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The 'Land of Lakes and Volcanoes' certainly lives up to its name - during this highlights trip, take a boat trip across magnificent Lake Nicaragua to the laid-back volcanic island of Ometepe, discover the birdlife of the lush Selva Negra cloud forest, and explore Leon and Granada, two colonial towns that are bursting with revolutionary history.
Explore Tour Leader
10 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Granada. A city steeped in history, Granada is characterised by bright-coloured Spanish-colonial architecture. The ambiance is very pleasant and there is a wide array of restaurants and bars, especially along the boulevard from the central park to the shores of Lake Nicaragua.
Due to the number of evening flights into Managua, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no other activities planned, so you are free to arrive into Granada at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Augusto C. Sandino International Airport Managua (airport code MGA) which is 44km, around one hour from our hotel.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head out and explore this vibrant city. Walk down to the central plaza, marvel at the striking yellow cathedral and relax in one of the many restaurants or cafes.
Hotel Con Corazon (or similar)
This morning we discover what life is like in rural Granada. We will travel by private bus to a community called Nicaragua Libre where, on arrival, we will have a walk around the community and meet the people that live here. We will then embark on a chocolate workshop before sitting down to a homemade local lunch, made with produce from the community.
After lunch you can either head back to the hotel and keep exploring this fascinating city or there is an optional trip to Mombacho Volcano. Journey into the lush cloud forest and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on route. You will climb the volcano in a 4x4 truck, passing local coffee plantations. Once at the top you'll enjoy a short, guided hike along the trail passing through a variety of landscapes. You will be rewarded with incredible views over Granada, the Las Isletas ar
This morning we will head out on a walking tour of the city. Our first stop will be the San Francisco Church and neighbouring San Francisco Convent built in 1529 (entry optional). We then continue onto the beautiful Merced Church where we will have the opportunity to climb to the top of the bell tower and take in the spectacular views over the city, Lake Nicaragua and the Mombacho Volcano. Finally, you will see a glimpse of Nicaraguan daily life at the local market.
This afternoon is free. A recommended optional activity is a boat trip through Las Isletas on Lake Nicaragua. This is a great way to explore Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua. Situated at the foot of the impressive Mombacho Volcano, the area we visit consists of around 360 small volcanic islands which were formed when the Mombacho Volcano erupted about 20,000 years ago. These small islands are inhabited by families who make their living from fishing, while other islands are host to extravagant villas owned by Nicaragua's rich and famous. Along the way, the tour guide will explain a lot about the many birds that can be seen here as well as recalling the history of the area.
Today we transfer to the port of San Jorge, on the shores of Lake Nicaragua and take the ferry to Isla de Ometepe. The island of Ometepe is situated in one of the world's largest freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua. The two volcanoes on the island, Concepcion and Maderas, offer stunning views when approaching Ometepe by boat from the mainland. Both of the volcanoes have their own climate and unique vegetation.
On arrival you will have free time to relax and settle into island life.
Playa Venecia (or similar)
Today you are at your leisure to make the most of this laidback island. There is plenty to do here, and we have a range of options from a hike to a viewpoint on Maderas Volcano, to a classic tour of the whole island with a stop for a traditional lunch. For those who want to learn more about the local Nicaraguan way of life at Ometepe, there is the chance to visit a women's co-operative here on the island. They are strongly focused on sustainable and community-based tourism here, and you will take a tour around the medicinal garden, learning about their homemade hibiscus wine and some of the restorative properties of the plants that are used for healing. Following this, you'll have a cooking class with the women to learn about and taste more of the local Nicaraguan cuisine.
This morning we wave goodbye to Ometepe and head back to the mainland. We will arrive to Leon after lunch and have an orientation tour to discover the rich cultural and political history of one of Nicaragua's oldest and most influential cities. Defined by its graceful Spanish colonial architecture and fascinating political history, we will soon discover why Leon is considered to be Nicaragua's historical, cultural, educational and religious capital. The best way to explore this captivating city is by foot, as much of its charm lies in the narrow colonial streets and architecture, art galleries, museums and cafes. Leon's history is fascinating, like no other town in Central America. The town was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt due to volcanic activities, ransacked (and reconstructed!) by pirates, it won and lost its struggle as the most important city in Nicaragua against Managua, and several presidents were assassinated here. It is the place where famous poets are buried, where the largest cathedral in Central America stands, and is a hotbed for revolutionaries due to the big university located in Leon. In this guided walking tour, we will visit revolutionary murals, baroque and neoclassical churches and a surprisingly interesting museum of legends, arts and poetry. After the tour, we can climb to the rooftop of Central America's largest cathedral, recently added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites, and enjoy astonishing views over the city and the surrounding Maribios Volcanic Chain.
Hotel Los Balcones (or similar)
Today is free to explore Leon at your own pace, taking in one of the museums or relaxing at one of the cafe's near the main square. Alternatively, you may choose to enjoy one of the optional excursions available in the area. One option is a hike on the nearby Cerro Negro Volcano - one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. The hike takes approximately 1.5hrs at a moderate pace, and there are stunning views across to the Pacific Ocean as well as the surrounding countryside. The fun is in bouncing down the volcano, as we run/jump/walk down through the scree.
An early start today to Juan Venado Nature Reserve where we will embark on an included wildlife spotting boat tour. Keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles, caiman, iguanas and many species of bird. We will then head to Las Peñitas Beach, a popular spot for local Nicaraguans to enjoy some time away from the cities. This beach has many cafes and restaurants and is an excellent place to relax. After lunch we will head back to Leon for a free evening in the city.
After breakfast we head to the Highlands of Northern Nicaragua, Selva Negra. On route we will visit the mud fields of San Jacinto. San Jacinto is a little town about 20 kilometres northeast of Leon; behind the village is boiling mud holes connected to the Telica Volcano. These volcanic fields serve as breathing holes for the nearby volcanoes, forming the area like a Martian landscape (and, in turn, help to prevent future eruptions). It is extremely hot to walk around and see the holes, which differ in size and colour, where the mud is fiercely boiling. The mud sometimes throws little rocks in the air and steam is continuously emitted from the holes. Local people are keen to sell you indigenous ceramics and handmade figurines, made fresh from the hot volcanic mud.
We continue our journey to the mountainous north of the department of Matagalpa. On arrival at our ecolodge we will embark on a fascinating coffee and farm tour. The lodge itself is surrounded by nature and is a calming retreat away from Nicaragua's bustling cities.
Hotel Selva Negra (or similar)
Today we enjoy a two-hour cloud forest nature walk in Selva Negra. During the walk we will learn about the importance of the rainforest and discover the flora and fauna. If you wish to continue hiking in the afternoon the Leader will take you out on an additional hike. If you would rather relax and take in the beautiful natural surroundings you can rest at the lodge.
This morning we will head to Laguna De Apoyo, a nature reserve located between Masaya and Granada. The lake is the largest volcanic crater lake in the country and was formed over 23,000 years ago after a huge volcanic explosion. On route to the lake, we will visit Masaya's famous and diverse artisan market, where we can find many products quite unique to Nicaragua.
We'll make a lunch stop in the small colonial village of Catarina, known for its 'viveros' or nurseries of potted plants that are sold to households across Nicaragua. Our last stop today is San Juan de Oriente, one of the so called 'Pueblos Blancos' with its eye-catching white colonial architecture. This small town is known for its ceramic production, and we'll be able to visit the house of a local family and learn about the delicate process of this traditional art form.
We will continue to our accommodation for the next two nights, Pacaya lodge. This stunning lodge is located above the lake with spectacular views. After we check in, we will head to Masaya Volcano National Park for dusk. As the darkness approaches you will be able to see the glow of lava from inside the crater. Quite an experience!
Hotel Pacaya Lodge (or similar)
Today we will head to the shores of Laguna de Apoyo with our included day pass at Casa Marimba. Casa Marimba is a stunning property located right on the shores of the lake. You can relax on the beach, swim or even take out a kayak and explore the waters.
This evening we will have a farewell dinner and watch our final sunset in this spectacular country.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Augusto C. Sandino Airport (MGA), which is approximately a one-hour drive from our hotel.
Tropical, with little seasonal variation in temperature. The heavy rainy season is May to October but it can rain at any time along the Caribbean coast of Rio San Juan. There are 3 main climactic zones, the hot tropical lowlands and the cooler hill region, which has a larger range of daily temperature.
2 Pin Flat
Leon - Walk on Cerro Negro costs US$ 60 pp (min 3); Juan Venado Excursion US$ 80 pp for 2-3; US$ 65 pp for 4 or more Granada - Las Isletas boat trip US$35 (3 pers) US$35 ( 2pers); Las Isletas kayak US$40 (2 pers) Mombacho crater trail US$60 (2-3 pers) US $45 (4-7 pers) Ometepe - Ometepe Classic tour inc. lunch : US$ 115-95 pp 2-3; US$ 98 pp for 4 and US$80pp for 8 +; Cooking class and project visit: US$65-$85pp (2-8 pers)
Around Nicaragua you will need loose-fitting comfortable, hot-weather clothes (100% cotton is recommended). It is advisable to bring waterproofs and also a warmer layer for the cloud forest where temperatures can drop. Don't forget your swimming costume.
Lightweight walking boots plus comfortable trainers and sandals for travelling and relaxing. Water sandals may be useful.
One main piece of luggage (suitcase or holdall) and a daypack.
Bring a torch, water bottle, insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, beach towel, and a waterproof bag for your camera. An umbrella can be useful in short downpours. The Nicaraguan border controls at both land and airport arrival points have now stopped the entry of binoculars, drones and professional camera equipment. Although there is nothing official about this on the UK Foreign Office Advice, we've had some reports of binoculars being confiscated at border controls.
During this trip you'll be staying in a range of comfortable 3-star hotels, locally run wherever possible.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Nicaragua: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. There is an entry charge of 10USD Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. All travellers coming to Nicaragua from the following countries (even if only in transit) must present an international certificate of vaccination: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Panamá, Paraguay and Venezuela. From the African Continent, all countries are included except Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Sao Tomé and Príncipe and Somalia. This list is regularly updated please check NaTHNaC for the most up to date list. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.