Travel - Nicaragua

  • I'm beginning to realise my time in Central America is really short. It feels like I'm rushing around a bit now that I've a flight to make in Mexico and unfortunately Nicaragua got a little unlucky with that as I've had the flu for the majority of my stay here which has led to me skipping a few places.

    I also took fewer photos and even fewer good ones which is a pity as the colonial towns are really nice to walk around at any time of the day.

  • Rivas

    Quick one. This is where I stayed the first night after leaving Costa Rica. I slept in what was literally a shed with a mattress, a pillow and a mosquito net but you know.. it was enough.

    There is nothing to do in Rivas. Most people go to San Juan del Sur to surf and party and from there get a bus to Rivas and on towards the ferry for Isle de Ometepe. I skipped the former and just made my way from Rivas as the ferry port is nearby. You'll probably end up getting a taxi there but it is possible to get a bus to the ferry. The issue is most taxi drivers will tell you there is no bus going etc.

    Also information in general is awful, I was told there were only three ferries going by my hostel at certain times. They were completely wrong on times and ferries. So just head over early and you'll catch one no problem.

  • Isle de Ometepe

    Once I got to the island I made my way to a hostel I'd booked (Casa Moreno). Unfortunately they made a mistake and were overbooked so to make up for it, they booked me into another hostel right by the ferry port called Landing and it actually turned out to be pretty good so I'd no complaints. I'd definitely recommend it.

    The main thing I did on my first day was rent a bike and cycle to Punta Jesus Maria, a beach which had a great reputation for the sunset. It costs a dollar to get in and the beach itself is nothing special but it definitely is really nice to be there for the sunset. You can walk out to a point where the sea is coming from both sides of you and you're able to see both Volcanos on the island. As mentioned, the sunset is pretty beautiful too.

    The following day I rented a scooter for $15 and I'd a fantastic time. Just driving around the island was so much fun since I've very rarely been in control of the transport I'm on. The majority of the 'first' island has a pretty decent road too so it's perfect for driving around. I stopped off at Charco Verde where there is a butterfly reserve and a cool walking area. I found a load of wildlife while I was walking through the area, monkeys, lizards and squirrels and you go past beaches, forestry and lagoons so it's a nice change all the time. The reserve is cool too, I didn't actually plan on going to it but I think it was included in the entry fee. If you want to see lots of different types of butterflies roaming around, definitely check it out.

    After that I got back on the scooter and made my way to the second part of the island where Volcan Maderas is. Here is where the road basically turns into a dirt road. You don't necessarily need to be experienced to drive on this but it's not going to be fun and you'll have to take your time. Anyway I drove to the other side to start the trail to San Ramon Waterfall. I definitely recommend wearing decent shoes for this. I completely forgot and went in flip flops and it was a bit of a pain but doable. It takes about 80 minutes to get to the waterfall and it's awesome because it's not like your typical waterfall, it's more like a shower coming down. It's not as focused as other waterfalls so you get this nice rainbow at the very bottom when the sun comes out. It was wonderfully refreshing to just sit under it, refill my water and make my way back to the entrance.

    The final attraction for me was Ojo de Agua, springs that are sheltered away from the sun thanks to the trees surrounding it. It's right between the two volcanoes and has a small entry fee ($2-3). Even though I was already refreshed from the waterfall, this was delightful too. It has a decent set up, nothing too fancy but there are showers and chairs and places to relax, swings into the springs, that kind of stuff. You could easily spend hours here just chilling, especially if it's between 12-3 when the sun can be a bit too much.

    I loved all of the things I did but I do think just driving around was my favourite thing. Having the wind blowing in your face and seeing all the small villages and people is just really amazing. I loved that.

    Only other thing I'll mention is there was a really nice Mexican place right next to the hostel called Picante I believe, definitely recommend it.

  • Granada

    Here's where my flu really kicked in and unfortunately I didn't fully recover until after Nicaragua. In any case, once again I got the ferry back to the mainland and fortunately there was a chicken bus (not literally a bus with chickens) heading to Managua. I was able to get straight on to this bus, get dropped off near Masaya and then get microbus to Granada, all for about $2 I think. The non tourist buses are really cheap here.

    Anyhow, my first two days were mostly spent in a single room, drinking plenty of water and trying to rest a bit. Whenever I did head out, I would just walk around the area. This is the oldest colonial town in Nicaragua (possibly Latin America, should google that) so it's just really nice to walk around streets you haven't been to yet. All the houses are full of colour... reds, blues, greens etc. It's really nice and I imagine a good photographer would love the area.

    The other main attraction in the town itself are the churches. They vary from pristine to looking like ruins and you can make your way to the belltower in at least two of them for a dollar each which is worth it really. Once you've finished up with the churches, you'll probably find yourself situated in the central park which is a nice area to just sit down and see what the people are up to in the area. There are cheap restuarants here too that do typical meals that I thought were really good. Nothing fancy and once the sunsets, the mosquitos come out in numbers but it does the job if you don't want to overpay for average stuff.

    After 2 nights I switched hostel just because I was feeling a bit better and the one I found was rated pretty well and much cheaper (Hamakas) since I stayed in a dorm. The hostel was decent I thought and bar an incident with one person who just kept moaning about the fan being on in the room, it was all good.

    The only other major thing I did in Granada was make my way to Lagoon de Apoyo. You can get shuttle out here but as usual I did it the hard way. I got a micro bus out to 37.5 kilometre point (it's the name of the place apparently) and walked the rest of the way which took about 90 minutes I reckon. If you don't want to do that on the way back, you can get a bus which goes to Masaya, get dropped off on the main road and grab a bus that will go back to Granada. it's all very cheap. For me, since I only got the bus there and bus back, it was less than a dollar (20 cordobas).

    As the name of the area suggests, this crater has a lagoon. There are a bunch of resorts here where you can stay or get a day pass. I went to Monkey hut for $6. You can go and chill by the beach (not impressive), grab a tube, kayak or just swim around and out to the floating platforms. A lot of people stay a few days but just the one day of relaxing is plenty for me. I think it's well worth going here just to get away from the town life and I always think craters look really cool, especially ones with a lagoon!

    Following day, I picked a shuttle from the hostel to Leon for $15. I was a bit lazy and as mentioned, not feeling up to backpacker style travelling. You can do it a lot cheaper by getting a bus from there to Managua and then to Leon.

    I'd also highly recommend The Garden Cafe, it's not cheap but they do really tasty breakfasts and smoothies. It's been ages since I've had any poached eggs!

    Also, there are other things to do in Granada but because I didn't feel 100% and I'd have the chance to do similar stuff elsewhere I left it, such as heading to the Volcano at Masaya to see the lava flow, or kayak in the lake.

  • Leon

    I was dropped off at Hostal las Vacaciones, where I was staying. Really nice hostel. Nice beds, decent fans, they make a solid breakfast. My only issue is the wifi was all over the place. Sometimes good and sometimes non existent which is really annoying when no one mentions that in reviews (Someone make an accommodation site solely based on wifi for me).

    Leon similar to Granada, is a colonial town so it's a great place for a photo opportunities. The central areas can get chaotic with traffic and people but that just adds to the vibe of the place. You'll find plenty of locals and tourists roaming around the place.

    I checked the Revolution museum and went up to the top of the cathedral. It's handy as both of these things are right next to eachother. The museum was cool but the guided tour wasn't great just because it was in Spanish only, so it was pretty hard to follow but I got bits of it. A few people did recommend to go to the museum about myths and legends. I didn't in the end but something to think about if you visit.

    The main reason I came here though was to go volcano boarding. At my hostel I was able to book it for $21. I was picked up at 8am. The trip felt like 45 minutes to the entrance where you pay a $5 entry fee. From here, we got a bag with some water, googles, overalls and gloves. I highly recommend you bring a bandana, I just forgot. In total, making your way to the top of Cerro Negro probably takes an hour as you take some breaks waiting for others and go to other areas at the top before you actually board down. On the day I went up, the wind was insane. It was so strong that I had to stop in places, otherwise I'd probably have lost the board or at least fallen a few meters in whatever direction the wind took me. Seriously it was strong.

    The board you get it a bit strange, it's probably the size of a snowboard but wider and has 3 pieces of wood going horizontal, you sit on the last one and grab the steering wheel, which is a rope. To go faster you just lean back and to go slower you sit forward. Only other thing is you keep your legs to the side, that's what keeps you steady, if you put your feet on the board you'll probably just fall off.

    I was a little worried initially when I saw people go down as they were going really slow I thought. Fortunately it was just them. I made it a mission to at least go down as fast as I could and I don't know how fast that was but I was easily the fastest according to everyone else since I went last. I just leaned back and tried to keep straight basically. You have ash and tiny rocks flying at your face (where the bandana comes in handy). It was a load of fun and you look like a person who's spent a week in a coal mine after it. Believe me, the following shower was a long one with the amount of things stuck in my hair! And with that I loved it and definitely suggest anyone to do volcano boarding. Even if you're worried about it, you can just take it slowly.

    And now I just have to wait for my bus to Honduras (La Cieba specifically) which leaves at two in the morning. I've really enjoyed my time in Nicaragua but I just feel like I didn't have the best time because of being a little sick. There are a load of other nice places to go to for relaxing and surfing and everyone mentions the Corn Islands but I just don't have the time or right mentality for that right now. Maybe it's a sign of travel fatigue kicking in but I genuinely thinks it's more so being a bit sick. Hopefully I recover soon as the main reason I'm going to La Ceiba is to dive!