You are currently viewing 27 photos of our trip to Central America in January

Being just about anywhere other than Canada is a real breath of fresh air right now, so we decided to spend a few weeks in Central America in January for a work retreat. And to visit a bit of course. And most importantly, to add to our many pandemic travel experiences to better help you.

I left for 3 weeks in total. I went to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Miami. Flytrippers’ other co-founder Kevin went to Mexico afterward and he’s not coming back here, lucky him.

I’ll be doing separate articles soon to give more info on all aspects of the trip:

  • A simple summary of how to plan a pandemic trip (it’s really not that complicated!)
  • The logistics of this trip (planning, booking it on the same day we left, etc.)
  • The COVID-19 tests for $40 here in Canada
  • The even cheaper tests to come back to Canada
    • A teaser on how to find them in any country, it’s awfully easy (contrary to the myth that comes from who knows where)
    • An update on free tests in the USA (spoiler alert: it’s still super easy!)
  • The tests on arrival in Canada (which I was able to avoid with a few pro tips)
  • Detailed information on each destination
  • Videos and many more pictures

(By the way, you can take a few seconds to answer the one-question survey to tell us what topic interests you the most, and of course, subscribe to our free newsletter if you haven’t already done so to receive all our content.)

But to start, here are a few photos from the trip (you’ve already seen all this if you follow me on Instagram, but for everyone else, I wanted to give you a first taste of the trip and have something different instead of always having articles about the damn travel rules imposed by governments).

 

1. Volcanoes in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

My favorite part of the trip. It is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It’s true that it’s impressive, but I don’t think I’ve seen enough lakes to say it’s one of the most beautiful in the world though.

View of the lake from a great spot in San Marcos (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

2. Village of San Pedro, Guatemala

The landscapes are beautiful with the 3 volcanoes of course, but the pretty villages all around Lake Atitlán are very beautiful too. San Pedro is nice, but San Marcos has a really unique vibe.

San Pedro seen from the boat (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

3. Sunset at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

One last picture of Lake Atitlán, it’s such a beautiful place. Both from the shore (like here in Panajachel) and from the boats that take you from one village to another.

Me enjoying the sunset in Panajachel (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

4. City of Antigua, Guatemala

By far the most popular destination in the country, the historic colonial city of Antigua is indeed very pretty.

The famous cross that overlooks Antigua (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

5. Arch of Antigua, Guatemala

The most well-known landmark of the city is the famous arch, but those who are architecture fans like me will love the whole city.

Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

6. Terrace in Antigua, Guatemala

Well, another picture of a volcano, I know… but it’s really a beautiful and exotic view.

On the Café Sky’s terrace in Antigua (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

7. Historical center of Guatemala City, Guatemala

Most travelers don’t even pass through the capital (and the most populous city in all of Central America) but we still enjoyed discovering the city where the most Guatemalans live.

Cathedral of Guatemala City (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

8. Modern neighborhood in Guatemala City, Guatemala

I will have to talk about the “safety” aspect another time, but in short, you still have to take more precautions in this part of the world than almost anywhere else… but even in the capital, several neighborhoods are very safe.

View of Zona 10 in Guatemala City (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

8. Nice hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala

I won’t give too many details about booking the trip thanks to our Aeroplan points in this article (it’s quite a story though: we booked the tickets at 11:45 AM to fly out of Montreal at 5:55 PM… and I live 2 hours from the airport).

But we also got 15 free nights in nice Marriott hotels, including 5 at the very nice Courtyard Guatemala City.

One side of the lobby at the Courtyard Guatemala City (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

9. “Chicken bus” in Guatemala

It’s an obligatory rite of passage in this country (and everywhere, shared transportation is always by far the most affordable option to get around of course).

And we really enjoyed our few trips in “chicken buses”, even if these colorful ancient school buses are not super comfortable.

One of the many “chicken buses” we came across (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

10. Rural landscape in Guatemala

I like to see the less-visited parts of the country, even if it’s just in passing. It gives you a better idea of what life is like there.

Typical Guatemalan village (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

11. Tuk-tuks in Guatemala

I didn’t know that tuk-tuks were so prevalent in this part of the world, but I have to say that I was never personally attracted to Central America so this was my first trip there, despite having been to 60+ countries.

A few of the many tuk-tuks in Panajachel (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

12. Hostel in Panajachel, Guatemala

We didn’t go hiking to see the exotic wildlife, but our hostel in Panajachel at Lake Atitlán (Hospedaje El Viajero) had its own bird on site.

Accommodations are not as affordable as in other destinations on the list of the most affordable countries to travel to, but our nights that we had to pay in cash (where there was no Marriott hotel) were still not very expensive ($16/night each for a private room in this one for example).

Hospedaje El Viajero had its own bird (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

13. Unique airport lounge in Guatemala

We’re going to have a very comprehensive guide on how to access airport lounges for free soon, because it’s really awesome.

But the one at Guatemala City Airport (GUA) was very unique as well: It was actually a lounge with a local Guatemalan rum theme.

Casa del Ron Lounge (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

14. Aerial view of El Salvador

On the way to neighboring El Salvador (it’s so close that it would have been almost faster by car than by plane, honestly), we saw some really nice green landscapes.

Approaching the San Salvador airport (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

15. Historical center of San Salvador, El Salvador

We settled in the capital, San Salvador. Without being the most attractive city, it was still pleasant to discover the historical center.

Historical center of San Salvador (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

16. Lively streets of San Salvador, El Salvador

It was really special, with streets and streets full of various kiosks in every direction. It felt like being in a big Asian market almost.

Open-air market in San Salvador (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

17. Roadtrip in El Salvador

I’ve gotten rental cars on 4 continents and in countless countries and I’ve never had so much trouble getting one as I did in El Salvador.

But we persevered and were able to explore the small country a little bit, with the freedom that only a car offers.

On the road in El Salvador (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

18. Signs on the coast, El Salvador

El Salvador made the news recently by being the first country in the world to make bitcoin legal tender and so this cryptocurrency is accepted absolutely everywhere (but mostly for the locals).

Note the «DontSkipElSalvador» hashtag that comes from the fact that many travelers who passed through all of Central America would skip El Salvador entirely, especially due to the violent past (it has changed a lot). Otherwise, the country also wants to be known for surfing; the coast even proudly uses the “Surf City” nickname.

Surf, Bitcoin, and “don’t skip El Salvador” signs in El Tunco (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

19. Beach in El Tunco, El Salvador

Note that El Salvador is one of the very few countries in the world with NO travel restrictions related to COVID-19 (as now recommended by the experts at the WHO, the World Health Organization).

No vaccination required, no test required, no quarantine required, no form required… nothing at all! For everyone, without any discrimination!

Sunset in El Tunco (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

20. Beach in El Zonte, El Salvador

The villages along the coast are quite small and fortunately still seem to be quite safe from mass tourism and vacationers who love artificial all-inclusive resorts!

El Tunco and El Zonte seem to be the most popular places near the capital and El Zonte definitely seemed to be the quieter of the two.

Beach at El Zonte (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

21. View of the Pacific Ocean, El Salvador

Coastal cliffs are always so stunning. El Salvador has beautiful black sand beaches that are often the norm in volcanic areas.

By the way, speaking of the effects of volcanic activity, during our stay our hotel vibrated very strongly during an earthquake that hit 4.9 on the Richter scale, by far the strongest I have ever experienced. It’s a pretty special feeling.

A viewpoint on the coastal road (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

22. Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

In the west of the country, the Ruta de las Flores (the “road of flowers” as you probably deduced) is a short itinerary that takes you through some pretty villages.

They have colonial buildings, murals, coffee plantations, waterfalls, and supposedly quite a few flowers (though I didn’t find it as flowery as I would have expected from the name).

Village on the Ruta de las Flores (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

23. Coatepeque Lake, El Salvador

Not nearly as beautiful as Lake Atitlán, but still very nice (we weren’t able to make it to Lake Ilopango which is apparently pretty too).

Enjoying a meal on the waterfront was very pleasant but you have to know that the lake is really not very developed, so there aren’t any villages like there are around Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

View over the Coatepeque Lakje (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

24. Random landscape in El Salvador

Roadtrips are obviously more expensive (unless there are like 4 of you… and even then) but it’s always nice to be able to take the time to admire landscapes that you can’t see otherwise.

Viewpoint in the west of El Salvador (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

25. Another nice hotel, El Salvador

We spent the majority of our work retreat in the comfort of the Courtyard San Salvador, which without being luxurious, was a very good use of Marriott points.

Another tip for those who travel more: Thanks to my Marriott Titanium Elite status (obtained with the shortcut to Elite status that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card), we also had US$20 in free meals every day.

Facade of the Courtyard San Salvador (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

26. Hotel gym in El Salvador

I’m really not the “gym selfie” type on social media (my first ever)… but I couldn’t resist and I had to thank the governments of *literally every place in the world except Québec* for not closing the gyms “fOr oUr hEaLtH” when factually, being overweight is one of the most serious risk factors for COVID-19…🤡

To return to the subject of travel, one of the great advantages of chain hotels (and therefore a great advantage of hotel points) is having access to a very complete and well-equipped gym while traveling.

We were able to take advantage of the well-equipped gyms (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

27. Aerial view of South Florida

Miami is probably the most pleasant place in the world to be during the pandemic, at least for some people (obviously not for those who want to stay locked inside until 2025, and even not for those who still want to mask up indoors actually; it’s good-to-know information before deciding to go there).

Besides, why pay a lot of money for a PCR test in El Salvador when they are free in the USA and I can spend some more time in a city I love?

Approaching the Miami airport (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

Bonus: Stroll in Miami and Miami Beach, Florida

We often add bonuses to our posts since we love giving you more for your money.

I’m going to talk about this later, about how my week in Miami in December changed me… for those who are interested of course.

The time spent there in January just reconfirmed it for me, even if it was a lot shorter.

Sunset on Ocean Drive (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

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Summary

This is the first look at our January trip to Central America, stay tuned for more content to help you travel during the pandemic (wherever you want to go) or to discover these specific destinations.

What would you like to know about this trip? Tell us in the comments below.

 

See the deals we spot: Cheap flights

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips

Discover free travel: Travel rewards

 

Featured image: Lake Atitlán (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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