Backpacking Nicaragua

The country of Nicaragua in Central America has been an insider tip until now. The country's official tourism slogan sums it up quite well: 'Nicaragua, unica...original!' - Nicaragua is unique and original! Have fun exploring our ideal backpacking route for Nicaragua.


Important Basics

Official language: Spanish
EnglishSpanish
HelloHola
Goodbyechau
Thank youGracias
Yes
NoNo
Capital city

Managua

Form of government

Presidential Republic

Best time to travel

November until April

Currency

Córdoba Oro

Telephone area code

+505

Fun facts
  • The largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua is home to sawfish and sharks, among others.
  • Nicaragua is one of the warmest countries in the world.
  • You will probably look in vain for street names in Nicaragua.

Cities

Managua

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.

Leon

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.

Ometepe

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.

Granada

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.


Managua

Managua

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.

Leon

Leon

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

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.

Ometepe

Ometepe

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.

Granada

Granada

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.

Nicaragua Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home – Managua
Home – Managua
Flight
350
Private Room
9
2. Managua
Managua
-
Private Room
9
3. Managua- Leon
Managua- Leon
Bus
2
10-bed dorm
10
4. Leon
Leon
-
10-bed dorm
10
5. Leon
Leon
-
10-bed dorm
10
6. León - San Juan del Sur
León - San Juan del Sur
Shuttle
26
4-bed dorm
11
7. San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur
-
4-bed dorm
11
8. San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur
-
4-bed dorm
11
9. San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur
-
4-bed dorm
11
10. San Juan del Sur - Ometepe
San Juan del Sur - Ometepe
Bus+ferry
5
8-bed dorm
6
11. Ometepe
Ometepe
-
8-bed dorm
6
12. Ometepe
Ometepe
-
8-bed dorm
6
13. Ometepe
Ometepe
-
8-bed dorm
6
14. Ometepe - Granada
Ometepe - Granada
ferry+shuttle
19
6-bed dorm
7
15. Granada
Granada
-
6-bed dorm
7
16. Granada - Managua-Home
Granada - Managua-Home
Shuttle+ Flight
367

Total price.

Flights 700,00
Transportation 69,00
Tours 37,00
Accommodation 130,00
Total936,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Gallo Pinto: This dish is a traditional breakfast made with rice, beans, peppers, and spices and is served with toast and plantains. A mixture of sweet and salty, this dish offers something for every palate.

Soups

Olla de Carne: This hearty soup is quite meaty and refined with vegetable broth. Herbs and carrots are also often added.

Main courses

Pescado: Pescado, meaning fish, is usually freshly caught in local waters, and often fried and served with sides like fried plantains, rice, beans, and salad.

Plátanos Fritos: This is actually a side dish served with several Nicaraguan meals and consists of either fried ripe plantains, which are sweet, or fried unripe plantains, which are savory..

Enchiladas: These stuffed, fried tortillas – also called fritangas – are filled with different kinds of meat and often topped with a salad or hot chili sauce.

Queso Frito: Fried cheese is a specialty in Nicaragua. Served atop tostones (smashed, fried unripe plantains) and with refried beans, it’s a popular main course.

Drinks

Jugos: Juice in Nicaragua is super delicious and made from various exotic (to us) fruits. Different fruits – or even cocoa and milk – are mixed to create a refreshing drink called a fresco. Corn is also used and mixed with fruit, cinnamon, and milk to make one of the most famous drinks, chicha.

Cervezas: Nicaraguan beer has a good reputation. Try Toña – the country’s most popular one.

Nicaragua

As Nicaragua’s currency is the USD, the information below is given in USD. The current exchange rate of 1 USD is around 0.93 euros (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of living

Food

Free time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Get used to being looked at: The locals don’t mean to be unfriendly; people are just curious about tourists.

Only negotiate prices in the markets: Markets are the only places where bargaining is acceptable. The shops all have fixed prices. Respect this rule!

Accept food and drink that is offered to you: It’s rude to refuse since it’s considered to be a form of welcome in Nicaragua.

Don'ts

Don’t point with your finger: Fingers are not used for pointing. Try to signal with your chin.

Don't be confused when locals shake their fingers: This gesture generally means “NO” and applies to all ages. It’s not an insult.

Don't trust signs: You’ll often have to ask for directions and it’s better to double-check them because Nicaraguans don't take directions too seriously.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

Not necessary 

Vaccine

Yes 

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents must be valid for at least six months upon entry. We recommend researching the travel document, visa and entry requirements for your home country before your departure. If you travel to Nicaragua, consult a health care provider before you leave to discuss vaccination requirements.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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