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.
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.
Stay At – Hotel 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!
Stay At – Hotel 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:
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.
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:
Stay at – Royal 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:
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.
Stay At – Hotel 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.
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!