Nicaragua – Must See List

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This country is vastly overlooked by travellers and my question is why? I have put together a brief overview of the key places you should visit based on my 4 cumulative months spent there, and how long to stay in each of the locations.

Ometepe Island

This spectacular island is home to two volcanoes! Do I need to say more? No, but I will.

Rent a bike – thank me later for this suggestion. You will see so much more if you are on limited time. It will be well worth it.

Hire a guide and hike up the volcanos – get those legs moving and climb up the volcanos. Personally I prefer the view form the bottom of the volcano, but if you want the challenge then go for it.

Ometepe display twin volcanos

Petroglyphs – If you are a lover of history then seek out the petroglyphs. Don’t know what they are? Rock art! Ancient rock art.

Hostels – there are some really fun hostels on the island. Have a search on hostel world before selecting the first random hostel you see.

Go nature and monkey sight seeing – you will hear the monkeys in the trees, but can you find them? And can you find the waterfall?

Waterfall in Ometepe

How long? If you are not hiking up the volcanos then 3 or 4 days is plenty.

Masaya

Full of culture, friendly people, excellent nightlife, and beautiful markets.

Things to do:

Laguna De Apoyo – aka The hidden gem of Masaya. My favourite place for a swim in the fresh water lagoon. Panoramic views. Kayak rental, stone beach, restaurants, occasional monkeys and birds… Do not leave this off of your Nicaragua sight seeing tour.

Group shot in the lagoon

Cultural Center Old Craft Market – Get ready to spend all your cash on the amazing hand crafts available here. There are so many things on offer here. Make sure you have room for a hammock or two in your bag.

Near the market you can walk over to visit the Folklore Museum which offers fabulous insight into Nicaraguan culture and history.

Folklore Museum mural

Parque Central – A wonderful place with friendly people and lovely parks to chill out in. Head to the central park for a slice of pizza and wifi. Look around the surrounding bars for a Toña or cafe’s for a nice ice coffee. There are lots of places to jump onto the computer nearby, so bring some change so that you can surf the internet and speak to folks back home when you need to. It is a good idea to base yourself near the park.

Volcano Masaya – This active volcano is well worth visiting. It may be best to join a tour, and if you can visit in the day time and the night time then do it! The contrast is amazing. Its incredible what difference the night sky can make. You can walk to the volcano but the walk is verryyy long. Maybe take a car instead.

Me and Yamil at Volcano Masaya

How long? 4 of five 5 is a great amount of time to see it all.

Leon

Spectacularly colourful. Friendly people with excellent night life.

Cathedral Basilica – visit the biggest cathedral in Latin America for a small price. Admire the architecture and tick it off your list.

Volcano boarding / Volcano sightseeing at Cerro Negro – thrill seekers gather round. I recommend staying at BigFoot hostel for excellent packages and shuttles to experience volcano boarding. The volcano is about 45 minutes away from Leon.

Beaches near Leon – easy commuting distance made easier if staying at BigFoot hostel.

Relaxing in hammocks comes easily in Nicaragua

Walking Tour – find a walking tour and learn about the beauty of Leon.

How long? With day excursions, allow 3 or 4 days.

Granada

This city is the oldest town in Nicaragua and full of Spanish architecture.

Things to do:

Climb the bell tower of Iglesia de La Merced for amazing views across the city. You will need to pay a dólar or two but it is totally worth it.

Visit the Guadalupe Church for a lovely look at the old architecture, then head to the Catedral de Granada for a brightly coloured and completely opposite experience.

Whether you smoke or not, take a tour of the Mombacho Cigar factory. The place is intriguing and you will find their processes intriguing.

Embracing Nicaraguan culture

How long? 1 day or 2 is plenty to see the main sights.

San Juan Del Sur

Surfer paradise, beach vibes only, perfect place to relax and unwind by the sea.

Things to do:

Climb up the hill in my picture below and look out over the sea like a pirate, before coming down to the sand for a necessary sun bathe and sand castle building session. Then jump in the sea to cool off.

Surfing is best done at Playa Maderas if you are experienced and in need of big waves.

Jesus statue – Why not pay a visit to one of the biggest Jesus statues in the world whilst you are here? It is called The Christ of Mercy and costs a couple of dollars to visit.

How long? I love the beach vibe here, so 2, 3, or 4 days can easily be spent here if you love the laid back beach life.

Managua

This bustling city is a bit of a maze. Good luck navigating without a map! There are plenty of bus stops, so getting around is relatively easy.

Things to do:

Antigua Cathedral is a really beautiful location that is well worth visiting. You can spend a good hour exploring and learning about the history of Managua and the building itself.

Shopping – Managua is the perfect place to grab all of your essentials and more. Head for the Centro Comercial Galerías if you want a lot of shops and a cinema, or the smaller Metrocentro.

The best advice for Managua is just to explore. Just ensure you have 3 or 4 days to spend here. There is plenty to see and do. Take walking tours. Head for historical buildings or soak up the bustling city. Use Managua and your entry and exit point for easy access around Nicaragua. Buses are very easy to get from here. Use your spanish and be prepared to get a little lost now and then.

Estelí

Stunning mountains with an abundance of unforgettable views.

Things to do:

Being at one with nature – rivers, mountains, nature. It’s all here in Estelí.

Estelí views are extremely diverse.

“Fat woman” statues – These random statues are beautiful but bizmare. Dotted around Estelí you can expect to find a few of them holding different items. How many can you spot?

El Jalacate – Spend a few hours admiring the creative rock carvings. Paying to enter is not a problem when you see how much work has gone into this place.

How long? Day trips are perfect. But if you are enchanted by the mountains, stay for longer. I stayed for 3 days and have zero regrets.

There are so many things to see and do here! A month overall is recommended if you can get the time so that you can explore these places and more.

I hope that this has helped you plan your perfect Nicaraguan trip.

Myth Busting: Hostels – To stay or not to Stay

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A significant part of your travelling experience lies in the places that you choose to call home each night. Whilst you may not return home with wondrous stories about the incredible comfort levels hidden within the mattress, or the delicious breakfast you ate each morning – the chances are that you will always recall the things that made the accommodation terrible.

When booking my stay anywhere in the world I look at five factors. 1. Is it close to the main attractions. 2. Are the rooms clean and comfortable. 3. Am I paying a decent amount for what is on offer. 4. Will I have somewhere other than my room to hang out in the evening, and 5. How well has the space been rated by past experienced travellers.

I hope that by confronting some of your doubts and answering some of your questions with real experience I can bring you to book your first hostel stay somewhere.


1. You said: I’m not sharing a bedroom with anyone I don’t know. So I might as well just stay in a hotel room anyway.

I say: If you really don’t want to stay with anyone random then the answer is simple, don’t stay with random people. Booking a private room in a hostel is easy and will still save you a large amount of cash. Let’s look at an example I have stayed in –

Where we stayed: The Secret Garden Hostel – Krakow, Poland. 5 nights, two beds for £160 total.

For just £160 we stayed in a lovely private twin bed room with ensuing, TV, cleaning service, common room, kitchen area, and free city maps.

This hostel has family vibes – meaning you are unlikely to be awoken by noisy party goers at 2am in the morning. If you like your privacy and like being slightly out of the centre of town then The Secret Garden hostel is an excellent choice.

If you want breakfast included then you only need to pay a small fee for this, or why not pop to the grocery store just a 2 minute walk away and make your own?

If you opt for one of the many Hotels in the area you will notice ( with a quick search on booking.com ) that you will be lucky for find a room for 5 nights for two people, and under £350.

Choosing a private twin room in a hostel in Krakow saved us £190.

Secret garden hostel in Krakow Poland room with twin bed and green cupboards. This homely hostel got mums seal of approval with its pristine, pretty, and private rooms.

2. You said: Hostels are for young people.

I say: No they’re not!

Where we stayed: Basecamp Bonn – Bonn, Germany. Suitable for all ages.

This quirky hostel offers a very varied environment, and by varied I mean – you can stay in the train carriage a private caravan a tour bus and more, all housed in a giant warehouse of fun.

Whilst younger visitors might opt to stay in the entirely cramped tour bus, older travellers can opt for the privacy and spaciousness of a private caravan for the night. The hostel offers traditional fun boardgames for the younger visitors (not that it stopped us from playing) and a mature atmosphere for the older ones.

If staying in a caravan isn’t your thing then there are plenty of other options available for all the travellers in the world of hostels. All you have to do is set your preferences wisely when searching, and if mobility is an issue then check the facilities and the location before you book.

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!


3. You said: I’m not sharing a bathroom!

I said: Whilst it can be hard to find, hostels with private bathrooms do exist.

Where we stayed: Villa Varich – Chumphon, Thailand private ensuit.

Ok, ok, so this hostel isn’t on Hostelworld anymore because it wasn’t technically a hostel, but as the owner was just starting out these private villas were placed on Hostelworld and for bargain price. It’s just so great not feature it here. This does however raise an interesting point about being meticulous in your search for the perfect private bathroom.Once again I urge you to set your preferences to private ensuite and searching for a decent hostel with a private bathroom. Who knows you might just stumbled upon something is great as Villa Varich!

Jemma and irfan outside selfie by the river on the swing in Thailand With the villas on the river front it would have been rude not to take a self on the swing.

4. You said: I don’t want to party all the time. I just want to read with some light entertainment.

I said: party hostels are all around but if you search with the correct preferences you will find a hostel that suits you perfectly without all the loud music.

Where we stayed: Easy Tiger is an incredible hostel located in Phong Ngha, Vietnam.

Whilst from the booking websites this may seem like an incredibly rowdy hostel you couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll also be pleased to know (for those of you that wanted a private bathroom recommendation) that rooms with four beds in one private bathroom or available.

Upon entering your room you will be greeted by tiger print walls, floors, bedding – you name it! The rooms have thick walls keeping all outside noise out. Scheduled musicians and other interesting acts play in the evenings for your entertainment whilst you grab a bite to eat from their yummy restaurant.

I also recall there being a pool, pool tables, and a theme of supporting good causes.

Hills and mountains in phong nha Thailand by easy tiger hostelThe entire hostel is surrounded by incredible 360 views such as this. You also get an awesome wrist band upon entry.

5. You said: I’ve heard stories. Hostels just aren’t safe!

I say: To date, I have yet to be robbed of anything, nor attacked in some dark hallway. I’ve thought that I’ve been robbed a few times by then realise I just dropped my things next to my bed.

Where we stayed: Asta Venice, Venice, Italy. The locker is under your bed, and bag storage options are available.

some hostels have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to security, but we were pleased to see that Asta has nailed the locker system. Although Asta has done a good job, always travel with a minimum of two padlocks as most hostels or not supply them for you free of charge.

Many of the newer hostels you will notice have cameras around the building and outside rooms (which by the way most hotels only have cameras in the lobby). If you notice any suspicious behaviour, notify the staff (as you would anywhere else) and you will be just fine.

Anda Venice hostel entrance sign. Modern Art DecoAnda Venice is the trendiest hostel inVenice offering security, young fun vibes, and funky decor.