Central America is a fun place for adventurers and nature lovers. Everyone wants to visit its forests, volcanoes, rivers, lakes, historical sites, and colonial cities. However, even after taking the time to explore each of its seven countries most travelers don’t get the chance to learn about their history. Just like any other place in the world each of the countries also has things that make them unique.
01 of 07
- The first civilization in Belize appeared around1500 B.C., the Maya.
- The first European contact with Belize occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast.
- In 1638, the first European settlement was established by England.
- In 1840, Belize became a "Colony of British Honduras".
- This time was also marked by piracy.
- In the early 19th century, the Garifuna, descendants of Carib peoples of the Lesser Antilles and of Africans who had escaped from slavery, arrived at the settlement.
- In 1862, it became a crown colony.
- For one hundred years after that, Belize was a representative government of England but in January 1964, full self-government with a ministerial system was granted.
- In 1973, the region's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize.
- In 1981, full independence was achieved.
- The islands in Belize are called Cayes (pronounced “keys”) and total around 450.
- Belize only has one international airport.
- The best time to travel to Belize is from October to late April.
- Belize has around 900 Mayan sites.
- Belize has a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The Queen of England is also the Queen of Belize.
- Belize has a tropical climate with two seasons: wet and dry.
- Half of Belize is covered by dense rainforest, and 80% of its rainforest remains under government protection, much of it unexplored.
- Belize has the only Jaguar reserve in the world - Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary.
- Over 540 species of birds have been recorded in Belize.
- You will not find any US fast food chains in Belize like McDonald's and Burger King.
02 of 07
- In 1502, during his fourth trip, Christopher Columbus landed in Costa Rica.
- In 1524 it was eventually placed under the provincial administration in Guatemala.
- It would be almost 50 years before the Spanish successfully colonized Costa Rica.
- Costa Rica achieved independence in 1821 but was absorbed for two years by Agustín de Iturbide in his Mexican empire.
- It finally became a republic in 1848.
- In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Costa Rica annexed Guanacaste Province from Nicaragua.
- Costa Rica has no standing army. It was abolished in 1949.
- In 2006, Óscar Arias Sánchez was elected president. He had served as president once before (1986–1990) and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
- Costa Rica’s president, Luis Guillermo Solís, won the 2014 election with over 77% of the vote.
- The largest margin ever recorded for a free election in Costa Rica.
- Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
- Costa Rica has 800 miles of coasts some in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
- It only takes up .03% of the planet’s surface but holds 5% of its biodiversity!
- 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies, 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects call it home.
- Over 25% of its territory is protected national parks and reserves.
- Costa Rica has a 95% literacy rate partly due to the classes that are taught through the radio.
- “Pura Vida” is the national saying, which means “pure life”. It is used as a greeting.
- Most of the population on the Caribbean side coast descended from African cultures.
- Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America.
- Poás Volcano has the second widest crater in the world, and Arenal is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world.
03 of 07
- The Spaniards discovered the region in the early 1500s.
- Britain occupied the Mosquito Coast during the 1820s and 1830s.
- Nicaragua got its independence in 1838.
- A revolution in 1893, made José Santos Zelaya dictator for 16 years.
- The Bryan-Chamorro Treaty of 1916 (terminated in 1970) gave the U.S. an option on a canal route through Nicaragua and naval bases.
- Nicaragua's baseball team took 2nd in the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta.
- It had the first elected woman president of all Central America. She served from 1991 - 1997.
- For the past several decades, Nicaraguans have endured unrest, dictatorship, and two civil wars.
- In August 1987 Nicaragua signed the Arias peace plan for Central America. Nicaragua promised guarantees of democratic rights and a reduction of hostilities.
- In 2013, Nicaragua was ranked as the top 3 of "The 46 places to go in 2013".
- The country’s official language is Spanish, but it also recognizes English, Miskito, Rama, Sumo, Miskito Coastal Creole, Garifuna and Rama Cay Creole as spoken languages.
- Over 75% of the country’s people live on less than $2 per day.
- The oldest city in Central America is located here. It is called Ruins of Leon Viejo and is over 1500 years old.
- Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America and is home to fresh-water sharks.
- There is a Dual Volcano in Nicaragua this is the only volcano in the world that is fed by two different magma flows.
- The Caribbean coast of the country was once ruled by Great Britain.
- Nicaraguan food is a mixture of Creole and Caribbean food.
- Baseball and Soccer are the country’s favorite sports and are played everywhere.
- There are no street names or numbering. An address is given by whatever major landmarks they live near.
- Nicaragua is the birthplace of Rubén Dario one of the 20th century's most notable poets.
04 of 07
- The first records of inhabitants of Guatemala are from 18,000 B.C.
- Guatemala was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524.
- Antigua Guatemala, the third capital of the country, was destroyed by earthquakes in 1773.
- It became a republic in 1839 after the United Provinces of Central America collapsed.
- There was a revolution in 1944 that introduced social-democratic reforms, including setting up a social security system and redistributing land to landless peasants.
- Another earthquake destroyed Guatemala City in 1917–18 and another one in 1976.
- There was a terrible civil war between 1960 and 1996 where thousands of people died, mainly from indigenous towns.
- 1996 - Alvaro Arzu (president at the time) signs a peace agreement with rebels, ending 36 years of war.
- Guatemala - along with Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras sign a free-trade agreement with the US in 2003.
- On November 7, 2012, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake rocks Guatemala. At least 48 people were killed.
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
- Its name comes from ‘Goathemala’, which means ‘land of the trees’ in the Maya-Toltec language.
- There are about 200 Mayan sites in Guatemala.
- Among those the most popular ones are Tikal, and El Mirador is home to one of the largest pyramids from the old world.
- Guatemalan cuisine is based around corn, chilis, beans, and meat.
- Quetzaltenango and the Guatemalan currency “quetzal” are named for the beautiful endangered tropical bird.
- Ancient Mayans used Quetzal’s tail feathers as currency.
- Chocolate was first used by the Ancient Mayans that used to live in Guatemala. It was also used as currency.
- There’s a legend that Mayan babies don’t cry, that they’re all born warriors.
- Mayans came up with the mathematical concept of zero.
- Tajumulco Volcano is the highest peak in Guatemala and Central America with an altitude of 4,220 meters (13,845 feet).
05 of 07
- Panama was first explored by a European explorer named Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1501.
- Panama became the Spanish Vice-royalty of New Andalucia (later New Granada) in 1519.
- Panama was a colony of Spain up to 1821.
- It joined the Republic of Gran Colombia the same year it got its independence from Spain.
- The Republic of Gran Colombia was dissolved in 1830.
- Between 1850 and 1900 Panama had 40 administrations, 50 riots, 5 attempted secessions, and 13 U.S. interventions.
- Panama achieved independence on November 3rd, 1903 with assistance from the US.
- The treaty to construct the Panama Canal was signed on November 18th, 1903.
- The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
- The cargo ship Ancon was the first vessel to transit the Canal on August 15, 1914.
- It is the only place in the world where you can see the sunrise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.
- At its narrowest, only 80 kilometers separate the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean.
- Panama has the most diversified wildlife of all the countries in Central America.
- The US Dollar is the official currency but the national currency is called Balboa.
- It has the lowest population in Central America.
- Elevation runs from 0 m at the Pacific Ocean to 3,475 m on top of Volcan de Chiriqui.
- It has 5,637 kilometers of coastline and more than 1,518 islands.
- Baseball is the most popular sport in the country. Boxing and soccer are also among the favorites.
- The canal generates one-third of Panama’s entire economy.
- The Panama Hat is really made in Ecuador.
06 of 07
- In 1525, Pedro de Alvarado, who worked for of Hernán Cortés, conquered El Salvador.
- El Salvador declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821, just as all of the other countries of Central America.
- It then became part of the Federation of Central American states until that union dissolved in 1838.
- El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions.
- The country experienced a bloody civil war from 1979 to 1992.
- Some estimate 80,000 perished during the war.
- In the postwar period, El Salvador began to have problems with high crime "Maras" or gangs, mainly due to the deportation of Salvadorans living in the United States illegally.
- In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated the country, leaving 200 dead and over 30,000 homeless.
- In 2001, over 12,000 people were killed from an earthquake and many more were left homeless.
- In March 2012, the government in El Salvador reported a 40% drop in crime. A gang truce was the reason cited for the drastic drop.
- I found it to be a place with super friendly, kind, non-violent people. And most importantly the country is truly a safe place to visit. Travelers are not the gang’s targets.
- El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, yet one of the largest commercial centers.
- El Salvador’s currency is the US dollar.
- Salvadorians give themselves a special name. They call themselves Guanacos.
- It is one of the most popular surfing destinations in the world hosting tons of surf competitions yearly.
- Pupusas are El Salvador’s most traditional food. They are practically considered a national icon.
- El Salvador went to war with Honduras after a soccer match; which was later known as the “Soccer War”.
- The country has five national parks: El Imposible, Cerro Verde, El Boqueron, Conchagua and Montecristo.
- There is one UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country: Joya de Ceren. This site was buried in ashes by a volcanic eruption and it is considered the “Pompeii of the Americas.”
- About half of all Salvadorans live in the countryside.
07 of 07
- Christopher Columbus explored the country in 1502.
- Honduras was organized as a province of the "Kingdom of Guatemala".
- The capital was fixed, first at Trujillo on the Atlantic coast, and later at Comayagua, and finally at Tegucigalpa.
- Political unrest rocked Honduras in the early 1900s
- Francisco Morazan, President of the Federal Republic of Central America from 1830 to 1839, was born the 3rd of October in Tegucigalpa. He is the most important national hero of Honduras for attempting to preserve the 'Union' of the Central American Countries.
- In 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras after Honduran landowners deported several thousand Salvadorans.
- After a decade of military rule, parliamentary democracy returned with the election of Roberto Suazo Córdova as president in 1982.
- In Oct. 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed some 13,000 Hondurans, left 2 million homeless, and caused more than $5 billion in damage.
- On June 28th, 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a military coup. He faced widespread criticism for attempting to extend presidential term limits.
- On Feb. 14, 2012, over 300 people were killed when a fire broke out at a prison in Comayagua.
- Hondurans are also called “Catrachos” because of general Florence Xatruch, who fought in Nicaragua against the American filibuster William Walker.
- Honduras is also known as “Banana Republic”.
- Christopher Columbus is said to have said after leaving behind a storm: “Thank God we’ve left these Depths.” Honduras is the Spanish word for depths.
- The Honduran currency is the Lempira, and it is named after an Indian chief that fought to the death against the Spanish conquerors.
- Trujillo is believed to be the place where the first Mass was celebrated in the Americas.
- Platano Forest was nominated as one of the new seven new wonders of the world.
- There is a town called Yoro where you can actually see fish fall from the sky. It is some kind of fish rain.
- Honduras is the second country in the world with more coral reefs after Australia.
- The Maya were the pre- Colombian culture that inhabited Honduras but by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived their main cities had already been abandoned.
- The Copan Ruins are the most important Mayan ruins in Honduras. They are located on the northern side of the country, near the Guatemalan border.