Heart of Nicaragua
November 2-9, 2019
8 days, 7 nights
If you want to know what's in the heart of Nicaragua this tour is for you. Looking on any map of Nicaragua, it's clear why it is called the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes but it's also a land of rich culture, complex history, and resilient people who know how to turn very little into a bounty.
During Purísima (December tours)
There is no other time of year in which this abundance of spirit is more spectacular than the annual celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Purísima for short. Both in León and Granada we will join the Nicaraguans in the city streets as they participate in ten days of non-stop processions, music and fireworks. The air is charged with alegría, and their faith and hopefulness is nothing short of contagious.
Arrive early. Our journey begins in the capital city. We’ll set off through Managua’s busy streets. For first time visitors and history buffs alike, this city tour will tell the story of civil war, natural disaster, and survival. We’ll visit plazas, statues, and
Masaya, The Cradle of Folklore
Volcán Masaya National Park was established in 1979 as Nicaragua’s first national park. As the sun sets over this vast landscape we will step up to the crater's edge and peer into one of the country’s most visibly active volcanoes. The thunderous lava is audible and adds to the otherworldlyness of it all.
At the top of a steep climb is Coyotepe–built as a fortress in 1893 to protect the city of Masaya, later used as a prison, now a national landmark maintained by the Boy Scouts–offering an introspective look into Nicaragua's past and contemplation of its future.
We’ll pass through Los Pueblos Blancos on our way to Catarina, where local handicraft makers are famous for their woven fiber and precious hardwood furniture, hand-turned ceramics, and sweets. In San Juan de Oriente, artists offer pottery-making demonstrations and sell their work alongside the narrow village streets. In the hillside pueblo of Catarina is a Mirador, a vantage point that allows you to look out over Laguna de Apoyo, Granada, Lake Nicaragua, and the Island of Ometepe in the distance.
On Sundays during October and November, in celebration of Masaya’s Paton Saint, San Jerónimo, dancers take to the streets and to the homes of friends and relatives to perfrom El Baile de Negras. They show off in elegant costumes, bedazzled footwear and hand painted mesh masks to hide their identity. Most notably all the female personas are men.
Isla de Ometepe
Getting there is half the fun! A one-hour ferry ride away from the mainland will set you down on what Mark Twain referred to as, "...two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds." He goes on to say, "What a home one might make among their shady forests, their sunny slopes, their breezy dells, after he had grown weary of the toil, anxiety and unrest of the bustling, driving world." Indeed, here we run on island time. The difference between city life and island life is palpable.
An easy walk through the 20-hectare tropical dry forest of Charco Verde will lead us to a dark, volcanic sand shoreline and grand lake views. Nicaragua is brimming with myths and legends and Charco Verde is no exception. We will hear stories of the demonic figure of Chico Largo and the ill-fated, submerged village of El Encanto. Not fictive or exaggerated is the nearby mariposario that is home to a splendid variety of local butterflies.
The island boasts an impressive museum, La Ceiba, which exhibits a large, private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts found on Ometepe. On the same premises is the Numismatic Museum, Nicaragua's most comprehensive collection of bills and coins reaching back to pre-Columbian times.
Spend the late afternoon on Santo Domingo's soft, sandy beach and wade into the lapping bath water that is right outside your hotel door.
Granada, Colonial Jewel
We’ll give you time to explore the relaxed colonial city of Granada, both the oldest city on the continent and the most developed tourist destination. Nowhere else in the country will you find such an array of excellent restaurants offering both local and international fare. We’ll show you the highlights, walk the colorful streets and tour the market.
Nearby, along the shores of Lake Nicaragua, a boat is waiting to guide us through the many water corridors around Las Isletas, an exotic tropical archipelago of 365 tiny islands of volcanic origin. A great way to get up close to myriad water birds that inhabit the shoreline and the curious spider monkeys that swing from the treetops. We will stop off on a private isleta that supports local families who make their living fishing the sweet waters, so we can enjoy a fresh, homemade lunch and some relaxed kayaking.
Volcán Mombacho rises nearly 4,400 feet above sea level, its summit hidden in a dense cloud forest. You’ll get a first-hand look at a shade-grown coffee farm and processing plant followed by an evening/night hike around a tree-lined crater through an amazing ecosystem, home to colorful orchids and bromeliads, curious wildlife, fascinating insects, and over 160 species of birds. With our flashlights you might get a glimpse of Mombacho's very own endemic salamander or a sloth making some night moves.
Giving back to the communities we visit is very important to us. We are extremely proud of one of Granada's many local organizations that focuses on the education and well-being of marginalized children and their families. You will be introduced to Education Plus, a group of amazing people who dedicated their time, energy and love to making a long-term, positive impact.
Rounding out your visit, you will spend the afternoon swimming/floating in the thermal, crystalline (some would say restorative) crater lake waters of Laguna de Apoyo or opt to kayak along the shoreline. However you choose to use your time, it will be well spent, and you may never want to leave!
What is included
Group is limited to eight (8) participants so reserve your place early. If you are a group with at least 6 people and would like to arrange your own travel dates, please contact us. Tour cost is for double occupancy. Single room supplement is $325.
Additional travel extension packages are available. Come early or stay late and really get to know Nicaragua. Ask us!
NOTE: The conditions on this tour can be difficult due to the nature of the developing world. While accommodations are upscale for Nicaragua, there may still be issues with electricity, water, access to the internet, and Nicaraguan culture continues to run on its own schedule–that's why we adore it!