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'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

What makes this trip special?

Capital life

Capital life

Managua

No different to many capitals, Managua is a bustling, fast growing city. The history and culture is fascinating though, making it well worth a visit.

Nicaragua's First Capital

Nicaragua's First Capital

León Viejo

Initially the first capital in Nicaragua, Leon Viejo was smothered in ash in 1610 when the Momotombo Volcano errupted. Today excavations are still underway, unveiling homes, churches and the country's first mint.

Coastal Wetland Corridor

Coastal Wetland Corridor

Juan Venado reserve

A protected narrow barrier island, Juan Venado reserve seperated the ocean from the shore at a river estuary, home to an abundance of wildlife. Visitors are invited to explore the reserve by motor boat.

The White Towns of Nicaragua

The White Towns of Nicaragua

Pueblos Blancos Craft Villages

The whitewashed villages surrounding Masaya National Park are known as Los Pueblos Blancos. Each village specialises in a particular handicraft and together are often considered the cradle for Nicaraguan folklore.

Nostalgia, Romance and Cultural Heritage

Nostalgia, Romance and Cultural Heritage

Granada

The beautiful city of Granada is a wonderful place to wander through the brightly painted streets, visit historical landmarks and take a ride on the city's taxis, horse drawn carriages.

Volcanoes rising from a Lake

Volcanoes rising from a Lake

Ometepe Island

Ometepe's dramatic outline of twin volcanoes emerging from the waters of Lake Nicaragua instantly mark it as a special place to stay.

A taste for the arts and island living

A taste for the arts and island living

Solentiname Archipelago

A cluster of 36 islets, the Solentiname Archipelago is home to remarkable artistic communities, whose vibrant naïve art is strongly linked to their tropical surroundings.

Jungle settlements along the San Juan river

Jungle settlements along the San Juan river

El Castillo

Once a major trading route connecting Granada with the Caribbean, El Castillo (literally meaning the castle) was built to defend the area. Today the fort has been restored, and the small town makes a nice stop-over on you way to more rural lodges and reserves along the river.

Itinerary map for Nicaragua 'Nicaraguan Odyssey' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Managua
  • 2 Managua
  • 3 Leon
  • 4 Leon
  • 5 Masatepe
  • 6 Masatepe
  • 7 Granada
  • 8 Granada
  • 9 Granada
  • 10 Ometepe Island
  • 11 Ometepe Island
  • 12 Solentiname
  • 13 Solentiname
  • 14 El Castillo
  • 15 Managua
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Designer's notes

It's wonderful to see Nicaragua at last getting the recognition it deserves as a truly fabulous travel destination. We have always enjoyed our visits to Nicaragua over the years, the glorious places where we have been able to spend time, the many people we have met and the many friends we have made.

This trip includes some of Nicaragua's many highlights: the fine colonial cities of Leon and Granada, Lake Nicaragua itself, the stunning Ometepe Island with its spectacular twin volcanoes. On a smaller scale we have been able to include villages that show the life of the Nicaraguan countryside, its history and cultures, two very different nature reserves, the quietness of the Solentiname archipelago, with its folk-art communities, and even the quirky town of El Castillo that guarded the San Juan river in Nelson's day.

We couldn't fit all this in a two week trip and also include some time at the beach. If you do have some more time, then there are some wonderful places on the Pacific coast, mostly to the north of San Juan del Sur. There are new boutique hotels and barefoot resorts, and a scattering of small beachfront lodges. You could also consider the idyllic and very very simple Corn Islands, or the ultra-high end Calala Island - both in the Caribbean.

This itinerary is just a suggestion. Everything can be tailor-made to suit you. Just pick up the phone and call us to talk through the options.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

DAY 1

Managua

You are met on arrival at Managua airport and driven to your characterful hotel in a quiet suburb for a 2 night stay.

DAY 2
BL

After a leisurely start to recover from your journey you meet your guide this morning to begin a tour of the capital, visiting the old downtown area and National Museum, the hilltop Sandino memorial, the new centre with its ultra-modern cathedral, and the evocative ‘Footprints of Achualinca’ made 6,000 years ago.

DAY 3
BL

León

Today you travel to the colonial city of León, visiting the ruins of León Viejo on the way. Your guide will show you León, the intellectual heart of the country, with its colonial churches and impressive cathedral, the Museum of Ortiz-Gurdian, one of the finest contemporary art galleries in Central America, or the Rubén Darío museum, one of the greatest Spanish language poets. You stay 2 nights in the heart of the historic quarter.

DAY 4
BL

San Jacinto, Chorotega and Chinandega

A full day tour learning more about Nicaragua's culture and traditions touring the villages north west of Leon. First stop are the boiling mud fumaroles in the village of San Jacinto before travelling to the 17th century Menor Basilica in the rustic town of El Viejo. This is where a small statuette of La Virgen del Trono the nation's venerated patron saint is found and makes this town the centre for religious pilgrimages. In 1562 the Spanish conquers used this small icon of the vigin Mary to enter the Indian villages, the inhabitants were fascinated by this icon and people came from far afield to admire it. Then you continue to Chinandega, which means ‘place surrounded by cane’. This colourful town with an impressive church is located in one of the most fertile valleys in Central America. Today sugar cane, bananas, sorghum and peanuts grow in its rich volcanic soil and shrimp farms in the estuaries. A century ago Chinadega was known as the 'City of Oranges' then in the 1940s a cotton boom took place here changing the crop. After lunch in Chinandega your day will continue with a visit to a Betania foundation property that host 400 children daily; feel the energy with the primary school kids, visit the educational center for teenagers where they learn and work different techniques such as carpentry, arts, sewing and mechanics; witness how a 4 feet tall child manages to play a Saxophone and a small boy carefully plays a violin. Along with your guide be the guest of the young local guide who will lead you through a great visit at the Chorotega museum which holds 1,500 Indigenous Pre-Columbian artefacts. During your visit you'll have an opportunity to practice your Spanish with the kids or simply enjoy what they have to offer you, a big smile and a lot of hope for their future.

DAY 5
BL

Juan Venado reserve

A morning visit Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve, a Pacific coastal wetland. After a one hour drive to Las Peñitas beach, you will board your private motor boat for an exciting 2 hours boat ride down the 22km Juan Venado a barrier island 0.5km wide separating the sea from the shore. Behind this sandbar is an important mangrove and the estuary is home to an abundance of life including cayman, crocodiles, iguanas, crustaceans and other marine creatures.The sand spit is also a vital nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles (from May to November).The Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve is uninhabited and there will be time for you to feel enveloped in the solitude and the beauty of nature before your journey back to Leon city. Afternoon transfer partly down the Panamerican Highway to your base for 2 nights near the Laguna de Apoya and Catarina.

DAY 6
BL

Pueblos Blancos craft villages

Today you visit surrounding 'white' villages of Los Pueblos Blancos, plus the Catarina view point overlooking Apoya lagoon. Each village specialises in a special handicraft from pottery to hammocks, baskets, leather, woodwork and some grow flowering plants for sale. There will be some time to relax and simply enjoy the spectacular view from your hilltop lodge.

DAY 7
BL

Granada

After breakfast you are driven down to the splendid city of Granada for some major sightseeing. You visit the Cathedral, the Convent of San Francisco, the Casa de los Leones and Museo de Granada (a private museum within a grand home). There is free time to wander and enjoy the city by yourself. In the late afternoon take a boat tour on the lake through Las Isletas de Granada. You stay in Granada for 3 nights.

DAY 8
BL

Mombacho Reserve and Masaya Volcano at night

Driving north from Granada you visit the cloud forests of Mombacho Reserve. Orchids and bromeliads deck the trees, colourful frogs hide under leaves and howler monkeys peer down at you, and white face capuchins rush about among the treetops. The conservation group that looks after the reserve helps coffee growers adopt sustainable techniques, and you can see how this works at a Rainforest Alliance certified plantation. School kids are taught about ecology, and volunteer for work as park rangers and guides, or to help in tree nurseries. After some free time back in Granada, as dusk approaches you are driven south to Masaya Volcano. Parakeets fly in to roost as the sun sets, and you may pause by the entrance of a lava tube for the exodus of thousands of bats for their nightly foragings. (The intrepid can don hard hats and masks to explore the tube.) You drive up to the rim of the volcano's massive crater, where recent activity has set molten magma bubbling and steaming and glowing in oranges and reds deep below - one of the only places on earth where magma is visible. Return to Granada.

DAY 9
B

A free day to spend in Granada, exploring the city for yourself or relaxing by your hotel's pool. Time to put aside extra luggage not needed over the next 5 days as there are weight restrictions on your upcoming flights. You will be reunited with it when you return to Managua on Day 15.

DAY 10
BLD

Ometepe Island

This morning you are picked up for the drive to San Jorge on the shore of the lake opposite the twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island. The ferry from San Jorge takes you across Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe. You explore the island with your guide, including Laguna Charco Verde, a mysterious pool said to cover an enchanted city, and the hamlet of Altagracia with Nahuatl idols beside the church. You stay 2 nights at the lakeside Villa Paraiso. The rest of the day is free.

DAY 11
BD

Today hike to San Ramon Cascade, the 110m waterfall on Maderas Volcano where it is possible to bathe with the rest of the day is free to relax and unwind enjoying the lodge's super situation midway up the flank of Maderas volcano drinking in the view back across the narrow strip of land to Concepcion volcano. Those in need of a strenuous activity could choose take a guide and climb up through the cloud forest to the volcano's crater and even descend to its crater lake; kayak in the centre of the island or horseback ride.

DAY 12
BLD

San Carlos and the Solentiname Archipelago

With a lateish start, you are collected from your hotel for the flight to San Carlos where you are met and taken to the dock for your journey by boat to a lodge on an island in the Solentiname archipelago for a 2 night stay. On the way you call at La Venada Island and visit one of the families of artists whose naïve paintings of fantastical forest scenes have built an international reputation.

DAY 13
BLD

Los Guatuzos and Mancarron Island

Early morning, by boat across to the southern shore of Lake Managua then navigate slowly along the Papaturro River to the ecological centre in the Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge a RAMSAR wetlands site with 401 species of bird. Here along the narrow river channel - home to the living fossil fish the Gaspar, sawfish, tarpon, caiman and crocodile, you can see hope to see many of the typical waterbirds including egrets, Anhinga, Neotropical Cormorants, Northern Jacana, Little Green Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Purple Galinule, Mangrove Swallow, Amazon Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Boat-billed Heron even if you are lucky, as we were, Agami Heron and from Nov-mid Apr migrants including the Roseate Spoonbill. Along the river banks one can also observe families of howler monkeys, spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin, turtle, basilic lizards, iguanas, dragon fly and smart Red-winged Blackbirds. You disembark at the rangers station where you can learn about their turtle and caimen conservation projects. Here there is a canopy walk way for aerial observation down upon the massive fronds of palms below. This walkway leads to a choice of forest trails ranging from 1.5hrs to 3 hrs duration. In the forest one can see toe and three-toed sloth, Red-bellied and Yellow Trogon. After lunch at the refuge you travel back along the Papaturro River and across the lake to Mancarron Island in the Solentiname archipelago. Here you can visit the local families who create brightly painted balsa wood carvings of turtles, fish, toucan, armadillo and parrots. This island also has a small archeological museum which swaps pre-Colombian artifacts with the museum on Ometepe. There is a community library and a church currently under restoration which is of great significance to many Nicaraguans. This humble building with dirt floor was where poet and priest Ernesto Carnival held his participative masses with the local peasant population. After his call to arms against the Somoza regime the church was destroyed in reprisal. The walls of the restored church are chearfully adorned with rescued primitivist murals from the original building which were made by the village children in the 1970s. Return to your lodge on Fernando Island to enjoy the sunset.

DAY 14
BLD

San Juan River and El Castillo

Today you travel across the Lake to San Carlos river port where all administation in the region occurs, then along the San Juan River to visit the delightful, picturesque small historic waterfront town of El Castillo. The San Juan River has a strategic importance and links the Atlantic Ocean to the wealthy city of Granada via Lake Nicaragua. After a series of raids on Granada by British Pirates the Spanish constructed a fort on the river in 1672. This proved sucessful until 1870 when as a naval lieutenant Horatio Nelson sailed up the river and took the fort under British control, holding it until his forces were decimated by disease and forced to retreat. Since that time volcanic activity in the region has altered the river bed creating rapids at El Castillo beyond which no large vessels can navigate. This remains a strategically important area as the river marks the boundary between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is a mainly agricultural region with cows grazing on the Nicaraguan banks while pineapple and orange plantations lie to the south of the Costa Rican bank. You can visit the fort and its museum and wander along the one main street. There is no vehicular traffic, just the occassional handcart being pushed along by a street vendor. You then transfer by boat to your lodge in prime Tarpon fishing territory, between Sabalos and El Castillo with its own private forest reserve. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy the facilities at the lodge which include horseriding, birdwatching, kayaking, artesenal fishing or simply relaxing in a hammock and watching life on the river go by.

DAY 15
B

Managua

Morning free to enjoy the activities at the lodge with its forest and farm trails, perhaps a spot of birding from horseback, before catching the public speed boat back to San Carlos river port. Here you have time for lunch before catching the afternoon flight back to Managua. You will be met on arrival and transferred to the hotel of your choice (picking up any stored luggage). Rest of the day free for relaxation.

DAY 16
B

You are driven to the airport for your flight home, or onwards to the Corn Islands, for example. Other choices include the beaches of Nicaragua's south Pacific coast.

Guide prices for 'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
with mid-range hotel options 2 people sharing £3,625
with upper range options 2 people sharing £3,885
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Nicaragua
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • all excursions as described
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 100%

rating

Masaya volcano, Panama Canal

Seasonal information for 'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Managua 32°C rainfall 6mm
2 Managua 32°C rainfall 6mm
3 Leon 32°C rainfall 0mm
4 Leon 32°C rainfall 0mm
5 Masatepe 29°C rainfall 20mm
6 Masatepe 29°C rainfall 20mm
7 Granada 32°C rainfall 7mm
8 Granada 32°C rainfall 7mm
9 Granada 32°C rainfall 7mm
10 Ometepe Island 30°C rainfall 48mm
11 Ometepe Island 30°C rainfall 48mm
12 Solentiname 30°C rainfall 88mm
13 Solentiname 30°C rainfall 88mm
14 El Castillo 30°C rainfall 183mm
15 Managua 32°C rainfall 6mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Nicaraguan Odyssey'

Days 1 - 2

Los Robles

Managua

A small hotel located in a quiet residential area in central Managua not far from the shops and nightlife.

Los Robles has a colonial style and beautiful antique pieces, and a fountain surrounded by a tropical garden that you can see from every room.

All  rooms are provided with air conditioning, cable TV, direct dialing telephone, private bathroom with hot water, and a small inside garden.

Los Robles
Hotel entrance
Days 3 - 4

Las Mercedes, Best Western

Leon

Located in the heart of the historic city centre just 50m from the main square, the Las Mercedes Hotel is part of the Best Western chain, and a good value mid-range accommodation choice. There are 20 rooms, all with private bathrooms TVs, hairdryers, coffee machines air conditioning and safety deposit boxes as well as Wi-Fi, whilst it is a short walk to the restaurants and coffee shops of the city.

Las Mercedes, Best Western
Days 5 - 6

Pacaya Lodge & Spa

Laguna de Apoyo

A 26-room upper range resort with stunning views overlooking Laguna de Apoyo crater lake.

Approx 30 mins drive from Granada.

 

Pacaya Lodge & Spa
Days 7 - 9

El Patio del Malinche

downtown Granada
rating

Average rating 5.0 (1 ratings)

Set behind the sun-baked adobe bricks of an historic house in the city centre, this is a characterful, 15 room, mid-range, B&B hotel  set around two patios. The first patio is the owners home, the second one around which the rooms are located on two floors has a garden and swimming pool. All rooms have a/c ceiling fan, private bathroom with hot water, cable TV, WIFI and safety deposit box.

El Patio del Malinche
Days 10 - 11

Villa Paraiso

Ometepe

Hotel Villa Paraíso is a simple lodge with wonderfull views. It is located on Santo Domingo beach on the isthmus between Ometepe's two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, one hour away from Moyogalpa, the island's main port.  It has a restaurant, 1 suite, 13 cabins.  This is a peaceful base on a sandy lake shore surrounded by nature.There are horses, boats and bicycles for rent. Can be windy.

Villa Paraiso
Days 12 - 13

Cabanas Paraiso

San Fernando Island

Cabañas Paraiso is a delightful family run lodge located on San Fernando Island in the Solentiname Archipelago (30mins by speed boat across Lake Nicaragua from San Carlos town).

The lodge has 8 rooms, each with private bathrooms & fans. Dona Elena is the friendly owner. Here guests wake to bird song and a stunning view of the Solentiname archipelago and a distant Ometepe Island from the hilltop position. This view is also enjoyed from the open-sided restaurant. Steps up from the waterfront.

Cabanas Paraiso
Day 14

Luna del Rio, El Castillo

El Castillo

Five rooms equipped with private bathrooms, fans, air conditioning units and hot water. Some with views of the river, others with views of the village and the Fortress.

Luna del Rio, El Castillo
Day 15

Los Robles

Managua

A small hotel located in a quiet residential area in central Managua not far from the shops and nightlife.

Los Robles has a colonial style and beautiful antique pieces, and a fountain surrounded by a tropical garden that you can see from every room.

All  rooms are provided with air conditioning, cable TV, direct dialing telephone, private bathroom with hot water, and a small inside garden.

Los Robles
Hotel entrance