiker, rats dressed up in suits… A sweet aftertaste fills my mouth. Licking my lips, I prolong that delicious taste that makes me think I am enjoying a dessert. Keep traveling!
A surreal scene of black cat on the roof of a house with windows shaped as coffee beans attracts my attention. Overlooking it in the garden, a pink owl is resting in a tree. Cherry blossoms flower and villagers are cheerfully at work, from drying coffee beans, to washing clothes in the river. The bright yellow sky shines fiercely above the cute houses. A street dog is sound asleep…. Keep traveling!