What to see in Nicaragua?
Although not yet on the average tourist’s list, Nicaragua has a lot to visit and is a great option for those looking for cheap and under-exploited destinations. In this publication of our travel guide I am going to collect the best places to see in Nicaragua.
As always, before starting I would like to clarify that I have included the places that I visited and liked, and also those that have been recommended to me by many different sources. Now, I am sure that there will be much more to do in the Nicaraguan country so at the end of the article you can leave your suggestions. I also take the opportunity to inform that I have organized the post according to the location of the places on the map, and not by way of ranking. We begin.
I start this list with the island of Ometepe , one of the most picturesque places in Nicaragua. In the middle of the immense Lake Cocibolca is this redoubt of land that, despite not exceeding 300 square kilometres in size, concentrates up to two colossi on its surface: the Conception Volcano and the Maderas Volcano , both of which can be visited.
With such geographical virtues, it is not surprising that Ometepe has plenty of attractions, which makes it one of the must-see places in Nicaragua. By the way, to access this island you have to take a ferry from the port of San Jorge .
San Juan del Sur
Returning to the surface, San Juan del Sur is another of the usual tourist stops as it is one of the most famous coastal areas . Although it is true that the beaches have some charm, I personally did not like it too much. It is still the typical beach, surf and party destination , but without too much glamor, although the sunsets are worth it. If you want more information about these places, here is the story of my trip through San Juan Del Sur and Ometepe .
We leave the beach to go to Granada , one of the most beautiful cities in Nicaragua . Founded in the 16th century by Hernandez de Cordoba , it still retains a worn colonial appearance that makes it absolutely essential.
In addition, in Granada there are a lot of churches and old buildings , so getting a little lost can be a nice option. Without a doubt, one of the essential cities to visit in Nicaragua.
The Islets of Granada
On the outskirts of the city, next to Lake Cocibolca , are Las Islets, a group of more than 350 islets formed after an eruption of the Mombacho Volcano . To visit them you have to hire a boat tour (you shouldn’t pay more than $ 10 per person). Although it is possible to find some flora and fauna in the area, the main attraction is visiting the luxury houses that several rich men have built in them.
From the Isletas you will see the Mombacho , a volcano that can be explored on foot, although during our stay it was closed due to volcanic activity .
Also close to Granada, but in the opposite direction from Las Isletas, is the Laguna de Apoyo, one of the most impressive postcards in the country. It is believed to have formed from the explosion of a volcano . The best point to see the lake in all its splendor is the Mirador de Catarina .
It is also possible to go down to the shore , although when we did it we found a slightly strange atmosphere.
White peoples of Nicaragua
On the way between Granada and the surroundings of the Laguna de Apoyo you will pass through a few towns with essence: Catarina, Niquinihomo, Diria …. Although they are not a mandatory stop, they are a good place to immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of Nicaraguan rural society .
Masaya volcano and the lagoon
On the road between Granada and Managua are the volcano and the Laguna de Masaya. The lagoon can be visited , but the volcano is currently closed to the public as a precaution.
Advancement that I do NOT recommend the capital of Nicaragua as a tourist stop. But if for logistical reasons you have to stay in Managua , I will only tell you to visit Paseo Axolotl and the Old Cathedral (outside, inside it is destroyed). But I insist, it is a totally dispensable stop for travelers. If you want to read more about Granada, Managua and its surroundings , I encourage you to visit my travel account in those places.
If you keep going up the west coast you will run into Leon, one of the cities with the most history and cultural weight in Nicaragua . Currently, it concentrates some of the most important university faculties as you can read in my article on Leon .
Its role in Nicaraguan history is perceived with every step you take, which added to its great university atmosphere makes it one of the towns you should see in Nicaragua. It is also a perfect place to meet local people , so I recommend using AirBnb to stay in homes of locals. If you still do not have an account on this platform, here is a gift.
The beaches of Leon
If the beach is your thing, you will be happy to know that the beaches of Las Peñitas and Poneloya are located half an hour from the city by car , an interesting destination for friends of the sand and the sea.
Juan Venado Island
From the coastal town of Las Peñitas, using a kayak or motor boat , it is possible to access Juan Venado Island, a natural reserve where you can see, with luck, a great diversity of fauna and flora.
The ruins of Leon Viejo
In the opposite direction to the coast, but also near Leon, is Leon Viejo. These ruins are the remains of the ancient city of Leon , which at that time was located at this point on the map , but which in 1610 was completely destroyed by the eruption of the Motorboat volcano . Although it is not a very spectacular place, on a cultural level it is one of the interesting visits in Nicaragua.
Near the aforementioned ruins is Cerro Negro , one of the most “original” volcanoes in Nicaragua. The name of this colossus comes from the layer of ash and volcanic stone that covers it, giving it that black color. Its tourist attraction is not only due to its peculiar appearance, but also because it is a place of reference in the practice of “sand boarding” ( “ash boarding” in this case), which is to glide with boards on the slopes of the volcano. Of course, be careful that mishaps occur. By the way, if you are considering taking out travel insurance, I personally recommend IATI as it offers very good conditions and prices. You also have a 5% discount for being our reader.
Another tourist volcano in the Leon region is Telica, whose crater is easily accessible and observable from above .
I take this point to tell you that renting a car is a very comfortable and inexpensive option to visit this part of the country . In western Nicaragua (from San Juan del Sur to Leon) you will find most of its attractions, the roads are decent and there is not too much traffic, so a vehicle will give you a lot of independence and agility. We usually use a rental compactor (Rental cars) to find the best option.
Returning to the list of places to visit in Nicaragua, we arrived in the north of the country , an area that I could not visit due to lack of time but that many recommended to me. Among the obligatory tourist stops are the Somoto Canyon and the Carro Tisey Nature Reserve. Jinotega and Estelle are cities of reference to move around this region .
The Nicaraguan Caribbean
We are now going to the east coast of the country , bathed by the Caribbean Sea . A wild and charming area but little explored by tourists, as it is difficult to access. Some landmarks are the Pearl Lagoon and Blue fields.
I finish with one of the jewels in the crown of Nicaragua: Corn Island (Islands of the Corn) . This couple of islands (Great Corn Island and Little Corn Island) offer visitors an experience of white sand, turquoise sea and lots of nature.
The island can be accessed by plane from Managua (more than 150 euros) or by ferry from Rama , a cheaper but much slower option (about 50 euros, but almost 1 day of travel). In Vianica you can find more information about this little paradise.
At this point I end my recommendations on what to see in Nicaragua . Now that you have ideas for a possible route, it may be a good time to start booking accommodation for your stay in the country.
As I have already said, this post is a mix between what I saw and what was recommended to me, but I am sure that Nicaragua has more to offer. So from now on I open the comments so you can leave your suggestions or your doubts.