In Central America, Nicaragua is certainly not your average travel destination. However, the country is a great destination. Its turbulent history, colonial cities and friendly people make it a truly interesting travel destination. Adventure awaits you!
When you choose to book this three-week trip, a special highlight is a two-day trek through the forests of the Miraflor nature reserve. This is a real off-the-beaten-track experience, during which you get a feel and taste for life on the Nicaraguan countryside and its friendly inhabitants. You’ll stay a the home of a local family and also spend the night in a beautiful eco-lodge. One of the best-known highlights of Nicaragua is also included in this journey: the volcano island Ometepe, a unique natural phenomenon and definitely worth a stay. The trip ends at the relaxed beach of San Juan del Sur, perfect for surfing or enjoying a cocktail at sunset. Enjoy your holiday!
León is one of the best known cities in Nicaragua and after the departure of the Spaniards in the region, it was also the country’s capital a couple of times.
The city has a turbulent past and was severely destroyed by a number of volcanic eruptions in the 17th century. In 2000, the ruins of historic León, León Viejo, were declared World Heritage.
The history of the city makes a city walk through the center super interesting, especially with a knowledgeable guide.
If you want more adventure, then go sandboarding on the nearby volcano Cerro Negro! Afterwards, if you have some energy left, you must go salsa dancing with the locals in La Olla Quemada.
Only 30 minutes from León you find the charming fishing village of Las Peñitas. Here you’ll experience the laid back Nicaraguan beach vibe and you can relax in your hammock while enjoying the local Toña beer or a cocktail.
If you want to be more active, you can learn to surf or go horseback riding. In addition, when you’re travelling in the right season, you can book a mangrove tour to the Isla Juan Venado nature reserve to see turtles nesting on the beach!
From the beach, you will travel inland and to the north of Nicaragua. Get ready for your stay in Estelí and trekking in the Miraflor nature reserve!
You will spend the first night in a hotel in the centre of Estelí. On this day you can visit a local cigar factory, take a walk to the Salto Estanzuela waterfall or explore the city centre of Estelí.
The Miraflor nature reserve is 28 km from Esteli. From the town, you will travel to the reserve where you will spend the next two days. Accompanied by a local guide you set off for a walk through the forest, where you will encounter many different species of birds. Along the way, you will notice that the landscape is slowly changing from tropical savannah to cloud forest.
After a beautiful walk, you will arrive at a local farmer’s family where you will spend the night. You will be warmly welcomed and healthy meals will be served with ingredients that the family grows in their garden (organically). Don’t expect luxury. You’ll stay will be basic, but comfortable.
On the third day, you say goodbye to the family after breakfast and it is time again to continue your trekking. You are moving into a higher-lying area where you will stay again with another local family. Again, the landscape changes a lot during your hike. The next day after breakfast, you’ll travel by the public bus back to Estelí.
From Estelí you drive down south towards San Carlos and the Rio San Juan. This river connects the immense Lake of Nicaragua with the Caribbean Sea. The still unspoilt nature and the historic sights make the region an attractive travel destination, but one that has remained virtually undiscovered and untouched. Large areas along the river are protected nature reserves and a paradise for water birds and fish.
The town of San Carlos is the capital of the department and gateway to the rest of Nicaragua if you enter the country from Costa Rica. It is also your starting point if you want to travel further down the river to the Caribbean. You stay in a beautiful eco-lodge run by a Nicaraguan family on the edge of the jungle. From your room you have a spectacular view of the San Juan river.
From your hotel you can travel by boat to the town of El Castillo. You can also rent a kayak and explore the tranquil tributaries of the Rio San Juan. In addition, a visit to the nearby nature reserves Los Guatusos or Reserva Indio de Maiz comes highly recommended! Here you can spot birds, monkeys and beautiful colored poison frogs during a walk through the pristine jungle!
Granada was founded in 1524 and is thus one of the oldest cities in the region. The city’s strategic location on the immense Lake of Nicaragua means that the city has a turbulent past. Granada has been one of the most important cities in the country for centuries.
The town’s colonial past has been very well preserved, which you can see from the impressive churches, but also from the large colonial buildings with beautifully tiled courtyards.
Nowadays you will find trendy restaurants and bars in the center, but horses and wagons are still spotted in the streets at times.
If you want to avoid the tourist attractions, visit the large local market and climb Iglesia La Merced at the end of the day to enjoy a beautiful sunset (and view over the city)!
It’s time to relax on the beach again! San Juan del Sur is the most famous surf spot in the country, but there is still a relaxed atmosphere here.
The crescent-shaped bay is the biggest attraction. Relax on the beach during the day or take a surfing lesson. In the evening a sunset cruise with a traditional “panga” is recommended because of the spectacular sunsets.
To the south of San Juan you will find Playa el Coco, a spectacularly beautiful beach where you can walk, relax and in the season also see sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, a truly unique experience! You will spend the night here in a small bed and breakfast.
In the huge Lake of Nicaragua lies the special island of Ometepe that was formed by two volcanoes; the Concepción and Maderas.
Ometepe, which literally also means “two volcanoes”, played an important role in the mythology of pre-Columbian tribes such as the Chorotega, Nahuatl and Maya. They left their marks in many places in the form of petroglyphs and other remains.
The island is a fertile, green oasis and various small hotels grow their own fruit and vegetables. You can easily explore Ometepe by moped or bicycle and you can go on beautiful hikes or climb one or both volcanoes (be prepared for a tough trip!). Besides, you can take a refreshing dive in one of the many bays or in the natural hot springs.
La laguna de Apoyo is a beautiful lake close to the city of Granada. This crater lake is thousands of years old and is situated in the middle of a nature reserve, which makes it a wonderful place to relax.
Your days here will start with a refreshing dive in the lake. The natural surroundings are stunning and it’s a perfect spot to just relax on the shore and read a book.
Do you want to see and do more? Then drive to Masaya to climb the volcano and visit the village. Here you can find nice, handmade souvenirs to take back home and on the village square they serve delicious fruit shakes. If you would like to explore the area a little further, the “white villages” or “pueblos blancos” come recommended. From the town of Catarina you have a beautiful view over the Laguna.
On the day of your departure, a taxi will pick you up and take you to the airport in Managua.
At Ometepe, we drove around the Concepcion volcano for a day with a personal driver. We visited Punto Jesus et Maria but because of the high tide the effect of walking through the sea was a bit gone, but it was okay. El Ojo de Aqua was a bit disappointing, we really liked the place, but didn’t think it as beautiful as described in our travel guide. Our driver was very proud of the old Dutch ferry “De Brakzand”. Together with him we visited the boat and were allowed to look around.
In Moyagalpa there would be a rodeo the evening after we finished our day tour. Our driver brought us here in the afternoon. We had a great evening and enjoyed watching the locals getting in the rodeo ring and all. Also, we had dinner there and, in the end, we got a lift on the back of a pick-up truck and got home late in the evening. Great experience!
We really liked our hotel in Granada the town itself! Do climb the Masaya volcano, we had a great time and saw lava at sunset, an impressive sight!
The trekking in Miraflor was really the highlight of my trip to Nicaragua! The two families where we stayed were so incredibly sweet and cheerful. Although they are incredibly hard workers and get up very early, they seem to have never heard of the word “stress”. In my best Spanish I had nice conversations with them and we helped in the kitchen. Do prepare to go back to basic when staying here. For me, it was really a way to appreciate again what I all have back home.
We booked a surf lesson in Playa Maderas (near San Juan). Although we were not very good at it, we did have a lot of fun. Besides, the class was very affordable. Our teacher spoke good English and tried to teach us a few words in Spanish as well. After all our efforts, our Toña beer tasted extra delicious!
Nicaraguans are a relaxed people and are usually not in a hurry. Certainly not in the North, where you are a guest in the Miraflor reserve during this trip. Take something nice from home to share with your hosts, such as a fun game or a local speciality from the place you come from. It’s a fun way to get the conversation going and to learn from each other.Book here