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We are off to Nicaragua on Saturday for six weeks for our next adventure. So why are we going to Nicaragua? For a long time we have wanted to travel in Central and South America and when we decided to do this sailing adventure, we thought it would be great to tack on a land based trip onto the end. We figured we were already taking time off our jobs and school and this would be a great time to do this trip. Paul always says “He is the tourist and I am the tour guide”. So before we left Canada, we were leaning towards going to Nicaragua, but we didn’t have any plans set.
We had bought our one-way ticket to the Bahamas and figured we would get home via Florida and Central America. While we have been fortunate to travel to many different areas of the world, we have never been to South America and only Paul had visited Central America. Paul and two of his university friends went on a graduation backpacking trip to Costa Rica about 12 years ago. My brother had honeymooned in Nicaragua and raved about it and since we like places that are more off the beaten path, we figured it would be a good country for us.
Six weeks is quite a long time to visit one country and we toyed with the idea of combining our visit with time in Guatemala and/or Costa Rica. However, we opted to spend the whole 6 weeks in Nicaragua because when travelling with kids, we like to be able to maintain a slow pace of travel and after being on island time for the past 4+ months, we weren’t looking to race around a country and check off the “must-sees”. We booked our flights to Managua and we have booked our first and last week in Nica, but we have purposefully left the middle flexible.
Paul and I love traveling in developing countries and our intention for this trip is to backpack – staying in hostels/guesthouses, using local transportation and eating in local restaurants. Our budget is $100/day for our family of five, which will need to include accommodation, all meals, activities, and transport. Nicaragua is only just starting to really come out as a tourist destination and prices are the lowest in the region, which probably also helped attract us. My Dad thinks we are crazy to want to do this and of course he worries about safety in a country that once made headlines for its violent and revolutionary struggles in the Sandinista era.
Nica remains the poorest country in the Americas yet is considered one of the safest countries in the region to travel. Health wise, you need to take all normal precautions you would take when in a developing country (typhoid, Hep A and B). Nica has isolated and minimal malarial risk; dengue fever is a much bigger concern. Dengue is rampant in many places we have visited in Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and also Malaysia where we lived. We will be taking lots of care to prevent mozzie bites – DEET, mozzie coils, mozzie bracelets, electric mozzie emitters, sleeping under mozzie nets and trying to stay covered up.
Something that will be a challenge for us is language because whereas we are used to travelling in countries where some English is commonly spoken, in Nica (due to an underdeveloped tourism market) English is not commonly spoken outside major tourist areas. We have been practicing our very limited Spanish using apps like Duolingo and that is why we opted to spend our first week at a Spanish school.
So how will we spend our 6 weeks? After lots of research from guidebooks, blogs, websites and message boards, we have come up with a rough itinerary as shown in the picture.
Week 1 – My aunt Patti will be travelling with us for the first two weeks (about 10 years ago, Patti spent 6 weeks traveling with us in Vietnam and Cambodia). We will spend our first week at La Mariposa Spanish School near Masaya. We found this school and fell in love with it and everything it stands
for (its many volunteer projects, always using locals for employment, its environmental
and sustainable practices and of course the fantastic reviews of the teachers). We were devastated when we contacted them to find out they were full, however they offered us a chance to stay in a homestay. Given our very
limited Spanish we were hesitant to do a homestay, but by then the school had captured our hearts and we decided to go for it. We (kids included) will spend 4 hours each morning on Spanish conversation classes (working 1 on 1 or 1 on 2). The school organizes activities to participate in the afternoons including visiting local sites (volcano, lakes, markets, cities and also visiting some of the organizations the school supports like schools and woman cooperatives). We will then spend the evenings at our homestay and attempt to communicate with our host family. Given that Nica is a very poor country, the school counsels you about the level of comfort in the home
and we are not expecting a shower or even indoor plumbing. So it will definitely be roughing it!
Week 2 – we may spend some more time in the colonial city of Grenada and surrounding areas depending on what we had the opportunity to see in week 1. We will then travel down to the island of Ometepe, located in Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is an island known for its twin volcanos and is controversially set to be transformed as the Nicaragua Canal is developed to compete with the Panama Canal. On Ometepe, we will enjoy the freshwater beaches, the views of the volcanos, visits waterfalls, kayak in the rivers and stay at an organic
Week 3 – we are ambitiously hoping to visit the Rio San Juan which involves a rustic overnight ferry to get there. Basically the Rio San Juan is a remote jungle river and we will get to see lots of great wildlife.
Week 4/5 – will be spent in the northern highlands which is Nicaragua’s coffee growing region. There
are lots of great farming cooperatives to visit, hikes through cloud forests and waterfalls, ziplines and pristine wilderness.
Week 5/6 – we will visit the other colonial city, the edgier Leon. We will then spend a week on the
Pacific coast beach of Jiquilillo, which Lonely Planet describes as “existed only in tales that begin with ‘You should have seen it back when I was first here….’” – just our kind of place. We will stay a week at Rancho Esperanza, a hotel with a conscious that immediately caught our eye. The hotel offers the opportunity to volunteer and get involved in the community, which we are hoping
So that is the plan for our 6 weeks in Nicaragua. Plans may change but we are planning to blog
as usual and we will see where and what we end up doing. Adios!