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.
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.
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?
How long? If you are not hiking up the volcanos then 3 or 4 days is plenty.
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.
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.
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.
How long? 4 of five 5 is a great amount of time to see it all.
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.
Walking Tour – find a walking tour and learn about the beauty of Leon.
How long? With day excursions, allow 3 or 4 days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.