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On this holiday you’ll get to explore the country in some depth, as you travel through our favourite areas to see the real Nicaragua. 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. Most of all you’ll get to know the people, the ones who really make Nicaragua such an enriching experience.
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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.
You are collected this morning for the drive north towards the lovely colonial town of León. In each main area you will be with an English-speaking guide who lives locally. This helps you to get under the skin of the country as you explore alongside a Nicaraguan in their own environment. En route stop at León Viejo, the ‘American Pompeii,’ which was buried under ash from the Momotombo Volcano in the 16th Century.
This morning your guide will meet you for a walking tour of the city. León was the colonial capital of Nicaragua for 300 years, at the time a very prosperous spot. Your guide will tell you its story as you take in revolutionary murals and beautiful churches, as well as the vibrant central market - a quintessentially Nicaraguan experience. The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring at leisure.
Today visit the Isla Juan Venado Wildlife Reserve, a short distance outside the city. Juan Venado is a barrier island, 22km long but just 0.5km wide. Between the coast and the island is a mangrove forest. This varied ecology makes the reserve an ideal home for wildlife, particularly marine creatures. There are over 100 species of bird on the island as well as caiman, iguana and sea turtles.
Set off this morning to the northern highlands of the country. This is an area of forests, rivers, waterfalls and coffee plantations, where the elevation makes things much cooler than most of the country. En route stop at the city of Matagalpa, a hub of agricultural activity as coffee beans from the surrounding region are dried, processed and sold. Your guide will show you around in a tour tailored to your interests.
Your lodge produces its own coffee, and today your hosts will take you through the production process with a walk through their coffee plantation. This afternoon is free for you to explore the trails around the lodge.
Today, your guide will take you to the spectacular Peñas Blancas reserve. Hike through the cloudforest past white cliffs, waterfalls, tropical plants and a variety of gorgeous birds and wildlife. Return to your lodge this evening.
This morning is free to stroll along your lodge's trails and soak up the peaceful cloudforest environment. Later, transfer back to Managua, ahead of your journey south tomorrow.
Take the long journey by road to San Carlos, where you meet your local guide and transfer by boat to the sleepy town of El Castillo. It's probably worth highlighting that today's trip doesn't feel like a transfer to get somewhere, but rather an exciting journey into deep Nicaragua. Arrive at your lodge in the evening.
Rise early today for your trip into the Indio Maiz Biosphere Reserve. From El Castillo your captain will negotiate the gentle rapids in front of the town before continuing a few kilometres downstream to the Bartola River, the gateway to the reserve. Hike into the forest as your guide helps you spot the wildlife and inform you about medicinal plant uses. In the afternoon you'll have time to explore the quiet town of El Castillo and visit its fort and museum to learn about how the Spaniards defended their interest against the likes of Henry Morgan.
Return to San Carlos by boat this morning, where you transfer into another launch. This time you are heading into Lake Nicaragua, headed for the tranquil Solentiname archipelago. Take a look around the island which is renowned for its distinctive naïf art, notably the bright watercolours featuring the islands, their flora and fauna. This evening, take some time to meet the local exhibitors and see their fabulous work.
Today is a full day to explore the island way of life. Solentiname is also a good base for a trip into the Guatuzos wildlife refuge, home to three types of monkey, caimans, turtles and many birds.
After breakfast, your launch takes you over to the other side of Lake Nicaragua, before a short transfer to the port of San Jorge. From here, a ferry takes you over to Ometepe Island in the centre of the lake. It's an extraordinary sight throughout the ferry ride, as it is entirely 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.
This morning you will take a drive around the island with your guide, seeing some of the sights and hearing about the rich folklore, such as the legend of Chico Largo. People on the island are particularly friendly, so this is a fluid yet fascinating experience. The afternoon is free. You are free to structure the rest of your time as you wish whilst on Ometepe, with a range of guided tours to choose from.
You are free to structure today as you wish, with a range of guided tours to choose from locally. One option would be to take to the water by kayak and paddle the waterways of the Rio Istiam, looking for the wildlife on land and water as you go. The forests on Ometepe are home to many monkeys, birds and abundant flora, so there’s plenty to see along the way. The views from the water make the exertion well worthwhile.
After breakfast, catch the ferry back to the mainland, from where you are transferred south by road to your hotel near the relaxed beach town of San Juan del Sur, where you will stay at a beautiful ecolodge situated just off a beach, and within a nature reserve - the perfect spot to enjoy a bit of comfort in a tropical, beach surrounding.
During the next three day, your time on the beach is left open for you to structure as you wish. There is a range of excursions bookable locally at your lodge, or of course you might choose to spend your time simply relaxing on the beach or by the pool. The beaches of this part of Nicaragua are some of the finest on Central America's Pacific coast.
Today's activity is up to you, one option though would be to hike or cycle the trails around the property's reserve, and try to spot some of their wildlife, including howler monkeys, as you go. Tonight, if you're lucky, you might also have the chance to see turtles arriving to lay their eggs - or baby turtles hatching - on your lodge's beach at night.
This section of Nicaragua's coast is home to some excellent surf breaks, so today you could get out on the waves if you like. Another possibility is to take a tour of the lodge's working farm, helping to prepare and then enjoying a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast.
Spend the day at the beach before you return the bustling capital, Managua, and a final evening under the ‘bright lights.’
Say goodbye to Nicaragua today as you fly back home. Depending on your flight schedule, you may have time for a look around Managua before departure. You will be collected for your transfer to the airport at the appropriate time to check in for your flight home.
On this holiday you’ll get to explore the country in some depth, as you travel through our favourite bits of Nicaragua which most people never see. But most of all, you’ll get to know the people, the ones who really make Nicaragua such an enriching experience.
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. 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.
It is part of our job to get to know you, what you like or don’t like doing and any particular interests or requests that you have. We then advise you what we think is the best way to approach your trip, working with you to tailor it to you. It’s possible that what you have seen here is ideal for you, but equally we can tinker with it to get it just right if not.
Departs any day to suit you, from December through August.
With December being the start of the dry season throughout the country, the land will be nice and green, with fewer showers in most parts. In towns and cities throughout Nicaragua, people will be celebrating a major holiday on December 7 and there will be lots of families out on the streets, fireworks, trick-or-treating, and general partying. Note that February is probably the most popular time to travel in Nicaragua, so expect Ometepe and San Juan del Sur to be pretty busy.
May, the start of the rainy season, won't actually prevent some scorching hot days, particularly around Leon. Expect generally dry days with short cooling showers in the afternoon or evening in the Pacific and central regions. As the rainy season goes, bigger waves will also make this a good time of year for surfers.
Though not technically 'bad', the last few months of the rainy season (September, October, November) are probably the 'least good' time of year in Nicaragua. The weather is relatively wet throughout the country and, though not the wettest time overall in the east, there is a chance of bad weather caused directly or indirectly by tropical storms in the Caribbean. Although, if you don't mind the rain and humidity you will find the jungles particularly beautiful at this time of year.
The price is per person based on two people sharing and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Transfers to and from Managua airport with welcome briefing
Guided excursions as described
Taxis and boat transfers as described
Nicaragua Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routing is into and out of Managua (MGA).
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 the accommodation we use is a first rate lodge, though it's still worth being prepared for occasional lapses in service levels (and sometimes electricity).
For more details, please get in touch to request a detailed PDF itinerary.
On this holiday, you will spend pretty much all of your time in places where tourists aren’t really expected, not many of them at least. In fact, visitor numbers are so low that there is often a genuine interest in your presence in the country.
Thanks to our firsthand knowledge and expert guides in every corner of the country, we put you directly in touch with the people who will make your trip to unforgettable. Nicaragua is a place of unexpected interactions, so 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.
We believe that travel is about much more than that shot in front of the world famous landmark, it’s about real insight into the destination. When it comes to Nicaragua, it’s the very absence of such iconic landmarks which has allowed it to remain true to itself, and to offer those who do visit a genuine experience without façade.