Central America's annual festivals reflect ancient traditions while embracing new modern customs, resulting in fascinating quirky events, including the Mayan River Route Challenge, Feria de la Mascarada, and a Chocolate Festival. Experienced and amateur canoers come together every year to take part in the gruelling Mayan River Route Challenge, the biggest sporting event of the year that runs from east to west along the Macal and Belize Rivers.
The Mayan River Route Challenge, Belize; 4 – 7 March 2016
The race started in 1995 as a “save our rivers programme”, which was a canoe race designed to promote cleaning debris on the banks of the river. Over the years the programme has evolved into a four day race that follows the ancient Mayan route from San Ignacio to Belize City.
Buses run every hour from Belize City bus terminal to the start of the race in San Ignacio. Travel time is approximately two and a half hours and a one way ticket is priced from £2.00.www.larutamaya.bz
“Feria de la Mascarada”, Costa Rica; 28 – 31 March 2016
The “Feria de la Mascarada”, a traditional festival with roots in the colonial era, is celebrated by the people of Barva, a small town north of San Jose in Costa Rica.
For four days locals and travellers don huge colourful masks of devils, celebrities and political figures, parade the streets and dance in the squares.
Buses run regularly from the bus terminal in the centre of San Jose to Barva. Travel time is approximately 40 minutes and the price of a one way ticket starts from £1.00. www.visitcostarica.com
Chocolate Festival, Belize; 20 – 22 May 2016
Every year, Punta Gorda in the district of Toledo in southern Belize enjoys a festival that celebrates one of the Mayans most delicious legacies: chocolate.
Chocolate lovers travel to the festival to discover what is new in the world of chocolate making, whilst tasting some of the best chocolate products available on the market.
This year will be the ninth edition of this three day feast which will be inaugurated with a wine and chocolate tasting on the first evening, followed by a Taste of Toledo street fair featuring cultural displays, music and chocolate tasting. The last day of the festival is traditionally held on the Sunday with live performances from Mayan harp groups, Garifuna drumming and Mayan dances complete with a range of drinks made from cacao.
Maya Island Air flies directly to Punta Gorda from Belize City Municipal Airport. Flight time is approximately one hour and twenty minutes and return flights are priced from £180. www.chocolatefestivalofbelize.com