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Island life, al Nicaraguense. These are our favourite places to visit in Nicaragua which most people never see, it just happens that a lot of them are on islands. Artists painting brightly coloured naïve art, howler monkeys dangling out of trees, hammock makers hard at work in their homes, horse drawn carriages rattling over colonial cobblestones and sea turtles swimming through clear blue waters.
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Fly to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua today. Meet your guide at the airport for the short transfer to your hotel in Managua, a modern city with some lovely restaurants and good nightlife but not too much in the way of cultural distractions. Please note that international flights are quoted separately.
Fly south to San Carlos, gateway to the Rio San Juan and southern Nicaragua, from where you take a launch into Lake Nicaragua, headed for the tranquil Solentiname archipelago. Take a look around the island and meet some of the locals this evening, stretching your legs with a walk around the trail circulating by the island shore.
You have a full day to explore the island way of life. Solentiname is a good base for a trip into the Guatuzos wildlife refuge, home to three types of monkey, caimans, turtles and many birds. Solentiname is renowned for its distinctive naïf art, notably the bright watercolours featuring the islands, their flora and fauna, so you should take some time to see the local exhibitors and their work.
Return to San Carlos and change boats to head down the San Juan River to the town of El Castillo, where you stay in a comfortable hotel. Later you explore the quiet town and its famous fort. There is a small museum explaining the fort’s history, with tales of the Spanish defending their interest against the likes of Henry Morgan.
Rise early today for your trip into the Indio Maiz Biosphere Reserve. Hike one of the trails into the forest, led by an additional local guide, whose their eyes and ears are highly-trained to help you spot birds, amphibians, and maybe mammals. Return to the town for a relaxed afternoon.
Return to San Carlos by boat this morning, from where you catch the short flight north onto Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes – one dormant (Maderas, 1,400m), one active (Concepcion, 1,600m). The island is home to the Nahuatl people and has a long and fairly mysterious history - your local guide will help you unlock the myths. Stay for three nights at a charming former hacienda set on the lakeshore.
Spend the morning with your guide, uncovering the unique cultural history of the island and its people. Cool off afterwards with a dip in the crystal clear volcanic springs at Ojo de Agua.
You are free to structure today as you wish whilst on Ometepe, 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.
Travel by ferry from the island back to the 'mainland', where you transfer around an hour north to the city of Granda, visiting the cloudforest reserve of Mombacho en route. In Granada you stay in a beautifully converted colonial house for three nights, in the heart of this lively city.
Spend the day getting to grips with one of Nicaragua's most famous volcanoes, Masaya, where you can smell the sulphur and hike through dense cloudforest. Stop off in Masaya to meet indigenous craftspeople both in the town and in the Chorotega Indian villages surrounding it. This afternoon head back onto Lake Nicaragua,to Las Isletas, a group of small islands just outside Granada, where you can soak up the sunset views across the lake to Mombacho and Masaya volcanoes.
Return to the ‘mainland’ this morning, and take a short flight of just over an hour out into the Caribbean. Land on ‘Big’ Corn Island and head to the dock to board your panga taking you over to Little Corn, an almost clichéd example of an idyllic Caribbean island, with swaying palms on golden beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs.
Relax on Little Corn. From your comfortable cabin it is a few short steps to head down to the beach, from where you can snorkel in the bay (equipment is provided). Your hotel also has a spa, as well as offering regular yoga sessions if that’s your thing. The food is excellent, with fresh fish aplenty, and fruit and vegetables coming form the hotel’s own organic gardens.
Another day to relax or explore. You could choose to stretch your legs today with an island hike – there is no traffic on the island, so it’s peaceful pretty much anywhere you go. Other optional activities include kayaking, horse riding and scuba diving.
You may have time for a final swim and snorkel this morning, depending on the flight schedule. Return by panga and small aircraft to mainland Nicaragua today, where you spend a final night in Managua.
Say goodbye to your guide today and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Island life, al Nicaraguense. These are our favourite bits of Nicaragua which most people never see, it just happens that a lot of them are on islands. Artists painting brightly coloured naïve art, howler monkeys dangling out of trees, hammock makers hard at work in their homes, horse drawn carriages rattling over colonial cobblestones and sea turtles swimming through clear blue waters.
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 rainforests around the Rio San Juan.
It is also important to realise that there is a lot of movement in this holiday, on several days you explore by boat for instance or will cross by water taxi between Big Corn and Little Corn Island. We don’t think that these trips feel like ‘transfers’ to get somewhere, rather they form part of the journey. In any case, this is not a sedentary experience, it is one dedicated to active exploration – be that on foot, by boat or even vehicle.
There are days which are more explicitly dedicated to walking. In the Indio Maiz Reserve you will walk trails to spot wildlife though this will tend to be very slow paced as you creep along trying not to disturb the wildlife. On the Solentiname Islands you will almost certainly take a wander around the island in order to see the artists at work – again, this is a gentle walk which is really more about the stopping than the walking.
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.
On the Corn Islands you can snorkel, dive or just swim and soak up the Caribbean sun.
The accommodation on this trip is generally of a first class standard though it is much simpler in the Rio San Juan and on the Solentiname Islands. On Ometepe and Little Corn Islands the accommodations we use are first rate lodges, though it's still worth being prepared for occasional lapses in service levels (and sometimes electricity).
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.
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.
Outside of this, you spend pretty much all of your time in places where tourists aren’t really expected, not many of them at least. You may well end up sharing a glass of rum with an artist down in the Solentiname Islands or learning from a research student in the Indio Maiz Reserve. You might end up dancing at a birthday party on the beach of Little Corn Island or having lunch with a family on the Isletas near Granada. These are all things our previous guests have had happen to them and none of it can we claim responsibility for, it’s all down to the Nicaraguans.
There is a detailed itinerary for this trip, in the form 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, internal flights and transfers, private guiding and excursions as set out, and some meals though it is usually just breakfast. 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 any Monday or Saturday to suit you, from December through August.
Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure
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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