In June this year our Projects Manager, Alanna took a well needed break from launching the new Rickshaw website (no biggie) and headed off to the sunny climes of Nicaragua. Her first time in Central America, Alanna packed in as much as possible, zipping through cloud forests and spending a night with a local family.
My two week Nicaragua itinerary began in the colonial town of Granada, a colourful town full of historical buildings and churches. A horse drawn carriage picked us up at the Granada Central Park and we embarked on a city tour to take in the sights with a local guide. I’d recommend climbing the Merced Church tower for an amazing view over the whole of Granada, the surrounding Mombacho volcano and further on to Lake Nicaragua.
Crater and canopy walk
As an additional trip on the way to Ometepe, I ventured to my first active volcano! Mombacho has two craters in a cloud forest which is great for bird spotting and indigenous flora. The drive up to the crater was a bit steep at times so if you suffer from travel sickness, I would suggest planning ahead. The views towards Granada are breathtaking, even on an overcast day you can see across to Las Isletas.
Zipping through the forest
After a cup of locally grown coffee, it was time for the next adventure – zip lining! With seven different lines, including a swing and drop line this wasn’t for the faint of heart. I did however feel completely safe the whole time as the guides were very reassuring and ensured safety came first. I would heartily recommend doing it as there is something quite liberating about zipping through the jungle with the wind in your hair!
Discover Ometepe Island
I’ve been fascinated by volcanoes since learning about them as a child, so a visit to Ometepe was high on my list when planning my itinerary. Ometepe is an island of two volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua with a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for chilling out for a couple of days.
Travelling in rainy season was going to have its draw backs at some point, but actually the rain added to the sense of adventure during a waterfall hike. We hopped in the back of a pick-up (normally you would walk) and drove the 2km to the track. From here we walked up, down and around the forest of Maderas volcano towards the waterfall. Apparently the waterfall is beautiful, but because of the amount of rain we weren’t able to get to it. The track became flooded and we ended up having to wade our way through to get back! I felt like Indiana Jones, but without the cool hat…
At home with the Nicos
As my first home stay I was unsure as to what to expect when I went to stay with the Nicos, a two day trip staying a local family in San Ramon. I was pleasantly surprised to find my hosts were very friendly and eager to teach me about their daily lives. The co-operative where the family live has 600 inhabitants who farm the local area as well as open their homes to visitors. During my stay I learnt to roast coffee beans, make tortillas and medicinal tea from the flowers of local plants.
The colonial charm of Leon
Leon has to be my favourite place in Nicaragua, after Ometepe. The atmosphere is relaxed and it is easy to get around. Whilst in Leon, I tapped into my adventurous side again with volcano boarding excursion. Climbing up Cerro Negro was pretty steep but worth it for the fantastic surrounding views and seeing how the land around the volcano has adapted since the last eruption with the greenery now blooming.
Walking up to the crater was a bit of a slog due to the heat and having to carry a heavy board. The trip down the volcano was equally terrifying and thrilling! It was over fairly quickly, but well worth it. The mountain is covered in black ash so you are given protective clothing and glasses for the ride down.
Surf’s up in San Juan
San Juan del Sur is a surfers paradise and draws in a younger backpacker crowd with its colourful buildings and bustling restaurants. The beach is too busy for surfing so we were taken to a bay nearby which had the perfect waves for a novice. I’m really glad I tried surfing, as I now know I probably will never do it again!
Glowing lava under the stars
Managua is a big, busy city, which was a real difference after the smaller cities I had visited during my trip. My trip to Masaya volcano is the main reason why most people visit Managua. At certain times you can look into the active volcano and see the bubbling lava, but don’t rely on this. The gases emanating from the crater are enough to make you feel like you’re in Mordor.
Alanna chose our 14-day Land of Volcanoes itinerary and tweaked it slightly to create her perfect trip.