Want to fly away to Nicaragua this year? You’re not alone, as more travelers are waking up to the fact that Costa Rica’s western neighbor is cheaper and more intriguing than the long time heavyweight champion of Central American tourism. If you’re not sure of what you’ll do when you get there, allow us to suggest a 2 week itinerary that will ensure that your first time in this Latin American gem will be an awesome one.
Day 1: Arrive in Managua
While Managua is the capital of Nicaragua, it has been ravaged by severe earthquakes twice in the 20th century, robbing it of most of its heritage, and with all the internal strife that this nation was suffering through at the same time, its ability to rebuild had been crippled.
With its historic centre shattered, development in the capital since then has been concentrated in suburban developments that sprawl throughout the surrounding countryside, very little of which holds any appeal for visiting foreigners.
As such, your time here is best spent catching up on lost sleep at a hotel near the airport, or within one in one of the city’s more upscale neighbourhoods (such as Los Robles).
Day 2-3: Leon
Taking a minibus from UCA (University of Central America) or a pre-arranged shuttle from your accommodation, head northwest to Leon, which is one of two colonial towns that can be found in Nicaragua.
More of a university town than its rival Granada, young people can be found everywhere here, and if you like churches there are plenty of them to explore, as there are no less than twelve to comb through. If you are young and active, take advantage of a volcano boarding tour, and if you like surfing, the long barreled waves of Playa Las Penitas are only a half hour away by taxi!
Day 4-5: Granada
After transiting through Managua once again, head to Granada for a different taste of colonial Nicaragua. Granada’s architecture has been better preserved over time, making for better surrounds for those that are made uncomfortable by the gritty nature of Leon.
Funded by trade from the earliest days of the territory and having long been a stronghold of the upper classes of Nicaraguan society, buildings here are more elaborate and colorful, making for some stunning photo opportunities.
The bars and restaurants on the Calzada will ensure that you always have a great meal while you are here, and you will have plenty to discuss over food and drink, as volcano treks, cigar factories, and boat tours on Lake Nicaragua will keep you busy and engaged during the day.
Day 6-14: Corn Islands
End your time in Nicaragua with a week in the Caribbean sun. Head to Managua International Airport, having pre-arranged a flight to Big Corn Island on arrival a week earlier (remember that you will need to re-confirm your flight plan 24 hours before with La Costena), and fly over the wild jungle of Nicaragua’s eastern frontier, and then over the rough waters of the open Caribbean Sea until you get to these two gems, located 70 kilometres off the eastern coast of Nicaragua.
Head to the port via cab, and catch an open-air skiff known as a panga that will be the final leg of your journey to Little Corn Island. With no roads, limited connectivity to the internet, and copious amounts of white sand, palm trees, seafood and delicious rum, Little Corn is the sort of place that is almost impossible to find in the Caribbean these days.
Spend your days circling the island looking for hidden beaches, snorkeling numerous reefs, and on weekends, watching the local teams duke it out at the baseball diamond at the centre of the island.
When the time comes to head back to the mainland to catch your connection back home via Managua, you’ll be tempted to tear up your return ticket and leave behind your life at home for a new one of lounging in a near perfect paradise.