Even though Managua is not the most beautiful capital city in the world, it’s worth a short visit to the country’s economic center. We recommend a walk along the malecón (harbor promenade). From there you can take a boat trip to some of Lake Managua’s small islands.
Other popular sights in Managua are the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, the former seat of the National Congress, and the Museo Nacional de Nicaragua. Take a stroll through the old town, check out traditional restaurants and colorful street markets, and get in the groove for your Central American adventure.
In the city center, stay in a six-bed dorm for nine euros a night.
After a short, two-euro bus ride, you’ll arrive in León – the intellectual center of northern Nicaragua, filled with universities and bustling with students. The picturesque old town with its colonial architecture and beautiful churches will captivate you. Get an impressive view of the city from atop the snow-white Basílica Catedral de la Asunción de León.
From León, it’s easy to get to several of Nicaragua’s volcanoes, but be sure not to miss out on an excursion to the Cerro Negro. Volcano boarding is an absolute must here for all adrenaline junkies. Slide down the ash-covered slopes on a “sandboard” and check it off your list of crazy things to do before you die!
You can also reach Las Peñitas and Poneloya quickly and cheaply by public transport. These small coastal towns offer not only paradisiacal beaches and cheap surf schools but also a relaxing atmosphere with live music in the beach bars and restaurants – a true backpacker's paradise.
Stay at a hostel in León for 10 euros a night in a 10-bed dorm.
San Juan del Sur
For about 26 euros, a shuttle will take you to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua’s surfing hotspot in the south of the country.
The former fishing village is located on the Pacific coast and is a Mecca for backpackers looking to surf and swim. At Playa Maderas, you can rent a surfboard or book lessons at a super affordable price. Want to take it down a notch? Put away your surfboard, grab your yoga mat, and head to one of the many popular yoga retreats on the beach.
Explore the interior of San Juan del Sur by ATV, mountain bike, or motorcycle. Here, above the seawall, you’ll find one of the largest statues of Jesus in the world. Hike up the hill to share in His magnificent view of the bay and surrounding countryside. After an eventful day, relax with a drink and listen to some music on the beach.
Even after sunset, San Juan del Sur doesn’t sleep. Stay the night and have a wild time in one of the beach bars. Afterwards, get some shuteye at a nearby hostel. A four-bed dorm only costs 11 euros.
You can get to Isla de Ometepe from San Juan del Sur for around 5 euros. Take the bus to San Jorge in Rivas, then catch a ferry to Moyogalpa, Ometepe’s largest port.
Ometepe is one of the world's largest islands in a freshwater lake (Lake Nicaragua) and is formed by two volcanoes. The best way to explore is by quad, motorbike, bicycle, or even horseback because buses don’t run here regularly.
Go on a guided hike to climb the island’s two volcanoes: Concepción and Maderas. The ascent to Concepción is more demanding, but reaching the summit is definitely worth the effort for a breathtaking view. After your hike, relax at Punta Jesús María – the beach with the best sunset over the lake.
Balgüe is a great starting point to discover this fairytale island. Stay here in an eight-bed dorm for six euros a night.
In one of the largest cities in the country, you almost feel like you've been transported back in time. The charming old town enchants visitors with traditional colonial buildings, lovingly restored houses and nostalgic churches on almost every corner.
The climb to the top of the bell tower of the Iglesia de La Merced Cathedral is particularly recommended, as it rewards you with a fantastic view of Lake Nicaragua and its idyllic surroundings.
You can explore these from Granada on various day trips, for example to the Mombacho volcano or the San Francisco monastery. You only pay 7 euros for an overnight stay in a 6-bed dorm in a local hostel.
From Granada, a shuttle takes you back to Managua for around 17 euros. In the capital, you can do some last-minute souvenir shopping before boarding the plane back home.