It’s always interesting to learn what new discoveries specialists in travel to Latin America have made on recent journeys. It’s even better to find these discoveries in new client-pleasing vacations. We asked an adventurous quartet of U.S. tour operators the following: “What is the one corner of Latin America that you think might be the next new-frontier/new-attraction for North American travelers?” According to:
Guatemala, centerpiece of the World of the Maya, is not a new destination. In fact, it’s an ancient place. However, Daniel Taramona, president of Tara Tours, has found several now reasons to guide clients to spending a lot more time in and around Flores, gateway to Tikal, Seibal, Uaxactun, Yaxha and Topoxte.
“Guatemala is somehow known,” says Taramona, “but I think this super-historic corner is really totally unexplored. And rather suddenly, everything’s now up to date and visitor-friendly. The parks and sites are very well signed and have good trails, and archaeologists continue to restore sites and make new discoveries all over the Tikal National Park (222 sq. miles). There is good access by frequent flight service to Flores from Guatemala City, as well as international flights into Flores from neighboring countries. Particularly exciting are the new properties in and around Flores. Besides the Camino Real Tikal, you now have Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel, Bolontiku Boutique Hotel, and La Lancha Lodge.”
Tara Tours offers Sunday departures on its 7-night Mayan Archaeological Journey, which starts with four nights based outside Flores with daily excursions to Tikal, Yaxha and Seibal. There’s an overland excursion to the Rio Dulce and a cruise to Livingston, with an overnight in Puerto Barrios. Clients also visit ancient Quirigua before crossing into Honduras for two nights in Copan Ruinas, highlighted by a tour of temples and palaces of Copan. The $1,690 pp dbl cost includes hotels and air from Miami.
Wild Planet Adventures
Panama’s Darien Gap is Josh Cohen’s destination discovery, a pick that perhaps needs a locator. According to the director of Wild Planet Adventures, The Pan-American Highway reaches its end in Central America in Yaviz, cultural center of the Darien. From there on to the edge of South America it’s known as the Darien Gap, whose habitats include sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangrove swamps, and lowland and upland tropical forests. Protected in large part by the Darien National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Gap is inhabited by Indian tribes, mammal species (including tapir, anteater, jaguar and peccary), and more than 530 species of birds. Here in this most bio-diverse region of Central America is where you will find the new Canopy Camp Darien, whose facilities Cohen describes as comfortable, African safari-style tents, with private bathrooms, excellent meals and high-quality naturalist guides. In January 2017, the camp will become part of Wild Planet’s 9-night Panama Ultimate Wildlife EcoTour, whose present itinerary includes hiking and wildlife viewing in four national parks and preserves, white-water rafting on the Chiriqui Viejo River, snorkeling at the Bocas del Toro’s barrier reef, and canopy touring in Soberania National Park.
Chapada Diamantina, an inland region filled with epic tabletop mountains, hidden grottoes, romantic waterfalls and remote villages lost in time, is the choice of Gretchen Traut, South America program director for Wildland Adventures. “This is a corner of South America that very few North Americans have heard of,” says Traut, “and it is the adventure activity area in Brazil, including trekking (moderate) along the Pati Valley Trail in Chapada Diamantina, swimming in caves, a cooking class in Salvador, exploring Rio and beach time.” Wildland offers Chapada Diamantina in its 11-night Mountains, Caves and Coast: Brazil Trekking Adventure, priced from $2,900 pp dbl.
Natural Habitat Adventures
A new horizon for Natural Habitat Adventures is Nicaragua. “It is not so much as frontier a place as French Guiana,” says the company spokesperson Wendy Redal, “but it is a destination that is often compared to what Costa Rica was 50 years ago, and we include it on our combo Costa Rica/Nicaragua Tropical Discovery trip.” This 10-night itinerary highlights a mosaic of habitats that shelter a vivid diversity of wildlife and culture, visiting first the Savegre Nature Reserve and the Sarapiqui region in Costa Rica, before flying by charter flight directly from Costa Rica to Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, then boating over to colonial Granada, and spending time exploring the Masaya Volcano National Park. Departure is scheduled for Nov. 19 this year, and next year departures are on Jan. 14, Feb. 18 and March 18. The all-inclusive $5,495 pp dbl price includes the services of a NHA naturalist guide and local charter air.