Nicaragua is a country shaped by contrasts, between its farming communities and ornate colonial cities, its fire-spewing volcanoes and the serene Lake Nicaragua. We will help you experience this amazing diversity for yourself, starting with a week in the cultural heartlands of the north, where you will find traditional cottage industries, untamed landscapes and the cultural splendour of Leon. Then journey south to visit lush nature reserves and dramatic volcanoes, all the while making connections with local people that will stay with you long after you’ve left.
This is a suggested itinerary. Dates, stops & activities are all flexible.
14 Days: Managua - Matagalpa - Esteli - Leon - Granada - Ometepe - Masaya - Apoyo
Activities: sightseeing and history, community visits, cultural experiences, horse riding, boat trips, cooking class, nature walks, wild swimming, active volcano, birding
Day 1: Welcome to the stunning land of lakes and volcanoes! You will be met in arrivals and taken to your centrally located accommodation in Managua.
Day 2: Transfer to Matagalpa, a mountainous region famous for coffee and pristine nature reserves that are excellent for ecotourism. Your bed for the night is at a lovely lodge nestled in the hills, but on the way you will have a 3 hour tour of Matagalpa that covers the city's culture and history, economy and daily life. (B)
Day 3: Travel to San Ramon, where you will stay a night in a coffee producing community and learn about their traditions and family life. On arrival enjoy a traditional Nicaraguan lunch, followed by some time getting to know your host family before taking part in some of the diverse activities that make up their daily routine. (B/L/D)
Day 4: After saying goodbye to your family and the community we will take you to the small northern city of Esteli, where you will learn about its significance in the Sandanista revolution and explore its cultural heritage on a guided walking tour. (B)
Day 5: No visit to Esteli is complete without a visit to one of its world famous cigar factories. The city used to be a refuge for Cuban cigar makers and you see their legacy with a trip to a tobacco plantation and factory, to watch live cigar making and try rolling your own.
Day 6: Today starts with an encounter with the primal forces of nature at San Jacinto’s boiling volcanic mud fields, which are connected directly to the Telica volcano. Then head to a local home where you'll learn to make the traditional staple tortilla on a woodstove and continue to the historic colonial town of Leon. (B)
Day 7: Your morning will be spent with your guide on a walking tour of this beautiful city and the afternoon is free for you to do as you please. The colonial town of Leon was founded in 1610 and was the capital of Nicaragua until independence in 1821. It has always been the political and intellectual centre of the nation and home to the second oldest university in Central America. The historic centre with its colourful colonial buildings, baroque- and neoclassical churches, cultural venues and museums and its large UNESCO-listed cathedral are only some of Leon's many attractions. (B)
Day 8: Drive down the backbone of Nicaragua to one of the most well-preserved colonial towns in Central America, Grenada. Founded in 1524 on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, it is full of history and charm and famed as one of the oldest European settlements in the western hemisphere. After dropping your bags at the hotel, head off for a walking tour that will take you ‘behind the scenes’ of this fascinating city. (B)
Day 9: Today you take a trip into the rural areas around Grenada where you will have the chance to interact with local people, take a horseback ride through the incredible scenery at the base of Mombacho Volcano, fill up with a traditional lunch and spend the afternoon enjoying an artisanal chocolate workshop and tasting. (B)
Day 10: The island of Ometepe is situated in one of the world´s largest fresh water lakes, Lake Nicaragua and was home for centuries to indigenous cultures that left many pre-Columbian petroglyphs. Ometepe's two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, rise dramatically out of the water to create the island's iconic silhouette. Once you have settled in, head to Moyogalpa to enjoy a wonderful culinary experience with a local women's cooperative known as Puesta del Sol. (B)
Day 11: Spend the day exploring the island and visit two highlights - first Finca Magdalena, a working community-run coffee plantation that is also home to indigenous rock paintings, then Charco Verde Nature Reserve and Chico Largo lagoon, mystical places that inspired local legend. Continue to the natural spring of Ojo de Agua, hidden in the forest, for a refreshing swim before finishing the day at the fascinating El Ceibo museum, which boast many well-conserved indigenous statues and ceramics. (B/L)
Day 12: Your final base for the trip is the wildlife and natural gem of Apoyo Lagoon, but today you will also experience the natural and cultural wonders of nearby Masaya, starting with the rare chance to gaze into an active volcano, where molten lava flows, bubbles and spits steam that rises to meet your viewing platform. Then continue on to Masaya’s colorful artisan market, known for its hammock and ceramics. Afterwards, eat lunch overlooking the Apoyo lagoon from the Catarina viewpoint and visit some surrounding villages, including San Juan de Oriente, where you'll learn from a craftsman at a traditional workshop. (B)
Day 13: Day at leisure at Apoyo Lagoon Nature Reserve, situated in an impressive dormant volcano cone that last erupted about 20,000 years ago and has been filling with fresh water ever since. The interior, where tropical dry forest meets the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon, is a nature reserve home to more than 225 species of birds, mammals and endemic species of fish. There are some challenging hiking trails and the clean warm waters are most inviting to go kayaking, swimming, sailing or scuba diving.
Day 14: Sadly all good things come to an end… today it’s time to pack up and head to Managua airport for your onwards flight, leaving Nicaragua with lots of amazing memories and photos! (B)
Prices from: £1895 per person
Services included: hotels on shared room basis, meals, transfers and activities as mentioned, entry fees, English speaking guide, 24 hour assistance
Services not included: flights, drinks, tips and personal expenses.
Note: stops can be extended, added or cut - just ask us!