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Backpacking in Nicaragua

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Gallatin Gateway...
posts: 9
reviews: 31
Backpacking in Nicaragua

My friend and I will be backpacking Nicaragua for about week in mid-October. We are backpacking our way to Costa Rica. We do not plan to rent a car, and instead will be relying on public transportation. Starting in Managua, what are some places we should definitely hit? What's important to us: snorkeling, hiking, wildlife, cultural experiences, off-the-beaten-path type spots. This is our personal adventure, and we are not looking to book tour guides! Any advice/recommendations about hostels and buses/taxi is appreciated as well! Thanks!

Granada, Nicaragua
posts: 1,809
reviews: 38
1. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

It depends where you guys start in Managua because the best place to start your trip as to be In Leon and to go to Leon will be At la UCA bus station la UCA is a university very close to Metrocentro 30 min away from the airport or 10 minutes away from Tica bus station.

The ride to Leon will take you about 1.5 hours and 3 dollars when get in Leon the options for lodging are plenty but a nice spot with is a bar too where locals and foreigners get together is VIa Via few blocks away from the main plaza(Another nice spots for lodging will be Big foot hostels that they also do Sand boarding in Cerro negro, Lazy bones or La tortuga boluda just to mention a few). In Leon you can Hike Cerro Negro here in this volcano you can do volcano Boarding, also Telica is another good hike and the two most challenging Momotombo which is on the way to managua and San cristobal on the way to Chinandega, Another spot close to the city of Leon to spend one night is Las peñitas or poneloya on the pacific ocean, La barca de oro is a nice spot to sleep, on the morning you can go and enjoy of the ocean and on the afternoon Isla Juan venado are a couple of nice things to do, hire a local boat driver to enjoy Isla Juan venado. To get to this place take a taxi to the bus station close to sutiaba church bus station and from there the yellow school buses to las peñitas a taxi will charge you about US$2 per person and the bus only about a dollar. Same way back to Leon and same to Managua at Managua you will be drop at the UCA bus station get the buses to Granada 1 dollar and 45 minutes to Granada your backpack will be probably on top but tell them to tide them up. in Granada the options for tours are many city tour, boat ride, chocolate tour, mombacho hiking, Masaya one day trip, etc, you can get local maps at Tierra tours or Vapues tour offices maps are free an update.

For example Masaya volcano can be access with the busses that leave the main square(this buses go to Managua you will listen the people hanging at the door screaming “Managua, Managua, Managua”) just ask to be drop at “VOLCAN MASAYA” 1 dollar and half an hour to the entrance, at the entrance pay 5 dollars and walk 8 km to the top, there is a walk that goes around San Fernando crater, come back and visit the masaya city, get out of masaya volcano and wait for the busses that goes to Masaya city at Masaya city visit the art craft market which is close to the main plaza and the regular market is 4 blocks away (which from there you can take the buses coming back to Granada), the city hall which still holds a 500 pounds bomb from the 70´s and the Jetty of Masaya nice view from Masaya crater lake and Masaya volcano this place is close to the Masaya baseball stadium.

Tours as the isletas of Granada is always better with one tour operator other wise you will pay more trying to get to the pier and rent a boat for your self btw do not buy any tour from any street vendor.

To go to Mombacho get the busses that pass by the cemetery (any bus going to rivas, diriomo,niquinomo, catarina etc) ride for about 15min and ask to be drop at “EMPALME GUANACASTE” walk on the cobblestone street for 2km pass the canopy tour and walk another 200mts to the entrance of the volcano payment is about US$15 dollars per person include the entrance and the 4x4 drive to the top, 3 different walks there but only the small one is included on the ticket overnight and night walks with park rangers can be done at this volcano too.

To go to Ometepe get the buses going to Rivas this busses leave from the local market of Granada close to Pali supermarket and Uno gas station and stop in rivas get a cab for 1 dollar per person to go to San Jorge and there you can take the ferry to go to the island the best place to stay on the island if you are backpacking will be Moyogalpa city next to the port and the best place to explore the island will be renting bikes or motorcycles, (Places to visit on the island= charco verde natural reserve, ojo de agua this is the water sprint, El porvenir Rock carving also if you want to hike maderas this is also a nice and budget place to stay and do the hiking on maderas volcano, Finca Magdalena is another great spor to stay do walks around and go to the top of Maderas volcano is anice and cheap option too, altagracia statues, etc. get maps from the local bus drivers this ones are free and give you an idea of the places if not the same maps from lonely planet or the guide that you bring with you will help.

Another stop to visit to enjoy the beach, snorkeling, get a tan etc, as to be SJDS get back to Moyogalpa get the ferry and at San Jorge Get a cab to SJDS for both you maybe will pay about US$20 or get a cab pay 2 dollars for both and go to the Rivas market and look for the buses that goes to SJDS enjoy of the area.

To keep going to Costa Rica get the taxis from the market maybe you will pay about US$20 to the border go through the entrance and walk straight to the white bars that is the migration office ask for your migration papers (you will find lots of locals trying to sell you and fill for you this papers they will ask some money for this) get the papers get your stamp pay the fee which is about US$3 go through the 18 wheelers (Remember this is no mans land) to the place between Nicaragua and Costa Rica show Nicaraguans officer your stamp walk few meters and show your passport to Costa Rican Migration officer and keep walking on the pave road to the brand new Costa Rican migration office get again the same papers fill them up no entrance fee but remember just in case to bring with you your E-ticket to go back home get out of the building and outside you will see many people doing a line this is to get bus tickets to go to Liberia, San Jose or another destination that will go from here to San Jose on the Pan-American highway.

Enjoy Nicaragua


Gallatin Gateway...
posts: 9
reviews: 31
2. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

Wow, thanks for all of the information. Is Esteli worth seeing? Right now our trip is looking like after we land in Managua, go to Leon, Granada, Masaya, Isla de Zapatera, Ometepe, San Juan del Sur, then into Costa Rica. Is Esteli worth adding to our itinerary?

Granada, Nicaragua
posts: 1,809
reviews: 38
3. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

there are many nice natural reserve on the area good cigar shops and nice main square, the Forrest are really good

Gallatin Gateway...
posts: 9
reviews: 31
4. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

I don't plan to spend any time in Managua except when transferring buses. Our flight lands at 7:20pm; I would love to go ahead and go to Leon, but is it safe to take a bus and arrive at night in Leon?) Or should we wait until morning? Just want to make the most of our limited amount of time.

Edited: 5:34 pm, September 23, 2012
posts: 962
reviews: 57
5. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

If you flight arrives at that time, by the time that you clear customs there will be nor more buses to Leon

Granada, Nicaragua
posts: 1,809
reviews: 38
6. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

Last bus that leave la UCA station will be about 07:00pm so it won´t allowe you to catch that bus. so i think will be better to look for acommodation in managua and transport to Leon Next day.

London, United...
posts: 6
reviews: 10
7. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

hey guys,

planning a couple of weeks of backpacking and i ve been thinking of Nicaragua/Costa Rica..is 2 weeks including flights from UK enough to see both countries or it's better to focus on one only?

thanx in advance for any tips and advises!


Edmonton, Canada
posts: 4,466
reviews: 67
8. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

One country only, unless you're into checking off boxes.

Cincinnati, OH
posts: 185
reviews: 36
9. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

If you are seriously only staying a week then the itinerary you proposed above is way too much. If you're taking only buses some of the travel will take a good part of the day. Esteli is really cool but if you've only got a week you don't really have time. Honestly just Leon/Granada/Ometepe is a full week if you are wanting to do anything at all while you are there. Ometepe takes at least half a day of travel from Granada just for perspective. You'll need to choose between Zapatera and Ometepe as well. Just being real with you on the timing and logistics.

Also love Big Sky country. ;)

posts: 347
reviews: 30
10. Re: Backpacking in Nicaragua

Your intenary is tooooo much if you just stay one week..

Leon, Penitas Beach Vulcan Boarding Climbing Vulcanos, Visiting Mangrove swamps which is all very close to Leon will take at least 3 days

If you like to do Granada, Masaya, National Park Vulkan Masaya , Las Isletas, Mombacho and Laguna de Apoyo (dont miss this place its the most beautiful of Nicaragua) you need at least another 3 days...

I would skip SJDS and Zapatera

Regards Salta