Nicaragua: The Perfect 10-Day Itinerary
Little known, Nicaragua, the largest Central American country deserves your attention. We've created this detailed 10-day travel itinerary to help you with planning your limited time in the country. From beaches to volcanoes and colonial cities, Nicaragua has it all and should not be missing on your bucket list of countries you must visit.
From all the countries we have visited in Central America, Nicaragua was the one we knew the least about, and we were not sure what can we expect in terms of security, natural attractions, architecture or cuisine.
It might be a bit of shocking experience if you are crossing borders from quite developed Costa Rica to a third-world country Nicaragua or if this is the first visit for you in this part of the world.
But we came prepared after having spent almost a year in South and Central American countries, so loud drivers honking their horns, crooked taxi drivers and piles of trash lining the road, did not surprise us that much.
This Central American nation has been increasingly popular among travelers until last year, April 2018 to be exact when outbreaks of violent protest against the government took place and since then the country tries to maintain its stability and economic growth.
It is pretty hard though when many foreigners living permanently in Nicaragua and owning hotels and restaurants have fled the country, and many potential travelers who had already planned their itineraries in Nicaragua decided to cancel the entire trip.
But we will talk about safety in the country in another post.
For now, we would like to emphasize that we visited Nicaragua in March/April 2019 and haven't had or encountered anything even close to a problem.
That's why we have created this perfect 10-day itinerary for Nicaragua.
To inspire you to visit this country boasting with beautiful beaches, colorful colonial towns, and towering volcanoes and rather than backing away, you should now take advantage of not that crowded streets, available tours, and low prices!
THINGS TO DO IN NICARAGUA
I saw somewhere a line that Nicaragua looks like Costa Rica a decade or two ago before tourism took over.
We haven't been to Costa Rica that long time ago, actually we visited it only before we crossed borders to Nicaragua so cannot say whether it is true or not, but Nicaragua, compared to Costa Rica is undoubtedly more laidback, less traveled and less developed.
It is a place where you can do adventurous activities such as volcano hiking, volcano boarding or watching boiling lava bubbling under the surface. It is also a country of several peaceful and colorful colonial cities with a unique charm, deep crater lakes, and forests alive with wildlife.
Nicaragua is also a country where you can completely unwind by the sea, relax with your book and get up only when you decide to have another drink or a surf lesson.
If you would like to learn more about this country, read our Ultimate Guide to Nicaragua: Everything You Need to Know.
NICARAGUA 10-DAY ITINERARY
Because Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, most of the travelers stick to the Pacific coast as it is much easier, distances between points of interests are not that vast, and overall there is a lot to see and do within 10 days to two weeks which is the usual length people are used to stay in Nicaragua.
In case you have more time, it is worth to visit Nicaraguan beach paradise Corn Islands - but either prepare yourself for a long journey, or you will need to spend some cash on a flight ticket.
For the same reason, we had skipped Somoto Canyon, because it would have either set us back at least $75 per person or we would have lost three days, and because of the dry season and lack of water, we did not want to sacrifice either money nor our time.
This itinerary is the exact program we followed in Nicaragua and were absolutely satisfied with it. We don't have a feeling we have missed out anything and had plenty of time to enjoy each destination fully.
HOW TO READ THE PERFECT NICARAGUA ITINERARY
We crossed borders to Nicaragua from Costa Rica, so San Juan del Sur was for us a logical first destination on our travel itinerary.
If you fly into Managua, you have several options on how to narrow down your personal itinerary.
Every point of interest on the Pacific coast of the country is quite close to each other, so from Managua, you can travel to Leon first and leave relaxing on the beach for your last days in the country instead.
In that case, read this itinerary from the end to the beginning.
DAY 1 - 3 SAN JUAN DEL SUR
The chances are that if traveling by plane, your first destination in Nicaragua will be the capital city, Managua.
Unfortunately, this city, unlike many other capitals around the world is not really worth your time, so we recommend you to jump on the first bus and travel straight to another worthwhile destination on your itinerary, San Juan del Sur.
San Juan del Sur is maybe not that unspoiled as Corn Islands, but it has no shortage of beautiful beaches to keep you busy (or rather lazy) for at least three days, and another plus is that this destination is easily accessible when your time is limited.
You can base yourself in the town with the same name, San Juan del Sur, or you can stay on beaches nearby (Maderas beach is perfect), enjoy more relaxed vibe and travel to the town only when you need to go shopping, when you want to visit the local market, hike to the statue overlooking the bay or when you want to try local cuisine.
We stayed in San Juan del Sur even one day longer, so if your time allows, do the same.
This is also a popular place for surf lovers!
DAY 4 - 5 OMETEPE ISLAND
From San Juan del Sur, carry on to Ometepe Island, a stunning island with two towering volcanoes in the middle.
It is a nice introduction to Nicaragua's volcanoes - these are for sure not the last volcanoes you are going to see in the country.
To enjoy the most of your time on the island, we recommend you to rent a scooter right after your arrival and spend an afternoon cruising around the island and admiring incredible views of two perfectly conical-shaped volcanoes.
Go to bed early as the next day is your hiking day.
You can hike either Concepcion Volcano which is higher and harder than the other one, Volcano Maderas. Be prepared for a very long, yet rewarding day out and stunning views.
It does not really matter on which part of the island you decide to stay because every accommodation will help you arrange scooter and guide for hiking the volcano.
DAY 6 - 8 GRANADA
Granada is Nicaragua's top travel destination.
It is so renowned that many people revolve their entire holiday around this city, and don't travel to another destination at all, or some travelers are so enchanted by the city's charm that they decide to stay here a couple of weeks to fully enjoy the atmosphere. There are several reasons why is Granada such a hot spot.
First, it is a beautiful colonial city where you can wander its streets all day long and not get bored.
Second, the surrounding is just lovely - you can visit Masaya Volcano at night and observe how the lava is boiling in the crater, you can tour Masaya Village nearby, kayak on Nicaragua lake, the largest lake of Nicaragua or spend a day by Laguna Apoyo.
As you can see, there is plenty of things to do in Granada, and all activities will easily keep you busy for three days or more.
Also, do not forget to stop by in the local market!
DAY 9 - 10 LEON
Leon has its rightful place on backpacker list of must-visit places in Central America.
Not only it is a charming city with many churches and cheap eateries, but it is also a place which had played an important role in Nicaragua's history - if you are interested to know more about it, take a guided tour and visit a museum in the city center.
After one day wandering Leon's streets, you cannot miss the most popular and ultimate adventure the next day. A thing which draws an uncountable number of travelers to Nicaragua - volcano boarding from Cerro Negro.
If we haven't mentioned it before, city of Leon lies in the volcanic chain, so apart from the most famous one, Cerro Negro, you can visit many other volcanoes in the near surrounding and do either hiking to their tops or participate in sunset or sunrise tours.
Because this is your last destination in Nicaragua, you can travel back to Managua if you have a flight back home from there, or you can carry on by tourist shuttle to Honduras, El Salvador or even Guatemala.
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