Candyland Studios | A Woodland Retreat
May 17, 2018

12-Day Nicaragua Travel Itinerary

My trip to Nicaragua was my first solo trip, my first time to Central America, and my first small group tour. Joining a whirlwind trip with G-Adventures, we covered the country’s highlights in just under two weeks.

Follow this 12-day itinerary for your own adventure, however this certainly wasn’t enough time in Nica if you ask me. If you can, I’d strongly recommend for you add an extra day or so along the way.

Our itinerary In A Nutshell

Whilst I joined The Essence of Nicaragua tour, I have actually rejigged this itinerary slightly. Personally I would have spent more time in Leon and Omepete, so I’ve tweaked the itinerary to reflect that!

Covering Nica’s highlights, our trip took us from Granada, to Leon, Ometepe Island, San Juan Del Sur, and back to Granada.

Days One – Two | Granada

Stay AtHotel Chilmates

Day One: Start your trip in Granada, a small town full of culture and colour. Take a stroll through the pretty Parque Central, getting lost in the pastel hue buildings that surround you. Wander over to the Mercado Municipal (indoor market), and spot several of the old churches in the city centre.

In the afternoon, take a boat trip to Las Isletas, or alternatively explore the lake and many islands by kayak instead.

Day Two: For breakfast, head to Kathy’s Waffle House and make a beeline for the yummy breakfast pancakes! Choose to visit either Masaya Volcano, or Mombacho Volcano, followed by an afternoon visit to one of the local artisan craft markets. For dinner, take a wander over to The Garden Café, but you maybe want to book ahead as it gets busy!

Take a stroll through the Parque Central

A view looking into one of the smoking craters at Masaya Volcano

Days Three – Five | Leon

Stay AtHotel San Juan Del Leon

Day Three: Depart early by private shuttle bus to Leon (3-hours) and arrive by noon. Rum lovers MUST pay a visit to the Flor de Caña Factory! See how Nica’s number one exported brand is produced, and enjoy a sample or three.

Days Four & Five: Wake up bright and early for a busy day of being a tourist! With so much to choose from, how will you spend your day? Here’s just a few things you could do:

  • For something different, join the Telica Twilight Tour. Hike up to enjoy the sun set and views, before an additional hike to the crater mouth to see the orange-red scorching hot lava.
  • Visit the Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, and climb the tower to reach the pretty powder white rooftop. The city views aren’t half bad either!
  • Visit the Juan Venado Nature Reserve and Island for a mix of wildlife spotting, kayaking, and turtle spotting!
  • Go Horseback Riding along Crater Lake, with impressive views of Momotombo Volcano on the horizon. Pack your swimmers for a zip in the Crater Lagoon
  • If you aren’t volcano’d out just yet, then visit the San Cristobal Volcano – the tallest volcano in Nicaragua!
  • The other popular activity you will no doubt hear about, is Volcano Boarding down Cerro Negro. Perhaps I am just really unlucky, but I had such a bad experience that I simply cannot recommend this trip in anyway. I’ve skydived amongst other adrenaline pumping activities, and nothing compared to this. An afternoon in the local hospital and my entire trip almost ruined was NOT worth it.

Click here to read more about my disastrous Volcano Boarding Experience. 

Note: You’ll notice that one of the bigger tour providers in Leon is Tierra Tours. I had an extremely bad experience with them on their volcano boarding and would NOT recommend that at all.

Visit the pretty rooftop of the Our Lady of Grace Cathedral

Pay a visit to the Flor de Cana factory – my favourite rum ever!

Days Six – Eight | Ometepe Island

Stay At – Homestay with a local family

Day Six (AM): Prepare for a morning of travel to cross Lake Nicaragua, to reach Isla de Ometepe. Travel by shuttle bus from Leon to San Jorge (3-hours), plus a ferry connection to Moyogalpa (1-hour).

Day Six (PM): Enjoy a quiet afternoon visiting one of the many island sites.

Days Seven & Eight: With two full days on the island, spend one day volcano hiking (again), or spend the other day exploring the island by car.

Full day hiking up either Maderas Volcano (8hrs) or Concepcion Volcano (10-12hrs) can be arranged through these guys.

To explore the island, hire a self-drive car, or a car with a driver and visit the following:

  • Visit Punta Jesus Maria, a black sand beach with an impressive volcano backdrop.
  • Discover ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs) and stone statues that link back to the islands historic pre-Colombian past.
  • Head to Merida to take a guided kayak tour 2km along the coastline.
  • Take a dip in the natural spring waters of El Ojo de Agua, formed by an underground river from Volcano Maderas.
  • Hike through the lush jungle to explore the natural beauty of the San Ranmon waterfall.

Click here to read more about my homestay experience on the island.

Take a cooling dip in the natural spring waters at El Ojo de Agua

Beautiful views on Concepcion Volcano in the distance

Days Nine – Eleven | San Juan Del Sur

Stay atRoyal Chateau

Day Nine: With an early start, make your way back across Lake Nicaragua by ferry (1-hour) and connect by the chicken bus (1hr 15min) to arrive at SJDS by lunchtime. And R-E-L-A-X. You’ve made it to the beach, so kick off your flip-flops, feel the sand between your toes, and grab a cocktail! There are plenty of restaurants along the beach front, so continue your afternoon into the evening, and grab dinner as the sun sets in front of you.

Days Ten & Eleven: There is a surprising amount of stuff to do here in San Juan del Sur! Surfing, Quad Biking, Snorkelling, Horseback Riding, to name just a few. Here’s a few other things you can get up:

  • Hike up to the Cristo de la Misericordia, or the Jesus Statue as everyone else refers to it! Follow the tracks from the beach, but be warned, it’s a pretty steep climb. The views are totally worth it though. Especially at sunset!
  • I bloody love zip lining, so for me this was a must-do! Book via Da Flying Frog adventures.
  • Sunset lovers can take a Sunset Cruise out into the ocean. Just make sure you have a cold beer with you!
  • Join a local guide to the reserve of La Flor, on a Turtle Tour. This is where the Olive Ridley turtles return year after year to lay their eggs.
  • Playa Hermosa – voted the best beach in the country, and the film location for ‘Survivor Nicaragua’.
  • Between January and early April, you’ll be able to see the Humpback Whales, and possibly some Dolphins if you are lucky.

Day Eleven (PM): Head off in the late afternoon on one last transfer by shuttle bus over to Granada (3-hours). Arrive in time for dinner and a sneaky rum.

Hike up to Cristo de la Misericordia for views of San Juan del Sur

Head to the beach to any of the restaurants or bar for a cocktail as you watch the sun set over the ocean. Perfection!

Day Twelve | Granada

Stay AtHotel Chilmates

Day Twelve: Spend your last day back in the centre of Granada visiting those few places you didn’t get to see the first time. If you still have room for another day trip, then visit the former volcano crater that is Laguna De Apoyo. Hike through the surrounding forested hills, and take a cooling dip in the lake.

Click here for some suggestions on what to do in Granada!

Back in Granada, watch life unfold as you stroll through the back streets

Internal Travel

Unfortunately, I cannot help on this one as all our transfers were arranged by our guide and included within our G-Adventures group. Have a google and speak to your hotel, as I’m sure both will be able to help you get from A to B!

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