Unexplored Nicaragua Tour
Nicaragua offers a wealth of incredible nature, authentic culture, legendary hospitality and beautiful colonial cities – not to mention a fair few volcanoes! This twelve-day tour has been designed to allow travellers to experience all of these elements – that taken together make Nicaragua such an exciting and varied holiday destination. Nicaragua’s fascinating but turbulent history forms the backdrop of this Unexplored Nicaragua Tour – a tour that takes travellers off the beaten track to discover some of the country’s most beautiful protected nature reserves in the north of the country, before heading over to León and the Pacific coast, and finishing in the stunning colonial city of Granada, on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.
- Explore the less known north of the country, home to outstanding landscapes and rich biodiversity
- Hike through the lush Peñas Blancas cloud forest, which forms part of the largest natural reserve in Central America
- Learn about coffee from seed to cup at a traditional small family-run finca
- Swim in (and jump into!) the waters of Río Coco whilst exploring national monument, the Somoto Canyon
- Relax at Las Peñitas beach and explore the surrounding mangroves by boat
- Hike around the crater of the active Masaya volcano
- Discover the cities of Managua, León and Granada – all offering something unique to travellers – including fascinating histories and well-preserved colonial era architecture
- Gain an understanding of the history of revolution in Nicaragua
- Visit a women’s weaving cooperative and traditional black ceramics workshops
This is a private tour and you will be accompanied by an English-speaking local guide and driver throughout. All activities and excursions are private (only for you). The price displayed is per person based on two people sharing. All tours can be tailor-made to suit your interests and requirements.
This tour is designed for those with an adventurous spirit and a love of nature. It takes travellers off the beaten track to some truly stunning locations, and brings them into contact with incredibly friendly people and authentic local cultures.
The tour starts in the capital city, Managua, where travellers will have their first introduction to the dramatic history of Nicaragua, including the 1972 earthquake which devastated the capital and increased opposition to the Somoza regime, whilst on a tour of the city’s main sites. Next stop is the women’s weaving community of El Chile, where you’ll will learn the story behind the cooperative and find out about traditional cotton dyeing and weaving, before enjoying some breath-taking 360° panoramic views from the top of Cerro El Chile.
The north of Nicaragua is home to many stunning and unexplored nature reserves, and Peñas Blancas is one such area: well-protected cloud forest, waterfalls and amazing biodiversity. Over the next couple of days you’ll have the opportunity to explore the nature reserve on foot and experience firsthand the natural beauty of Peñas Blancas. Then we move on to La Fundadora community, where you will be able to enjoy more stunning views whilst experiencing a traditional rural lifestyle. During a visit to small family run coffee finca, a charming and extremely knowledgeable farmer will explain the whole coffee process from seed to cup and the many benefits associated with having a diversified farm.
As well as coffee, the north of Nicaragua is renowned for producing fine cigars, and the town of Estelí is at the centre of the country’s tobacco industry. After a tour of a cigar factory, you’ll head to La Garnacha ecological community where you’ll taste a slightly more unusual local specialty: Swiss cheese! The visit to the community will be followed by a horse ride to visit Don Alberto’s finca and stone sculpture gallery. This captivating old man has spent the past 30+ years carving the rocks around his secluded property and is always happy to take guests on a tour of the resulting stone sculptures – which is also a tour through recent history and his own incredible imagination!
After another night in Estelí, you’ll head to Somoto, close to the border with Honduras, to spend the morning exploring the stunning Somoto Canyon, framing part of the longest river in Central America, “Río Coco”. Then it is the colonial city of León, a city rich in history and impressive architecture, which you’ll have the chance to explore at leisure after a guided tour. León is located near the Pacific coast, and the following day will be spent exploring the mangroves and relaxing on the beach.
The stunning colonial city of Granada is the next destination – where you’ll be able to enjoy a city tour and boat trip through the adjoining Isletas on lake Nicaragua. A trip to Nicaragua wouldn’t be complete without a close up encounter with a volcano so your final full day will include a visit to Masaya Volcano, one of the most active in the country! Last stop of the tour will be the Pueblos Blancos where you will be able to admire the outstanding craftsmanship of local artisans specialising in create pre-columbian pottery – and enjoy impressive views over Laguna de Apoyo.
Day 1: Managua - Arrival at the international airport (-/-/-)
You will be welcomed at the airport in Managua and transferred to your well-located hotel. On the way, the guide will be able to give you lots of useful information for you to make the most of your time in Nicaragua – and to answer any questions you may have. You will have the day to relax and acclimatise.
Day 2: Managua to Matagalpa - The weaving community of El Chile (B/L/-)
After breakfast, you’ll be picked-up at your hotel for a city tour where we’ll explore the capital and visit all the main places of interest. We will learn about Nicaragua's revolution and the earthquake in 1972 that changed the city’s layout and location. We’ll then start our journey towards the north of the country. After a 3 hour drive we’ll reach the indigenous community of El Chile where we’ll enjoy a typical lunch and then meet a group of empowered women that have kept the Nicaraguan culture of weaving alive. “Telares El Chile” is a small cooperative owned by local women – and after learning about how the cooperative started, you’ll have the opportunity to watch the women at work and rummage through some of the lovely creations they have for sale. To finish the day, your guide will take you on a short hike to the summit of Cerro El Chile, where you’ll be able to enjoy breathtaking 360°views. You’ll have a free evening at a comfortable hotel in Matagalpa.
Day 3: Peñas Blancas - Arcoiris waterfall (B/L/D)
After breakfast you will head to the Peñas Blancas community, where an extremely well preserved cloud forest is located. Upon arrival you’ll enjoy a local lunch before embarking on a 3 hour hike to the Arcoiris Waterfall (other options are available for those less able to hike). Peñas Blancas is part of the largest nature reserve in Central America, the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, and you will be able to enjoy the stunning natural setting and biodiversity of Peñas Blancas. You will spend the night in basic but beautiful bamboo cabins (with private bathrooms) after enjoying a typical meal with local ingredients.
Day 4: Peñas Blancas & traditional ceramics (B/L/D)
Today, we’ll have an early breakfast and then embark on another hike, this time to the core of the Peñas Blancas reserve. The hike will take around four hours, and is steep / tough in places, but it is totally worth the effort. You will experience the mystery of the cloud forest, spectacular views and interesting flora and, who knows, maybe even spot a resplendent Quetzal! After lunch, we will head towards La Fundadora community (2.5 hours), and on the way we will stop by Las Cureñas, a black ceramic workshop where a group of humble families open their houses to show you the whole traditional process. La Fundadora Community offers basic wooden cabins (with private bathrooms) - all benefiting from amazing views over the valley – and you’ll be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep after a traditional locally sourced meal.
Day 5: Coffee - From seed to cup (B/L/-)
After a traditional breakfast in the community dining hall, we will get ready to walk around the community and visit Don Agustin's small family run finca. Don Agustin will teach you all about coffee – from seed to cup – and also about the benefits of crop diversification and sustainable farming. After a homemade lunch in the community, we’ll start driving towards Estelí and on the way we will stop for a coffee tasting session. You’ll then be taken to your well-located boutique hotel in the centre of Estelí where you’ll be spending the next three nights. Free evening.
Day 6: Estelí - Tisey Reserve (B/L/-)
After breakfast, we’ll start the day with a tour of a cigar factory, tabaco being one of the regions main crops. This will be followed by a visit to La Garnacha ecological community, located in the Tisey reserve. There are plenty of places to appreciate the amazing views over the reserve and surrounding countryside and you’ll also be able to learn about the community’s farming projects and sample some of their delicious Swiss cheese that’s produced on site. After lunch in the community, you’ll be able to enjoy the countryside further whilst travelling to Don Alberto's stone gallery on horseback. Don Alberto has spent the last 30 plus years carving the rocks surrounding his secluded finca – and you’ll be able to discover elephants, revolutionaries and even the twin towers! Don Alberto is usually on hand to show guests around his stone gallery and provide an insight into how it all started and where he gets his inspiration. We’ll then head back to Estelí where you’ll have a free evening to relax.
Day 7: Somoto canyon (B/L/-)
Today we’ll have an early start and get ready for an adventure in the Somoto Canyon. After an hour’s drive, we’ll arrive at the canyon, declared a national monument, and start our hike towards the source of “Río Coco”, the longest river ion Central America. The adventure starts with a short hike through tropical dry forest, before continuing along the banks of the river. You’ll be able to enjoy a mixture of walking and swimming – and jumping off rocks if you too for those looking for a little more adrenaline! After the canyon tour, we’ll stop for lunch in the local community, followed by a visit to traditional Rosquilla (corn bread) factory. We’ll then head back to Estelí where you’ll be able to enjoy another free evening.
Day 8: León - History and Architecture (B/-/-)
After breakfast, you’ll be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the beautiful colonial city of León. Along the way we’ll stop off for a short visit to the boiling mud pools of San Jacinto, which are the result of the volcanic activity in the area. After checking into your centrally located hotel, a local guide will come and take you on a guided city tour – where you’ll visit the cathedral, which has been declared a world heritage site – as well as the city’s other main sites. After the tour, which should provide you with an excellent introduction to the city and its history, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore at your own pace.
Day 9: Mangroves and Las Peñitas beach (B/-/-)
This morning a local guide will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the estuary near Las Peñitas beach. We will take a boat tour to the wildlife sanctuary “Juan Venado Island”, and explore the mangroves, hopefully discovering waterfowls, lizards and iguanas and other flora and fauna that live in the mangroves, along the way. After the boat tour, you will have the rest of the day to enjoy some fresh seafood at a local restaurant and to relax on the beach. We'll then head back to León for a free evening.
Day 10: Colonial city of Granada (B/-/-)
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be picked up and transferred to your next destination: Granada, home to some of the finest colonial-era architecture in the country and historically, it is one of the Nicaragua’s most important cities. After checking into your well-located boutique hotel in the historical centre of the city, and some time for lunch, you will be picked up for a guided tour of the historical centre of the city. You will be able to learn all about the city’s history and the many places of interest, before enjoying the breeze of Lake Nicaragua during a boat trip around the hundreds of islets, formed by the last eruption of Mombacho Volcano. You will then have some spare time to explore the city at your own pace – and the tower of Iglesia La Merced offers a great vantage point to enjoy the sunset over the city.
Day 11: Masaya Volcano and Pueblos Blancos (B/-/-)
After a breakfast, we will visit the active Masaya volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua! We will drive all the way up to the crater, and also hike around the other dormant craters. Later, we’ll visit the Pueblos Blancos, stopping off at a pottery school to meet some of the talented artisans who create beautiful pre-columbian pottery. We’ll also go to ‘Mirador de Catarina’ where you’ll be able to enjoy some amazing views of the Laguna de Apoyo, and have some time off for lunch at one of the many local restaurants. We'll then head back to Granada for the last afternoon / evening of your tour.
Day 12: Granada – Managua Airport (B/-/-)
Depending on the time of your flight, our driver will come and pick you up and take you to the international airport in Managua, just an hour’s drive away. End of tour.
- Trip duration: 12 days
- Countries visited: Nicaragua
- Level of difficulty: Medium - although the hikes in Peñas Blancas can easily be swapped for shorter hikes or different activities for those looking for a low level of physical difficulty.
- Accommodation: 1 night in a hotel in Managua, 1 night in hotel in Matagalpa, 1 night in basic eco-cabins in the Peñas Blancas reserve, 1 night in basic eco-cabins at La Fundadora community, 3 nights in a hotel in Estelí, 2 nights in a hotel in León & 2 nights in a hotel in Granada. All hotels are 3-star or boutique.
- Transport: Private car and 4x4
- Meals included: 11 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 2 dinners
You will be greeted at the airport on arrival by a local guide who will take you to your hotel and will be able to answer any questions, make any additional arrangements and generally ensure everything goes smoothly.
No minimum number of passengers required. Prices quoted are per person and based on at least 2 people travelling. You should expect a cheaper price for bigger groups.
Your passport is required at time of booking. For information on visa requirements, immunisations and health formalities please visit the FCO Travel Advice Website or the US Travel Advice Website (direct links to Nicaragua’s page).
Information on money changing in each destination, as well as what it is customary to tip for various services, will be provided.
This tour of Nicaragua has a medium level of physical difficulty but participants can choose to do as much or as little as they like. If you have any concerns or require special arrangements please call or email us to discuss.
What to bring: Travel insurance, passport, binoculars, alarm clock, walking shoes, water bottle, daypack, sun protection, insect repellent, sun glasses and hat, swimwear, flip-flops, torch with extra batteries, comfortable light cotton shirts with long and short sleeves, comfortable trousers made of cotton or a light synthetic material (bring at least two sets of light clothes which can be washed and dried easily), shorts, rain coat, dry bag /ziplock bags for valuables, and waterproof cover for your luggage in case of rain.
- Best time to travel: The high season runs from December to April when the weather is mainly hot and dry - but experiencing the lush green countryside during the wet season also has its appeal!
- Extra budget recommended: Around £200 / $250 pp to cover all meals, snacks & expenses not included in the in the tour.
- What is included: Welcome reception at the airport. Transfers (private car). Overland transport. Accommodation. Entrance fees to sites of interest, museums and national parks mentioned in the itinerary. Guided activities and excursions with English speaking guides (all private). Meals as stated in the itinerary (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner). Contributions to the social projects visited. Donation to help in preserving the Amazon rainforest through agro-forestry and education.
- What is not included: Flights from your country of origin. Travel insurance. Alcoholic drinks. Additional meals or snacks. Travel within and around each town. Visa fees (if any). Tips. Souvenirs.
There is no minimum duration and you can take only the activities or destinations you want. To start creating your ideal, tailor-made tour to Nicaragua, please complete and send this form. Our Nicaragua partner will be in touch shortly: