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Itinerary Nicaragua 2 to 5 weeks | Hints and Highlights

Nicaragua counts about 6,5 million inhabitants and is a very nice backpacking destination. In addition to the capital Managua some beautiful old colonial towns, impressive volcanoes, good surf spots and tropical rainforests. It is also a cheap country where travel distances are relatively short. In short, enough reasons to visit this pearl of Central America to discover!

Also read: Top 10 | What are the cheapest countries for a world trip?

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Backpack Itinerary | Favorite destinations

We ourselves have taken 5 weeks to travel around Nicaragua, but you can also visit the highlights in 3 weeks. Below you will find our favorite destinations with which you can already prepare your backpacking trip to Nicaragua. 

1. Colonial Leon

Leon is one of the most beautiful cities in Nicaragua, with its beautiful and ancient buildings. One of the most special places in the city is the Cathedral of Leon. Not only is the inside of this gigantic cathedral beautiful, but the white roof is also worth a visit.

One of the most popular backpacking activities in Nicaragua is volcano boarding in Leon. You may have guessed it: this is an activity where you slide down a volcano with a board. An adrenaline rush guaranteed! 

backpacking leon
The roof of Leon . Cathedral

2. Ometepe Island

In the largest lake in Nicaragua is the beautiful island of Ometepe, which consists of two volcanoes. The island is very basic, you imagine yourself completely back in time ... and that is secretly enjoyable. Rent a scooter and explore the island at your own pace. In addition, there are plenty of fun activities to do while backpacking in Ometepe:

  • Climb one of the two volcanoes
  • Kayak through the swamp area
  • Visit the natural baths 'Ojo de Agua'
  • Hike to the San Ramon waterfall
  • Enjoy the beautiful sunsets
Ometepe by motorcycle
Exploring Ometepe by motorbike

3. Surf Spot San Juan del Sur

This small town on the Pacific Ocean is a perfect backpacking destination in Nicaragua. Besides that many backpackers come here for the good surf spots, it is also a popular party destination. Every Sunday it's Sunday Funday and a big party breaks loose. Don't you like to party? Don't worry, you can also dodge this madness just fine.

Tip: Also visit the bays around San Juan del Sur, called Playa Hermosa, Playa Maderas and Playa Yankee. Here the waves are usually a bit better than in San Juan and it is also a lot less crowded. 

surf spot san juan del sur
View over the bay of San Juan del Sur

4. Colorful Granada

In the colonial city of Granada, just like in Leon, you will find colorful streets and beautiful old buildings. The city itself is already a major attraction where you can easily spend a day wandering around. In the vicinity of Granada there are many possibilities for excursions:

  • Climb one of the surrounding volcanoes
  • Watch bubbling lava from the Masaya volcano
  • Relax at Lake Apoyo
  • Visit the islands of Granada by boat
backpacking Granada
Granada's main square

5. Enchanting Matagalpa

Known as the pearl of the north, this city is undiscovered by many backpackers. Matagalpa is surrounded by coffee plantations and is known for its coffee export. Due to its location in the mountains, the climate in Matagalpa is a lot more pleasant than in the rest of the country.

A tip when you are in Matagalpa is to visit Black Forest to bring. Selva Negra used to be a coffee plantation, but today it is a well-maintained and protected nature reserve. You can participate in a guided tour or take a nice hike yourself.

Fun fact: after the hike through the nature reserve we ordered a pitcher (1 liter) mojito for 10 dollars on the terrace of Selva Negra.

Selva Negra Nicaragua
Selva Negra . Nature Reserve

Backpacking off the beaten path

Are you looking for an adventurous, off-the-beaten-path backpacking destination in Nicaragua? Then we have two more tips for you!

1. Esteli and the Somoto Canyon

Believe me; Leon and Granada are beautiful cities, but the lively town of Esteli gives you a more realistic picture of local life. Unlike the backpack destinations mentioned above, Esteli's turnover does not come from tourism. Esteli and its environs derive their profit from agriculture such as vegetables, fruit and tobacco.

We chose Esteli because we wanted to visit the Somoto Canyon. This is the place for adventurers, because you can go canyoning here. You then make a walking, swimming, climbing, jumping and sliding trip through the river gorge. A very cool experience! But be sensible and don't do this alone, we advise you to go out with a local guide. 

somoto canyon nicaragua
Somoto Canyon

2. Penas Blancas

Kilometers of rainforest, beautiful rock formations, waterfalls, viewpoints and a large amount of animals. That is what you will encounter in the Penas Blancas nature reserve. You are far away from civilization here, so don't expect electricity or standard hostels. What will you come across? A small local community that wants to teach you everything about their way of life and the beautiful surroundings. Definitely worth it if you're not averse to an adventure.

backpacking off the beaten path
Penas Blancas Natural Area
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Lieke Thijssen

?️ Latin America lover
??‍? Travel & hospitality copywriter
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