Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, is affectionately referred to as Nica is known around the world for its lakes, coffee, volcanoes and big waves. Visit the packed-out Managua to party and Granada or Leon to explore the rich heritage and history.
The Solentiname Islands are calm, peaceful and soothing for the soul whereas the Esmeralda Coast is a perfect surfing spot. If you want to experience another side to Guatemala’s backpacker scene, then visit upscale San Juan del Sur.
Nicaragua Travel Info
Language: The official language spoken in Nicaragua is Spanish but two types of English are used in Nicaragua: Creole and Standard, therefore communicating in English is usually not a problem and the English language is commonly spoken in most tourist areas.
Currency: Nicaraguan Cordoba.
Visa: Visitors to Nicaragua from the European Union, United States of America, Canada, Australia, and Britain do not require a visa and can enjoy a stay in Nicaragua for up to 90 days. Other nationalities will require a tourist visa to enter the country. To get a tourist visa for Nicaragua make sure you have a valid passport, recent photo, completed application form, proof of financial stability and a return ticket.
Electricity: Nicaragua operates on 120 volts, and the frequency is 60 Hz. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Nicaragua Festivals & Celebrations
International Poetry Festival: The city of Granada has been proudly hosting this festival since 2005, which is the most significant poetry event in entire Central America till date. A beautiful and captivating mix of creativity and culture, this festival is passionately attended by world famous poets each year.
Semana Santa: Semana Santa also referred to as The Holy Week is the biggest festival to mark Easter. It is widely celebrated in all Spanish Countries, honoring the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ. Influenced by the tradition and culture of Nicaragua Semana Santa is a beautiful combination of sacred processions.
Independence Day: Nicaragua got its independence on 15th September; the month of September marks the beginning of Central American Patrimonial Festivities; a torch bearer starts from Guatemala on 11th September and reaches Nicaragua on 13th. The Independence act of Central America is read aloud in every state school to mark this glorious day.
Safety In Nicaragua
Just like most countries in Central America, Nicaragua is a relatively safe place to travel to. Thefts, bag snatching and scams are prevalent in all big cities so be mindful of this. Based on my own travel experiences in Nicaragua, I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Nicaragua.
Top Things To Do In Nicaragua
Get adventurous at Somoto Canyon
A beautiful river gorge cuts through the age-old rocks in northern Nicaragua and forms the Somoto Canyon. This canyon offers its visitors an unparalleled adventure experience amid the gorgeous natural landscape. Climb down the narrowest portion of the Gorge by scuttling over rocks, being carried by torrents and jumping down rocks into deep pools. What else can be more adventurous than this? It’s exploring mysterious caves full of bats hanging upside-down.
Explore Masaya Volcano
On the tip of Masaya Volcano lies the Santiago Crater and in its center is a molten lava lake which provides once-in-a-lifetime experience to its visitors. The best part is that it is possible to drive right up to the mouth of the crater. You can easily reach the volcano from Granada or Managua. During the daytime, you can get all the information you want from the onsite museum. At night you can have a peek into the crater and see the golden lava bubbling and casting a golden glow on the crater.
Visit Isla Ometepe
Ometepe is an exceptional island that can be reached from San Jorge by ferry. The island has two volcanoes- one is the active Conception in the north and the other the not-very-active Maderas Volcano in the South. Maderas has a crater lake in its center and the glorious San Ramon waterfall cascading 164 feet down a wall. Both the volcanoes can be hiked, as for the non-hikers; they can enjoy swimming in the lake and relax.
Enjoy a beach day at San Juan del Sur
It is Nicaragua’s most famous beach destination and is a hit with backpackers and surfers. All the beaches here are amazing. The water is warm with some excellent surfing spots; there is a giant statue of Jesus, the second largest in the world and lots of cheap bars. Pachamama and the Naked Tiger are the two best hotels around the beach, and you can take the airport shuttle if you are coming to San Juan del Sur by flight.
Bird-watching at Bosawas Biosphere Reserve
Bosawas is the second-largest rainforest area in the Western Hemisphere, the first Being Amazon in Brazil. In 1997, Bosawas got declared as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with an aim to conserve the incredible biodiversity present here and also to maintain its Mesoamerican corridor for the free flow of wildlife through Central America and Mexico. The area is perfect for bird-watching with roughly 790 species of birds inhabiting it.
Be amazed by Granada
Granada was the first Spanish settlement in Nicaragua and is among the most well-conserved architectures in the country. The churches and buildings have a beautiful style, and besides gawking at them, you can also enjoy some outdoor sports in the city. Go Kayaking to the surrounding islands, enjoy hiking up the Mombacho volcano or shop at the markets of Masaya. Also, visit one of the kiosks at the town square and taste Vigoron, a local dish made of cabbage and pork.
Meet the stone man of Nicaragua
In the Tisey Natural reserve, in Esteli lives Alberto Gutierrez, a local hermit who has been sculpting figures for the past 30 years along the cliff on his coffee plantation. By now he has created a gallery featuring his work which includes carvings of jaguars, snakes, elephants, characters from the Bible and scenes from Nicaragua’s past. He carves on rocks using a stone and a large nail and is known as Michelangelo of Nicaragua among the locals.
Relax at the Corn Island
The corn island is a fantastic retreat located off the Caribbean coast. The island gets frequently visited by people looking for some peaceful place where they can relax with a book. You can also go scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. The island has two divisions little corn and big corn where little corn is the one which is more peaceful, with cheaper accommodation. The Big corn has large resorts, lavish restaurants and is comparatively expensive.
The location of the National Park is in Northern Nicaragua in Esteli. It is among the highlights of Nicaragua and is swarming with natural beauty. You can stroll about the beautiful cloud forest, walk across small farms, crossing waterfalls and rivers. The place is never much crowded, and you can enjoy a day-long trek in the jungle.
Enjoy at the Apoyo Lagoon
This lagoon lay at a distance of 40 kilometers from Managua and was created around 20,000 years back when the tip of the volcano imploded. The depth of the lake is about 200 meters, and the water is a bit warm due to the presence of volcanic fumaroles. You can rent a kayak from one of the beachside restaurants, enjoy swimming in the warm waters or peek into the forested crater.
Other than these top things to do in Nicaragua, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Nicaragua that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Nicaragua
Gallo Pinto: The literal meaning of Gallo Pinto is ‘painted rooster’ and is a staple Nicaraguan food. The locals make this dish with white rice, red beans and onions fried in a skillet, and then they add the water to the skillet in which they boil the seeds. It gives the dish its signature red color.
Nacatamales: The locals make Nacatamales from maize dough stuffed with potato slices, pork, sprigs of yerba buena, a minty herb. It is the Nicaraguan version of Venezuelan Hallaca and Mexican tamales and is a favorite dish of Nicaragua.
Quesillo: This cheesy treat is sold all across the country as street food. The tortilla is wrapped around homemade white cheese and smothered with pickled onions and lots of cream. You can get them on a plate or a plastic bag to avoid creating a mess.
Elotes: This corn-on-the-cob is unique to Nicaragua and the locals cook it twice. The second cooking gives it the unique and fantastic flavor. The corn gets cooked inside its husk, and then while being served, it is reheated over a grill. Lime and salt are added to enhance the flavor.
Indio Viejo: It is a delicious meal served with a story. The meal takes a long time to prepare. The base used is a fatty slab of beef. Onions, garlic, sweet chili, tortillas, salt, pig fat, sour orange, and peppermint gets added to it. This heavy meal is eaten just before taking a nap; a weird time to indulge in some gluttony.
Where To Stay In Nicaragua
Nicaragua is a very affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Nicaragua is easy even if you’re on a tight budget. Nicaragua hostels and dormitories make travel here very affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Nicaragua is a very popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Nicaragua.
If you’re backpacking in Nicaragua or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Central America very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Nicaragua Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Nicaragua
Nicaragua has two seasons: rainy (from May to November) and dry (from November to April). Nicaragua’s dry season begins in November, when the majority of places enjoy dry, sunny days and mild temperatures. This makes it the ideal time for exploring the colonial cities, beaches, volcanoes and nature reserves the country is so famous for.
Nicaragua Travel Budget
Nicaragua is generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Nicaragua really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $250 plus a day.
- Budget: $15 – $35
- Mid-range: $35 – $100
- Splurge: $100 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Nicaragua Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Nicaragua, like most places in Central America is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Nicaragua. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your central America trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Nicaragua include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Nicaragua check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Central America Packing List For Female Travelers.