Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Nicaragua by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.
.It is always difficult to plan out an itinerary for a country that you have never traveled to before. It can be hard to know which destinations to visit, how much time to spend in each place and most importantly, how much it is all going to cost.
Recently we spent 12 days backpacking through Nicaragua, with stops in Leon, Granada, and Ometepe. This is an overview of where we stopped and what we did on our Nicaragua trip, including a full budget breakdown below. Our route could be used as a full itinerary or modified for any trip type and duration.
Day 1-4: Leon
Leon is located about an hour shuttle or 2 hour local bus ride south of the border of Honduras and Nicaragua. Leon, once the original capital of Nicaragua, is the second largest city in the country. This city is rich in history (the original Leon was buried by volcanic eruptions) and a great place for food. We were lucky enough to be pointed in the best directions for food by Monica of Posada la Gordita and were never disappointed. The Nicaraguan tacos with fresh cream were our favorites.
The main attraction of Leon, for travelers, is the ability to go Volcano Boarding. This is the only location in the world where you can go down the side of a volcano at high speed. Make sure to look around for the best deal, but most companies that provide this experience for around $30 USD.
We used Leon as a low-key recovery location during our 9 week trip. There were many amenities here that we had not seen all over Central America, including a movie theater that showed movies in English. For only a few dollars we were able to munch on pop corn whilst watching the latest X-Men film.
Leon is known for its extreme heat and humidity, yet we only experienced a single full day of the heat. As luck would have it, during our stay, it rained nearly every day. Other activities visitors enjoy include the local water parks, museums and historic walking tours.
Day 5: Travel from Leon to Granada
We took 2 local buses to Granada from Leon with a stop in Managua. All buses leaving from Leon depart from the main bus station next to the market. Our shuttle bus from Leon to UCA bus station in Managua took around an hour and a half and cost 54 Cordobas per person. From UCA bus station it is simple to find the mini bus to Granada. This is an hour trip and cost $1 US dollar per person.
Day 6-9: Granada
Granada is the perfect location to see the variations of Nicaragua without having to go far from the city itself. The city has a very European feel to it and was in fact a Spanish colonial city. Granada is an attraction unto itself with colorful buildings, numerous cathedrals to visit, and perfect places for people watching while drinking coffee.
While here, we joined a night tour to the Masaya artisan markets and to see the current lava flows in Masaya Volcano. This has become one of the top things to do in the area as the lava is highly visible and flowing inside the volcano, which can be seen from the top. We also went to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lagoon about 45 minutes from Granada, which makes for a perfect day trip of kayaking, swimming, and relaxation. Read more reasons why Granada should be your next destination.
If you have done everything there is to do and want something more, Las Isletas is an additional option. Las Isletas is a grouping of 365 small islands that were formed when Mombacho volcano exploded long ago. They range from absolutely tiny islands, to ones large enough that people own the land and have built houses on them.
For a truly unique experience, take a trip to the chocolate spa and museum. This was where we indulged in chocolate spa treatments and even made our own chocolate bars.
Day 10: Travel from Granada to Ometepe
To get from Granada to Ometepe, it requires 2 buses and a ferry. We took the bus from south of the Central Plaza in Granada to Rivas for 31 Cordobas per person. From Rivas we took a quick 15 minute local bus to San Jorge. The local bus can be picked up as it is passing by on the street adjacent to the bus station for 7 Cordobas a person. The final step is an hour long ferry ride to Ometepe for 35 Cordobas per person, but it can vary depending on which ferry you take and the time of departure.
Day 11-12: Ometepe
Ometepe is an island set in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Formed by the two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, Ometepe is an outdoors destination with most visitors intent on hiking at least one if not both of the volcanoes. Try to visit in the non rainy season as it becomes much more difficult to climb any of the volcanoes and all of the activities are outside.
Many visitors to Ometepe rent scooters or motorbikes so that they can explore the island. We heard stories of people not getting their deposit back or having issues, so just be careful in negotiating these deals. Alternatively, there are many tours you can take to various parts of the island. Unfortunately for us, Chantell was very sick during our stay so we literally were not able to explore at all. Luckily, the ferry ride across provides one of the best views of the island and volcano.
Want to extend your trip? Consider an escape to the northern beaches of San Juan Del Sur.
Budget breakdown: Nicaragua
All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Nicaraguan Cordoba) when available. Nicaragua widely accepts USD and often encourages it. See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.
Accommodation: We searched on various hostel and hotel websites for the best deals. For more information, read our tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.
- Leon – Private room and bathroom for 4 nights ($60 USD)
- Granada – Private room and bathroom for 5 nights ($85 USD)
- Ometepe – Private room and bathroom for 3 nights ($45 USD)
Food: We dined on a mixture of street food, local restaurants, convenience store snacks and the occasional mid range cost meal. The most delicious meals were often the cheapest and a sign of a good place will be crowded with locals. We also purchase bottled water, unless filtered refills were provided by the hostel/hotel. (308 Cordobas average per day on food and drink).
Activities: Day trip to Laguna de Apoyo (24 USD), Masaya Volcano/Market Night Tour (40 USD), Leon Movie Theater (110 Cordobas).
Transport: Shuttle from Leon to UCA Managua (108 Cordobas), Bus from UCA to Granada (2 USD), Bus from Granada to Rivas (62 Cordobas), Bus from Rivas to San Jorge (14 Cordobas), Ferry from san Jorge to Ometepe (70 Cordobas)
Average daily spend: $16.43 USD* per person ($21.91 AUD as of 3 July 2016).
*During our time in Leon and Ometepe, we did not do any tours so this amount will vary depending on the activities you want to do. This daily amount could be reduced by cooking your own meals.
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