Overlooking Nicaragua's volcanic landscape
Land-Based Expeditions

Nicaragua

Overlooking Nicaragua's volcanic landscape

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Nicaragua

From quaint cities bursting with colonial architecture and a colorful past, to striking volcanoes where green parakeets live amid the sulfurous smoke of a steaming crater, International Expeditions’ new Nicaragua tour offers a range of natural and cultural delights. For those who want to take in tropical landscapes and vibrant wildlife in a safe and crowd-free environment, travel to Nicaragua, where you can enjoy a retreat that’s still “undiscovered” by the masses.

Travel to Nicaragua’s Premier Wildlife Reserves

IE’s naturalist-guided Nicaragua tour takes in the country’s premiere wildlife hotspots -- Juan Venado Nature Reserve, Selva Negra Private Reserve, Ometepe Island and Montibelli Private Reserve. Plus, you’ll spend a morning spotting birdlife and floating peacefully among Lake Nicaragua’s islets.

Daily Itinerary

Nicaragua Itinerary

  • Day
    1

    Depart Home City / Managua / Granada

    Travel to Nicaragua independently, landing in Managua to begin your Nicaragua tour. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to Granada, where you have the rest of the day at leisure. Spend the next two nights at Hotel Plaza Colon. (Meals Aloft)

    nicaragua nature and lake photos boat excursion
  • Day
    2

    Granada

    This morning enjoy a relaxing boat ride around the islands of Lake Nicaragua, formed by Mombacho Volcano, observing the local bird life and people of the islands. Named after the city Granada in Spain, this atmospheric city features colonial churches clustered around narrow streets and large homes with beautiful patios and tiled roofs. On a guided excursion, your guide will take you back in time as you learn about the city as you walk the main plaza to see La Merced church, Zamora family home, Casa de Los Tres Mundos and the San Francisco convent. At the convent, learn about the mysterious, pre-Columbian idols while your guide tells you about the 1855 invasion by William Walker.

    This afternoon, drive south of Granada, enjoying sweeping views of Masaya Volcano and the lush landscape, to the White Cities (Pueblos Blancos) of Catarina and San Juan de Oriente. In Catarina, plants and flowers line the roads like colored ribbons, making Catarina look like a gigantic flower garden. See the Mirador de Catarina, which offers wonderful views of the Apoyo Lagoon, Granada, Lake Nicaragua and the many surrounding volcanoes. San Juan de Oriente is a small town near Catarina and important for local pottery. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    3

    Granada

    Spend the morning exploring the tropical dry forests of the Montibelli Private Reserve. Montibelli is an award-wining privately owned park and arguably one of the best forest reserves in the Pacific basin for bird watching. 156 species of fauna have been identified here, including endangered species such as mono congo, sahin, guatusa, parrot of the Pacific, and six species of hummingbird. Here we may spot manikins, trogons and Nicaragua’s national bird Guardaborranco – the turquoise browed motmot. The park is also known for an abundance of butterflies. Enjoy an afternoon and evening at leisure to explore Granada on your own. (B,L)

    nicaragua nature and lake photos turquoise browed motmot
  • Day
    4

    Laguna de Apoyo / San Juan del Sur

    Enjoy a morning at Laguna de Apoyo, a lovely, thermally heated lake in the crater of the Apoyo Volcano. The protected tropical humid forests around Laguna de Apoyo are home to colorful birds such as white-throated magpie jay, tropical kingbird, Montezuma oropendula, great kiskadee, aracaris and Guardabarranco — turquoise browed motmot. This forest is also home to a variety of tree species, including kapoks, elephant’s ear trees, Central American cedar, peeling tree and sea almond trees and others. On naturalist-guided hikes, watch for groups of howler monkeys, white faced monkeys, and several species of butterflies, insects and lizards. Continue to San Juan del Sur this afternoon, where we check into the Victoriano Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    San Juan del Sur

    Spend out morning at La Flor Reserve along Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. From July through December, more than 100,000 Olive Ridley nests are laid on this beach. The reserve is also an important nesting area for hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles. The area is also home to brown pelicans, parrots and magnificent frigatebirds, as well as multiple primate species. The afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua's most famous beach town. (B,L,D)

    nicaragua photos san juan del sur
  • Day
    6

    Leon

    Drive to Leon and tour this colonial city, first settled in 1524. The city has existed in its current location since 1610, when it was moved after being destroyed during an eruption of Momotombo Volcano. During our tour, see the monumental cathedral, the largest in Central America, located at the main square, the birth place of Ruben Dario and the Ortiz Gurdian art gallery. This walking tour is the perfect time to learn about this city’s historic murals as well as its role in the social, economic and political development of Nicaragua. At Hervideros de San Jacinto, feel the heat rising from the interior of the Earth, and observe the impressive mud boiling inside these craters. Spend tonight at Hotel El Convento. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7

    Juan Venado Island Reserve / Selva Negra

    Explore Juan Venado Island Reserve, a protected area forming part of the country’s vital coastal wetland region. From Las Peñitas beach, our naturalist leads a two-hour private boat ride along this barrier island and the mangrove swamps separating it from the coast. This area provides the ideal home for an abundance of animal life, including water birds, caiman, crocodiles, iguanas, crustaceans and more. From May to November, the estuary of Isla Juan Cenado is a vital nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles. Since there is no human population residing on the island, we enjoy the sense of peaceful seclusion. As we explore more of Nicaragua, ecotourism enthusiasts will love our time in the cloud forest at Selva Negra EcoLodge, a sustainable coffee plantation and wildlife preserve. Nestled in the central highlands, we spend two nights in this private reserve. (B,L,D)

    nicaraguan photos leon bell tower
  • Day
    8

    Selva Negra

    Spend the morning strolling on trails through the cloud forest where we hope to spot some of the bird species attracted by the reserve’s fruiting trees. Since the property is situated along the continental divide between the Pacific and Atlantic lowlands, our sightings could include a mix of both Pacific and Atlantic-slope bird species. Later we tour the coffee plantation, learning about the processes harvesting their shade-grown coffee. This extensive tour begins First we go through the wet mill, where you can see the receiving, depulping, fermentation and washing process of the coffee, you can also see the canal for sorting coffee, the pre-drying patio as well as the transporter for the coffee pulp. There is also the pipeline system for the contaminated coffee water (honey water). 

    Then we will take you to see the installation where the coffee water will be cleaned up (uncontaminated), there are the concrete bins, the biogas system the oxygenation lake and also part of the flower greenhouses. From here we go on a road the leads to the next farms, that are part of Selva Negra coffee plantation to then continue through the pastureland where you will receive an explanation on how the intensive pasture ranching works, the usage of electric fencing with solar energy, the constant rotation to upgrade the small lots of pastureland, the shade planted in the area and why it is useful. During the afternoons, we are back on the trails surrounding the reserve looking for butterflies, howler monkeys, agoutis and over 220 bird species, including keel-billed toucans, blue-winged warblers and hummingbirds. One evening, enjoy an enriching lecture on Nicaragua ecotourism and the local ecological efforts being led by owners of the lodge. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Selva Negra / Managua

    Spend another morning on one of the many lovely and well-maintained trails at Selva Negra Reserve. This afternoon drive to Managua in time for lunch and to explore the city.  Discover the capital of Nicaragua as we survey the ruins of the Old Cathedral and Rubén Darío National Theatre, see the National Palace of Culture, home to the National Archive, the National Library and the National Museum. Spend tonight at the distinct Elements Hotel Boutique. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    10

    Depart / Arrive Home City

    Transfer to the airport in Managua to board your independent flights home. (B, Meals Aloft)

Nicaragua Itinerary New 2017

  • Day
    1

    Depart Home City / Managua / Granada

    Depart your home city on independent flights, arriving Managua to begin your Nicaragua tour. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to Granada where you have the rest of the day at leisure. Spend the next two nights at Hotel Plaza Colon. (Meals Aloft)

  • Day
    2

    Granada

    This morning enjoy a relaxing boat ride around the islands of Lake Nicaragua, formed by Mombacho Volcano, observing the local bird life and people of the islands. Named after the city Granada in Spain, this atmospheric city features colonial churches clustered around narrow streets and large homes with beautiful patios and tiled roofs. On a guided excursion, your guide will take you back in time as you learn about the city as you walk  the main plaza to see La Merced church, Zamora family home, Casa de Los Tres Mundos and the San Francisco convent. At the convent, learn about the mysterious, pre-Columbian idols while your guide tells you about the 1855 invasion by William Walker.

    This afternoon, drive south of Granada, enjoying sweeping views of Masaya Volcano and the lush landscape, to the White Cities (Pueblos Blancos) of Catarina and San Juan de Oriente. In Catarina, plants and flowers line the roads like colored ribbons, making Catarina look like a gigantic flower garden. See the Mirador de Catarina, which offers wonderful views of the Apoyo Lagoon, Granada, Lake Nicaragua and the many surrounding volcanoes. San Juan de Oriente is a small town near Catarina and important for local pottery. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    3

    Ometepe Island

    Ometepe Island is located inside Lake Nicaragua and beneath Concepción (4,430 feet) and Maderas (3,833 feet) volcanoes. It was these two volcanoes, now extinct, that formed Ometepe Island and the surrounding islets. Moyogalpa, the main city and port, lies just 25 miles south of Granada and is easily reached by local ferry. The Island was an important ceremonial place for ancient indigenous cultures. Because of this many petroglyphs and stone idols are found in different archaeological sites. In fact, Ometepe is considered one of the great rock art sites of the word and is famous for its rich pre-Columbian past. You'll visit one of these sites administered by a cooperative of local women who not only maintain the site but who are fighting to protect the biodiversity of the area. Spend two nights at Villa Paraiso Hotel, on lovely Santo Domingo Beach. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    4

    Ometepe Island

    As you hike Peña Inculta listen for the chatter of white-headed capuchin, mantled howler and Geoffrey's spider monkey while you look for the almost 100 species of birds found on the island, including wonderful hummingbirds. Enjoy interacting with the locals in a village before you pay a visit to a butterfly farm, Charco Verde and Oja de Agua Springs, where the lagoons, beaches and forests provide shelter for many species of birds. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    Leon

    Hop the morning ferry from Ometepe Island to Granada and drive to Leon to tour this lovely colonial city, first settled in 1524. Leon has existed in its current location since 1610, when it was moved after being destroyed during an eruption of Momotombo Volcano. See the monumental cathedral, the largest in Central America, located at the main square, the birth place of Ruben Dario, and the Ortiz Gurdian art gallery. This walking tour is the perfect time to learn about the city’s historic murals as well as its role in the social, economic and political development of Nicaragua. At Hervideros de San Jacinto, feel the heat rising from the interior of the Earth, and observe the impressive mud boiling inside these craters. Spend two nights at historic Hotel El Convento. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    6

    Leon

    Early this morning head to the coast for exploration of Juan Venado Island Reserve, a protected area forming part of the country’s vital coastal wetland region. From Las Peñitas beach local naturalists and your Expedition Leader lead a private boat excursion along this barrier island and the mangrove swamps separating it from the coast. This area provides the ideal home for an abundance of animal life, including water birds, caiman, crocodiles, iguanas, crustaceans and more. Since there is no human population residing on the island, we enjoy the sense of peaceful seclusion. Return to Leon for lunch and a fun visit to Flor de Caña rum factory. Rum production is an important element of Nicaraguan history and quite an important part of their modern culture as well. Learn the history of how sugar cane came to the America’s and the origin and development of rum worldwide. Later enjoy a tasting session of 18 year old rum and walk through the Flor de Cana Rum museum that shows the Pellas family business since 1890. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7

    Selva Negra

    Ascend into the coffee region of Nicaragua this morning, driving through small villages and enjoying breathtaking scenery.  This afternoon you'll explore one of the 14 forest trails Selva Negra EcoLodge has to offer.  Nestled in the highland cloud forest, Selva Negra EcoLodge is your home for two nights. A sustainable coffee plantation and wildlife preserve, Selva Negra EcoLodge employs dozens to hundreds of locals who live on the estate with their families. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    8

    Selva Negra

    Spend the morning exploring another of the trails through the cloud forest where your local naturalist and IE Expedition Leader will help you try to spot some of the bird species attracted by the reserve’s fruiting trees. Since the property is situated along the continental divide between the Pacific and Atlantic lowlands, sightings could include a mix of both Pacific and Atlantic-slope  species. Later, tour the coffee plantation, learning about the processes involved in harvesting their shade-grown coffee and the ways they conserve energy and recycle waste. Learn about local conservation efforts being led by the lodge owners before you head back out on a trail surrounding the reserve looking for butterflies, howler monkeys, agoutis and over 220 bird species, including keel-billed toucans, blue-winged warblers and hummingbirds. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Selva Negra / Montibelli Reserve / Managua

    Spend another morning on one of the many lovely and well-maintained trails at Selva Negra Reserve before you drive to Montibelli Private Reserve. Located in the green region of Ticuantepe, famous for the cultivation of pineapples and the exotic “pitahayas” or dragon fruit in English, this is dry tropical forest where more than 115 species of identified trees, over 100 species of birds, 32 species of mammals and a large number of butterflies are found. Watch for Nicaragua’s national bird “the Guardabarranco”, or the turquoise browed motmot, and other colorful birds. In Managua you'll enjoy a night at Hotel Elements, in the heart of the city. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    10

    Depart / Arrive Home City

    Bid farewell to Nicaragua as you depart on your independent flights home. (B)

Optional Post-Trip Extensions

Managua-Chocoyero Extension

Things to Know

What is included in the price of this Nicaragua trip?

Included in the price of your trip are the following.

Accommodations, excursions, meals and transportation as listed in the itinerary
Services of a private IE Expedition Leader
Arrival and departure transfers between the group hotel and airport no matter what day or time
One soft drink or local beer per person per included lunch and dinner
Bottled water on excursions, group transfers, at included lunches and dinners and in rooms daily
All park and entrance fees
All gratuities to group service staff except your IE Expedition Leader

What is the level of activity for this trip to Nicaragua?

A trip to Nicaragua requires good health and mobility. While we have time scheduled for rest, your itinerary has a moderate pace, involving activities and transportation from place to place to ensure that you have maximized opportunity to interact with the wildlife and local culture. Consult your physician if you are in doubt about your ability to enjoy this trip and please contact our office with any questions.

Some of your excursions will be on the slopes of volcanoes, which means walking up and downhill on well-maintained but still slightly rugged trails.  Forest walks are typically early in the morning and late in the afternoon, though some mid-day activity may be included.  You will need to be able to walk and stand for up to three hours at a time.  City tours are on even ground but cobblestone streets can be hazardous for some. Boat excursions require guests to be able to get in and out of the boat but not a high degree of physical ability. Note that life vests are provided.

Travel in Nicaragua is by road and boat.  Roads in and between cities are typically in good shape, depending on recent weather and road works.  Roads in the parks and reserves are rougher, especially in rainy weather.  The drive from Managua to Granada is about an hour, on good road.  The ferry rides between Granada and Ometepe Island are an hour each.  The drive from Granada to Leon is about three hours on good road while the road from Leon to Selva Negra is mostly in good shape but deteriorates in the highlands, taking about four hours to get there. The same is true from Selva Negra to Montibelli and then about 45 minutes back to Managua.

What is the weather like in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua has two seasons, wet and dry, though rain can occur at any time.  January to April is the most popular season and is the driest.  The wettest part is between May and October.  Guests can expect humidity, especially in the forests.  However, higher elevations mean cooler weather (cloud forests).

Is this trip to Nicaragua a "birding" trip?

This is not a birding-only trip. Our expedition is designed to provide opportunities to view as many types of wildlife as possible, from amphibians and reptiles to the occasional shy mammals. Insects (especially butterflies) abound and a few species of monkeys are found in these forests.  However, birds are ubiquitous and prolific in the places you will be visiting.  While this trip is not focused only on birds, they will be the main subject on almost all excursions that involve wildlife viewing. Birds are ubiquitous and prolific, as well as beautiful and interesting, in the places you will be visiting while other forms of wildlife are more timid and harder to find.  As such, birds are a highlight and you can expect to enjoy seeing as many species as possible while still enjoying the other wildlife the region has to offer.

Do you offer optional extensions to this trip in Nicaragua?

We do offer optional extensions to other wonderful places in the region to enhance and complete your experience, should you choose to do so. Information on these extensions is listed on the webpage for this program and feel free to contact our office for more info. 

Are you able to customize a trip to Nicaragua to feature destinations and activities of my choice?

Yes! If our Nicaragua itinerary does not suit your desires please contact our Custom Department where a specialist can craft the kind of experience that will make your adventure the trip of a lifetime.

Accommodations

nicaragua photos hotel plaza colon

Hotel Plaza Colon

Located just across from Granada's historic Parque Central, the 27-room Hotel Plaza Colon is set in an elegant colonial home, which has been lovingly restored to its original style and architecture. Enjoy interior courtyards and balconies overlooking the Cathedral while sipping an El Macua, the national cocktail of Nicaragua. Tour the city in a horse-drawn carriage during your free time; the carriages depart from the hotel lobby. Enjoy the hotel's swimming pool and free Wi-Fi. Every room features two queen beds, air-conditioning, private bath, international television, hairdryer and a safety deposit box.

nicaragua nature and lake photos hotel villa paraiso

Hotel Villa Paraiso

Hotel Villa Paraiso offer 18 cabins distributed among natural vegetation along stunningly beautiful Santo Domingo Beach and in the shadows of towering Volcan Concepcion. The wide and international menu of La Mariscada Restaurant offers an opportunity to enjoy the delicious and unique Nicaraguan traditional dishes, as well as the house specialty; Pacific seafood fish from Lake Nicaragua, all with great views of Lake Cocibolca. Cabins feature a private terrace, AC, satellite TV and en suite facilities with hot water shower.

nicaragua accommodations hotel el convento

Hotel el Convento

Hotel El Convento is located at the heart of León, on the site of the former San Francisco Convent. Its magnificent colonial architecture and lush gardens offer a peaceful atmosphere which will make your stay a very pleasant experience. The San Francisco Convent was founded in the city of León in 1639 by the Reverend Brother Pedro de Zúñiga. It was the first convent in the city. However, in 1830, it was decreed that convent or monastery buildings should be used as educational establishments or for public benefit. Thanks to photographs and accounts from citizens of León, this historic landmark which has housed many important figures from Nicaragua's history has been saved. The hotel has 31 executive rooms, each with two queen size beds. Your room will feature air conditioning, private bath, color television, hairdryer and free Wi-Fi.

Selva Negra

Selva Negra EcoLodge

High above the worries of the world in the mountains of Nicaragua, ecotourism pioneers built Selva Negra EcoLodge, where hot showers (no hot water in basins), fluffy towels, crisply-laundered sheets and hearty mountain fare await you after a day of hiking and birding in the cloud forest. A privately owned 1,500 square acre reserve at over 3,000 feet above sea level, 14 trails into the cloud forest await the nature lover. Surrounding the resort is an organic farm and plantation that produces one of the most celebrated coffees in the world. Nineteen bungalows range in size from one to four bedrooms, each with their own front porch. While here, guests on IE’s Nicaragua tour will explore the cloud forest trails searching for some of the 220 recorded bird species and learn about shade-grown coffee.

Elements Hotel Boutique - Managua, Nicaragua

Hotel Elements

In the heart of the capital, surrounded by restaurants and shops, Hotel Elements offers 4-star accommodations with free Wi-Fi, a gym and pool.  Rooms have AC, mini-bar, electronic safe, hair dryer, coffee making facilities and a relaxing en suite hot water rain shower.

nicaragua accommodations victoriano hotel

Hotel Victoriano

21-room Hotel Victoriano is one of the oldest houses in the city, built just steps from the beach over a century ago by the British immigrant William Herbert George Cross, who ran the cable company in San Juan del Sur in early 1900. A boutique hotel with fine wood finishes and a heavenly Victorian design, Victoriano offers stunning sunsets over the bay of San Juan del Sur. Rooms are specially equipped with real cedar furniture; hardwood selected and worked by Nicaraguan craftsmen who retained the classic design of the Victorian era. All rooms feature, cable TV and DVD, AC, individual safe, mini-bar, hair dryer, and free Wi-Fi.

Field Leaders

Nicaragua guide Juan Carlos Mendoza

Juan Carlos Mendoza

Expedition Leader

Juan Carlos was the first man to receive a Nicaragua tour guide license (Nicaragua's Tour Guide License # 1). He is well known among the new generations of naturalist guides as a mentor and role model. A spiritual hiker of Nicaraguan Volcanoes and a natural-born bird watcher, Juan Carlos is constantly looking for new information on Nicaragua's birds & nature. His in-depth knowledge of Nicaragua has made him a source for publications like the Telegraph (UK), Recommend magazine, Washington Post and Outside magazine. Juan Carlos is part of Aves de Nicaragua (Nicaragua NGO Nicaragua Birds) and is always looking for new bird species to enrich the country’s exiting list. As part of his training, Juan Carlos has studied in Costa Rica at Monteverde Reserve, Carara Reserve and INBIO (The National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica).

Nicaragua guide Edgar Castañeda

Edgar Castañeda

Expedition Leader

Edgar studied Ecology and Natural Resources of Central America at the University of Nicaragua before pursuing post-graduate work in Chile and Spain. He has more than 13 years of experience with conservation programs and the handling of natural resources in Nicaragua, including designing a training program for fishermen and fishing companies along the Pacific coast. Edgar has worked on teams that created the first marine park on the Pacific coast and made the first map of coral reefs off Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Not only is he a dive master and rescue diver, Edgar is also an avid birder. After living at Chocoyero Reserve helping to compile the park’s first bird list, Edgar now serves on the board of Aves de Nicaragua (Nicaragua Birds) that unites Nicaraguan birdwatchers.

Nicaragua guide Ramón Estrada

Ramón Estrada

Expedition Leader

Ramon's love for nature started at Mombacho Volcano National Park as one of the local guides. During his seven years of working and living in the beautiful cloud forest he enjoyed many training courses on nature and especially the Bird Watching Monitoring System (MOSI) sponsored by USAID. By 2010 he started to work as a specialized guide. Ramon also trained with important biologist and zoologist to learn about forest and wildlife conservation. Today he is a highly trained and passionate naturalist guide, eager to share his knowledge and love for the wildlife and culture of his country. Volcanism is another passion for Ramon...it's not strange at all to find him hiking any of Nicaragua's great volcanos. 

Wildlife

Sea turtle

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Squirrel Monkey

Green Iguana

Amazon Kingfisher

From: $4,698 per person
Duration
10 Days, 9 Nights
Departs From
Managua, Nicaragua
Guest Capacity
18 Guests
Trip Type
Travel Style

Special Offers

  • Save $500 on Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Panama

    Rafting

    Join any of International Expeditions' 2017 tours to Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Panama and save $500 per person!

    Please Note: Offers valid on new bookings or escorted, small-group departures only.

Trip Highlights

  • Birding & wildlife viewing in four wildlife hot spots
  • Two nights to explore the protected cloud forests & delve into the inner workings of an organic coffee plantation and working hacienda at Selva Negra
  • Stroll through colonial Leon & Granada.
  • Enjoy interacting with and learning from expert local guides and private IE Expedition Leaders
  • Take in the history & nature of Ometepe Island
  • Add an optional extension to enjoy Managua & Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve