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Essential Nicaragua

Colonial cities, volcanoes & lakes | View photos »

Walk on an active volcano, find ancient petroglyphs on a freshwater island, wander amidst crumbling colonial mansions and watch turtles hatch on the sands of the Pacific, all without seeing another tourist. Well, hardly any other. Privately guided to be as active as you like, enjoy some of the diverse highlights of Nicaragua.

14 day trip described, guide price £2,725pp i

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Feefo-gold

Map of the area

"So varied"

"So varied"

Our holiday was brilliant, we had a great time. We loved Nicaragua – there’s so much to do and so varied. Maureen V

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Sample itinerary

Arrive in Managua

Meet your guide at the airport for the short transfer to your hotel in Managua’s centre. Managua is a modern city with some lovely restaurants and good nightlife but not too much in the way of cultural distractions.Relax this evening after your journey. Please note international flights are quoted separately.

Drive to Leon

You are driven north towards the lovely colonial town of Leon. In each main area you will be with a native English-speaking guide who lives nearby, so you will be able to get under the skin of the country as you explore alongside a Nicaraguan in their own environment. See the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leon Viejo before arriving the ‘new’ town of Leon, the colonial capital of Nicaragua for 300 years.

Walk up a volcano

Head an hour into the Maribios range and the starkly beautiful Cerro Negro Volcano, a mass of black sand and gravel, wrapped in dried lava and rocks. The climb to the top via the volcano’s north face can be done in just over an hour. As you stand with the smoking crater behind you, the view across the valley is absolutely stunning.

Markets & a blue lagoon en route to Granada

Head south to the oldest European city in the Americas, Granada, via the indigenous craft market of Masaya and the 48km2 crater lake of the Apoyo Volcano. The walls of the crater are a forested nature reserve home to toucans, hummingbirds, howler monkeys and rare butterflies. Arrive to your Granada hotel, a restored colonial building, this afternoon.

Explore Granada & Las Isletas

Take a horse drawn cart around the city’s cobbled streets, where a good deal of money has been invested to restore the colonial centre of town to its former glory. Later you take a boat ride out to Las Isletas, a group of small islands dotted around the shores of Lake Nicaragua, just outside Granada. This evening you head out to Masaya volcano to watch the parakeets come home to roost, the bats fly out for the night, and the fiery glow of lava in the crater below you.

To Ometepe via the Mombacho Reserve

This morning you head to the cloudforest reserve on the upper slopes of the Mombacho Volcano, overgrown with hundreds of orchid and bromeliad species, and home to three species of monkeys, as well as numerous birds. Enjoy incredible views of Granada and the Isletas, before you take a ferry to head onto Lake Nicaragua to the world’s largest lake island, Ometepe, entirely formed by two volcanoes – Maderas and Concepcion. The views are beautiful as the twin cones grow ever larger until you disembark.

Discover the views and history of Ometepe

Your guide takes you on a drive around the island, seeing some of the sights and hearing about the rich folklore. People on the island are particularly friendly so this is a fluid yet fascinating experience. The afternoon is yours to relax or explore under your own steam, perhaps with a dip in the volcanic springs at Ojo de Agua.

Explore Ometepe's volcanoes

You are free to structure today as you wish, with a range of guided tours to choose from. Today you could choose to walk up either Maderas or Concepcion volcanoes, both quite long, hard uphill routes, but with stunning views from the top. There are also lovely and easier hikes around Concepcion which will take you to pre-Columbian petroglyphs.

Leave the lake for the Pacific coast

Return by ferry back to the mainland and continue south by road to the Pacific coast. San Juan del Sur was a quiet little fishing village until people discovered its beaches. It is now a town of around 20,000 inhabitants although it basically retains its laid back, peaceful air. The beaches of this part of Nicaragua coast are some of the finest on Central America's Pacific coast.

Relax by the Pacific

Spend all day relaxing on the coast. If you want to explore more then you might like to visit the La Flor wildlife reserve just along the coast. This stretch of coastline is a popular area for turtles, which you can sometimes see nesting.

Relax by the Pacific

For your days on the coast, you are equipped with your own hire car, which gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, and seek out quieter beaches out of town.

Relax by the Pacific

A final day to relax by the coast. You can also take a water taxi to Bahia Majagual, one of the most beautiful beaches in Central America, and a fine spot to eat fresh seafood.

Back to Managua

Relax this mornig before you are collected for the the three-hour drive back to Managua. Spend tonight in a comfortable hotel in the city centre where you can enjoy good food or fun nightlife.

Head for home

Say goodbye to your guide today and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

About this trip

Summary

Walk on an active volcano, find ancient petroglyphs on a freshwater island, wander amidst crumbling colonial mansions and watch turtles hatch on the sands of the Pacific, all without seeing another tourist. Well, hardly any other. Privately guided to be as active as you like, enjoy some of the diverse highlights of Nicaragua.

How adventurous?

Activity
1 2 3 4 5
Comfort
1 2 3 4 5
Culture
1 2 3 4 5

Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Level of activity

As is usually the case in Nicaragua, this trip is not overly active. That isn’t to say that it’s not physically demanding though – Nicaragua is a hot country with average temperatures often in the 30s. This is particularly true down in the north of the country, around León.

There are days which are more active, the Cerro Negro volcano hike involves a good hour or two of hot uphill trekking for instance. On other days though, activities tend to be more gentle and somewhat shorter. Because Nicaragua, certainly this inhabited strip down the western side, is so compact days tend to be made up of lots of different elements. As you will see, it is perfectly comfortable to travel from León, lunch at a crater lake and then visit the artisans of Masaya before finishing up in Granada in the late afternoon.

On Ometepe there are different options for activities, bookable locally. The Maderas Volcano hike is a very challenging walk which must be guided. It is beautiful but hard, hard work. Concepcion Volcano is rather gentler and the walk to the San Ramón waterfall gentler still.

Down in San Juan del Sur you can all sorts of activities to choose from although it is actually most famous for its surfing – just in case you are a fan.

The accommodation on this trip is generally of a first class standard 3-4*. On Ometepe the accommodation we use is a first rate eco-lodge, the only caveat there is the composting loos.

Level of culture

Generally, Nicaragua offers probably the most genuine and easy cultural interactions of all of our destinations. Quite simply, visitor numbers are so low that there is often a genuine interest in your presence in the country. Add to this that fact that we are careful to work with so many local people and you have a recipe for abundant and rich insights into the country. Much of the time on this trip you are with one of our guides which means that you have a constant means of communication, learning and interaction.

León is the revolutionary capital of Nicaragua so it is here that you will hear, and see, most about the Sandanista revolution. It is also the birthplace of the national poet Ruben Darío which gives it a certainly literary air. This is the cultural capital of the country.

Granada is probably the most visited place on this journey and you will notice that things are much more ‘slick’ there, in terms of restaurants and hotels, people speaking English, people offering you trips here or there. Locals here are more aware of tourism and tourists. Saying this, we are careful to get you to meet some of the artisans at Masaya market rather than simply wandering through the stalls. You also meet with a local family out on the Isletas.

Ometepe is rural Nicaragua - you are likely to be sharing the road with yoked oxen as you travel around the island. This rustic air gives the island a certain bucolic charm.

Practicalities

There is a detailed itinerary for this trip, as set out above. Please get in touch and we can email that to you.

However, as a tailor made trip, in order to send the most appropriate proposal to you, we really need to discuss things with you first to find out when you want to travel, how long you want to go for, etc.

The standard trip includes all accommodation with breakfast, transfers, guiding, activities and excursions as set out in our detailed itinerary. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.

Flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Normally guests fly in and out of Managua (airport code: MGA).

Departs

Departs any day to suit you, from December through August.

Next steps...

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The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.

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Book Send me exclusive content » Hiking in the volcanoes of Nicaragua Coffee beans ready for roasting in Matagalpa, Nicaragua The striking cathedral of Granada Sandboarding down the slopes of Cerro Negro volcano The crater lake of Apoyo on the way south to Granada Fiery lava glowing in the Masaya crater View of Ometepe island Fishing boat off Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua Looking out over Concepcion during the climb up Maderas on Ometepe Island The twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua Nesting turtle project just north of San Juan del Sur San Juan del Sur beachfront scene The beaches of Nicaragua's southern Pacific coast Sunset over the coast of San Juan del Sur The bustling beach of San Juan del Sur