Central America is a less popular holiday destination in South Asia. Somehow, these countries are still seen as bunch of unstable towns and cities. Unable to completely recover from colonial rule.
However, my perception was totally changed When I, a Pakistani woman, traveled through Central America. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering treasure on this trip of a lifetime!
I spent three enchanting weeks travelling around the land of Mayans, active Volcanoes, exotic wildlife, stunning artisans and nature, and I’m ready to go back for more!
Costa Rica – Nature Trails Heaven
My first port of entry was Costa Rica. I experienced the easiest and quickest entry at immigration on the basis of a valid US Visa. It took me less then two minutes at the counter!
If you didn’t know, Costa Rica is a cute little happy place, tucked between Nicaragua and Panama. The 2019 Gallup World Poll, declared it as one of the happiest countries of the world.
The streets, markets and people at downtown San Jose and Heredia – reflect what a fun-filled culture this country has. The Costa Rican experience is a delight for anyone who cherishes unspoiled nature. From steaming volcanoes to dense jungles.It’s home to some spectacular birds and many species of fauna and flora.
I found myself gasping at the dramatic skies and scenic country side, pausing to take in the stunning waterfalls. Soaking it all…
38% of Costa Rica consists of protected natural reserves. All of this made it an exciting destination for nature lovers like me. The country is also very tourist-friendly, safe, clean and affordable. So people, while your US visas are still valid (and you happen to be in USA) do plan a trip to Costa Rica. It’s an unbeatable destination.
Tip: Hit the streets and embark on nature treks.
Honduras – The Athens of Central America
While still in Costa Rica, I applied for the Honduras and Guatemala Visa. I received both Visas promptly. Within 3 days I was boarding a short flight to Teguchigalpa, capital of Honduras.
My Honduran trip started with endless caution reminders from friends and family since it’s supposed to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Nevertheless, I am glad I came here. I read somewhere that Honduras was once named the Athens of Central America.
I was based in at Comaguya which is a relatively safe place. That one week spent exploring resulted in precious memories. I loved photographing around 1537 built, colonial city center. Home to old houses painted in contrasting colours.
I was awe struck as I watched the busy artisans creating traditional crafts. The highlight of my week was a day at the stunning Copan Ruinas. Tracing and understanding the ancient Mayan civilization that disappeared mysteriously.
Copan is popular for its Temple of Hieroglyphic Stairs. I was stunned counting and photographing those 63 stairs that are constructed in a pyramid and embellished with 2000 Glyphs telling the Mayan history!
Tip: Enjoy the views and watch life go by whilst sitting in mini cafés and bars. Take a day trip to La Paz or go on a nature trail – boating amidst the lilly pads and cranes of Yojoa lake.
Guatemala – The Crowning Jewel of Central America
My next stop was Guatemala. I was hosted in a 300 hundreds year old building located at the heart of Antigua just a couple of blocks away from the famous Santa Catalina Arch. This first ever University of Antigua is a Museum of Pharmacy now. I felt privileged to be hosted in one of the few rooms here that are for visiting University guests .
The beautiful colonial city of Antigua is one of Guatemala’s crowning jewels. The one week in town won my heart. Many well-preserved colonial artifacts and regal structures alongside charming ruins in park-like settings, presented a wonderful photography opportunity.
I never expected this country to be so vibrant and pulsating with activities. The food tasted amazingly fresh. The people were also polite. Ready to help despite the fact that most don’t speak English. Guatemala is surely under-rated with travelers . A trip to Antigua is must in a life time.
I like to stay away from capital cities with big high rises and branded malls. I prefer to explore off the beaten track and be with the natives. I loved interacting with villagers. I visited their homes, schools & local markets as often as I could.
One cannot go to Guatemala and not explore the Mayan Ruins! I explored Iximche, a two hour drive through picturesque vegetable fields. Iximche is full of ancient grandeur. Boasting murals, pyramids and temples. This ruin is interesting even today, as it serves as a site for Mayan rituals and ceremonies.
Tip: Spend a day at Lake Atitlan and the little villages situated by the bank. Be enchanted by the textile weaving cottage industries. All run by women.
Thus, my three week trip finally came to an end. The extensive expedition to the three amazing Central American countries was like no other. I am sure I will be exploring others from this continent in future.
Farah Kamal holds a Masters in Language and Literacy Education from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
She is presently working as Executive Director, iEARN Pakistan, Founder and General Secretary of Society for Intl. Education.
Farah loves travelling, photography, painting, health and nutrition. She juggles many creative talents as a writer, blogger and a TV Chef.
She has visited an astounding number of countries – over 54. With another 12 new countries scheduled to travel to in 2019.
She learns life lessons from movies: “Crying is probably the last thing I ever did watching a movie”. Says Farah.
As a personal goal, she wants to stay fitter this year.
Her motto in life is: “Live for others and make it happen for them. Explore the whole world before I die.”