An old city that's packed with Spanish colonial style architecture and locally run restaurants and stores. Granada is a very colourful city and not to be missed. You can easily spend a full day here wandering the cobbled streets with a sense of stepping back in time. Top spots to check out are the upper view point of Granada Cathedral, Guadalupe Church, Park Colon, and Avenida La Calzada, which is a great area to have lunch.
Lake Nicaragua / Islets of Granada Whilst you're in Granada, an afternoon trip is to hop on a boat and see the Islets of Granada on Lake Nicaragua. This is a group of 365 islands scattered around the Asese peninsula with some being private homes, local guest houses, or simply vacation homes. The boat ride itself is enjoyable as you'll also get the chance to visit Monkey Island, which is inhabited by hundreds of monkeys, so you can feed them from the boat. There's a vast amount of greenery, so it's a nice balance of lake and nature.
Managua With Managua being your likely entry point into the country, it's worth spending a day here to see the sights of the capital. Puerto Salvador Allende is a spot I would recommend visiting for the latter part of the day as you'll benefit from seeing the luminous giant metal trees along the malecon, as well has having one continuous waterfront area to stroll down. There's also plenty of restaurants and street food in the area. In the daytime, visit Revolution Plaza which has a stunning cathedral, as well as the National Palace. Followed by a drive up to Loma de Tiscapa, which is a beautiful view point of the city, as well as seeing the iconic Sandinho statue.
One of the highlights of my trip was Masaya Volcano, and it's also very easy to reach with it being 20km south of Managua. This is actually worth visiting twice at both day and night. Daytime you'll get stunning views across the horizon of the National Park, whereas at night you'll get to see the bubbling lava when you look directly down into the crater as you stand at the observation point. Once you enter the park gate, it's paved road all the way to the car park. In busy periods, you will be limited to how long you can spend at the crater.
Volcano surfing at Cerro Negro
Cerro Negro is an active volcano crater standing at 728 meters high offering superb panoramic views of many other volcano craters along the horizon. What makes Cerro Negro unique is the fact that you can enjoy a scenic hike to the top, before siting on a sand board and speeding your way to the bottom in less than 3 minutes. Tourists will need to use an approved company, with Volcanoboard being my chosen pick. You're provided with the board, protective clothing, goggles and gloves, as well as some simple tips regarding the technique. This really is such a rush!
Leon is a city in western Nicaragua and one that can be easily combined with Cerro Negro. It's often compared to Granada due to it's colonial architecture and cobbled streets, but I would 100% make sure your itinerary includes both cities. The Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral is the largest in Central America, so cannot be missed. If you're a fan of street art, there's plenty to be seen here with entire streets lined with art. This really is a beautiful city!
Apoyo Lagoon Nature Reserve
Formed by a volcano eruption, Apoyo Lagoon is 275 meters deep and 6.5km in diameter. It's a beautiful spot within close proximity of Managua. You can head here to relax in the many casual homestay style cafes along the lagoon, in addition to walking some of the nearby trails or kayaking on the lagoon itself. There's some great view points for spectacular views too!
I chose Crowne Plaza Managua as the hotel where I based myself for the duration of my stay. Part of this decision was covid-driven, with many smaller guest houses still closed, but the location was the other factor. It's a great central spot to explore the capital, as well as surrounding areas. Facilities are of a decent standard, but definitely on the expensive side when comparing city options as a whole.
There's a restaurant in the centre of Leon called El Cesteo Cafe which offers great local cuisine options, as well is being in a perfect central location directly on the park. The chicken and gallo pinto was superb! There's a great local vibe in this place and it's well prices for such a location.
I chose to use a local guide on the ground during my time in Nicaragua. Due to countless rave reviews, I chose Victor Ubau, who I would 100% recommend. He's very enthusiastic, speaks perfect English, and is on hand whether you're on a short stop over or looking for a full in-depth itinerary. For Whatsapp Victor Ubau +505 8866 4378.