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Nicaragua in January

Madison, Wisconsin
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Nicaragua in January

Hi all,

I will be in Nicaragua for 16 days in January. I am a solo female traveler that is looking to backpack around the country, experience local culture, meet new people, and explore the natural beauty of Nicaragua. I don't have set plans, as they usually end of changing anyways. I hope to visit the following places: Leon, Poneloya (or other coastal town), Esteli/Matagalpa, Ometepe, Masaya and Laguna de Apoyo. Here are the questions I have for those who live in Nicaragua or have traveled there:

1. Thoughts on visiting Esteli versus Matagalpa?

2. Is it easy to travel around Ometepe Island? I would like stay at El Zopilote in Santa Cruz. I am trying to decide if I should just stay there for a few days or travel around the island.

3. I am not planning to book any accommodation before hand because I like to keep things flexible. Is there anywhere that is difficult to find a hostel or place to stay last minute?

4. I am interested in volunteering some place while I am there (either at a school, community center, or farm). Unfortunately I cannot commit to anything long because of the amount of time I will be there. Any suggestion for how I could find volunteer opportunities, if any, for a duration of 1 day up to 4-5 days in length?

5. I want to do at least one volcano hike. I know there are multiple opportunities for this near Leon, Granada and Ometepe. If I am only going to do one volcano hike, is there one that is the best?

Those are all the questions I have for now. Thanks so much for helping a traveler out!

Edmonton, Canada
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1. Re: Nicaragua in January

I booked all my accommodations either just a few days in advance by email, or simply showed up and hoped for the best. Never was I turned away by a place that was full; more often I was the only guest. I don't expect you'll have any problems.

But that's about all I can answer of your questions; your path and mine barely cross. Enjoy the trip, it sounds like fun.

Managua, Nicaragua
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2. Re: Nicaragua in January

Greetings Oshilinawa:

I'll take on a couple of these for you. I'm sure others will chime in here soon enough :)

I personally prefer Matagalpa over Esteli, but both are nice IMO. Esteli is more cowboys and cigars and Matagalpa is more coffee haciendas and ecotourism. But Esteli has Miraflor for hiking and nature, down the road from Cañon de Somoto, so it has that too.

Recently had guests who went to Ometepe and they got around fine, said it was easy to take the local buses.

I wouldn't worry about booking ahead of time except to think about your need for first night and last night accommodations and how you will get from and to the Managua airport. If your flights come in at night and you depart early in the morning, you might consider staying a bit closer to MGA.

Your short-term volunteering would probably work out best in Leon. There are a number of organizations there that could use your time and energy.

Finally, the volcano question is a toughy...sort of depends on what you like. The active Masaya volcano has some lava tube and evening hikes that are interesting, but the landscape there is not what you might be looking for.

Mombacho near Granada is more for an early morning hike with the possibility of seeing some birds or other animals. More forested with huge trees.

The Leon volcano that people mostly go to is the infamous Volcano Surfing expedition. Really fun, but dusty, hot and dirty. Not a nature hike per se nor is it a lush tropical forest.

I have not personally been, but have heard that Cosiguiña way up past Chinandega is really beautiful.

So have fun, 16 days is a good bit of time, so you should be able to get around a bit if that is your desire.

Cheers, Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verde

Managua, Nicaragua
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3. Re: Nicaragua in January

1. I would recommend Esteli personally. Matagalpa is nice, but a little more remote and rustic in my opinion. Esteli is a litte closer to mountain/jungle type experiences. But as a disclaimer, i havent spent a TON of time in the area surrounding matagalpa, so i might have missed some great things around there. So take my advice with a grain of salt.

2. Easy is relative. Compared to the United states, no, travel on the island is not easy. However, there are various ways to do it, and depending on your comfort level, or luxury level, you might find it easy or hard. There are buses that run around the island, but they are infrequent, so if you are doing the bus way, you will need to stay scheduled or timed. You can also rent a motorcycle, or scooter, or bicycle on the island to get around. If you like to walk and are in good shape, you can walk there from the ferry in a couple/few hours. If you know spanish you can also hitch for free, or just a couple cordobas. Or there is the ocassional taxi, though much less frequent than on the mainland.

3. Ive traveled all over Nicaragua many times and never once made an advance reservation. Ive also never once been without a place to stay. If you have a specific place in mind, and would be unhappy to stay elsewhere, then maybe.....or if you require a level of luxury and cant/wont take just any old place, then maybe too......But if you are just looking for a bed at a hostel, and arent traveling too far off the tourist path, which it seems like you are staying on the tried and true area, its pretty much a guarantee that you will find something in every place that you go. On the rare ocassion that a place in one of the towns you mentioned is all full....there are a dozen or more places that will have availability.

4. Short term volunteering is more difficult to find. It will all depend on what you want to do, and what you like or how you want to help, etc. You can just show up in a place like Leon and look for flyers which are everywhere looking for volunteers. Dont get suckered in to a foreign owned "volunteer" place, that requires you to pay them for the privilege to volunteer. Or that will give you the opportunity to volunteer at their commercial business (basically only helping them with their labor costs and nothing more)

5. Like elportonverde said, its a hard question. It depends on what kind of a hike you want. Mombacho is the most expensive, but the nicest built trail in a cloud forest/jungle. Masaya you literally drive right up to the crater, and unless you head off on your own, isnt really a hike at all. Cerro Negro in Leon is just sand. no jungle, etc. and its the shortest volcano. People climb it to board down it cause there are no trees/animals, etc. Cosiguina and Telica are nice, but more rustic and less organized. Concepcion on Ometepe can be hot and difficult and is not a beginner volcano. Maderas on Ometepe is easier, and more jungly and is a pretty nice average one. Not much opportunity for views. San Cristobal is the tallest in the country. Momotombo is the perfect cone volcano, but its hot and not shaded (plus its active and the ground can be very hot as well), but gives possibly the best views.

It depends on your level of experience, how difficult of a hike you are looking for, and if you are looking for adventure (ziplining, volcano boarding), or birding/animal watching, etc.

Chichiriviche...
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4. Re: Nicaragua in January

I personally would go to Matagalpa and not to Esteli.I have been in both places and if you going ther because of cloudforest Matagalpa/Jinotega is much better.I have been in Cloud Forest in many other countries (Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, etc.and Mirarflor in Esteli was for me the least interesting. If you read the guidebooks it sound great that why i was there...but when i spoke with people over there i found out that the books have not updated this section for years.The managment is bad some of thc co ops to not anymore protejt the land etc...

Matagapla /Jintoeva which is both very close are better for cloud forest ..There are not many lodges but some ae pretty nice....(Selva Negra, La Bastilla Eco Lodge, Esperaza Verde, EL Jaguar Reserve)...

Regards

Salta

New Bedford...
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5. Re: Nicaragua in January

Hope to get there next year as well.Did you bring your bicycle? That's my favorite exercise!

London, United...
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6. Re: Nicaragua in January

i will be doing a very similar trip in 2 days time for about 10 days, happy to share experiences and tips!

oh, and is there a similar saying in Nica as in Costa Rica, pura vida? Just curious..

7. Re: Nicaragua in January

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