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Backpacking Nicaragua tips– places... Ok for solo trip?

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Jan 24th, 2014, 12:01 AM
  #1
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Backpacking Nicaragua tips– places... Ok for solo trip?

Hi there!
I 'm travelling solo to Central America in March, flying to San Hose, and consider for later to enter Nicaragua from there, for a week - ten day trip -I have just started researching via forum and soon guidebooks.
Could you suggest some nice spots to visit in Nicaragua, mostly half south part of the country, at low budget levels of comfort?
Resorts and travel companies, are out of the question…
My interests would be beaches, culture, villages, forest, volcanoes… well, maybe too ambitious for backpacking? We’ll see…
I 'll move around with public transport, stay at simple hotels/ hostels, walk around cities and villages, have some daytrips to nature from there, possibly on our own with other travelers, or with the help of a local guide .
Safety is a concern for me also, as a solo traveller. When backpacking you are exposed more openly to the situations around you, and Nicaragua has some discouraging statistics on those....
Many thanks, happy travels to all!
Nikolaos
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Jan 24th, 2014, 02:09 AM
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We went in planning to move around a bit, but ended up so enjoying Granada, we stayed put. Very colonial but lived-in. Not so tidied up as some Spanish colonial cities with some history. And some good hikes on the Mombacho volcano adjoining. Easy to get to Masaya for a peek down the volcano's throat there.

I do really wish we'd have made it to Ometepe Island in the lake, as we'd planned. It sounds so interesting and unique to me.
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Jan 24th, 2014, 05:36 AM
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The big three in southern Nicaragua are Granada, Ometepe, and San Juan del Sur. all have a good selection of budget accommodations, so you won't be priced out of staying in any of them.

Don't forget that Nicaragua has the lowest crime rate of any country in Central America. You have to be careful, of course, but in general, it's fairly safe there.
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Jan 25th, 2014, 06:06 AM
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If you are looking for something other than "tourist cities", Try the Rio San Juan, Chontales and RAAS. Heading to El Rama and then by boat to the Atlantic could be far more interesting than the drink with tourists destinations.
You can find photos, discussions and even join in on nicaliving.com.
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Jan 25th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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Leon is a lovely (although, like most things in Nicaragua, somewhat ragged) colonial city with loads of beautiful churches. A 20 minute bus ride away is Las Penitas, which is a sweet little ramshackle town on the Pacific. I didn't really care for Granada--a little too much squalor for me. Just didn't care for the vibe, but definitely worth a visit just for the experience of being there. Somewhat off the beaten track is the Laguna de Apoyo, a stunning crater lake. I stayed here and liked it. Nothing fancy, but perfect for backpackers. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev...t.html#REVIEWS
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Jan 26th, 2014, 01:12 AM
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many many thanks to all! those were very practical and insight points, will definately visit most of these places, and you gave me good ideas for checking some which I hadn't heard of at all!
the more I read about Nicaragua, I 'm persuaded I should stay more and more time, but in fact, it will be part of a bigger trip to 3 countries of Central America (total 4 weeks), not long enough for all the nice places of Nicaragua, CR, and Panama, so I think I'd compromise with seeing just a sample - at least some parts of the 3 countries more easily reached, as based at (fly in/out) San Hose .
Well, that's the plan! and it is evolving....
and maybe I will not have the chance to travel again to this area, so, that's it!
and Nicaragua is more low-budget friendly than the other 2 countries, a good thing for me...
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Jan 26th, 2014, 08:07 AM
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Try to fit in Antigua, Guatemala if you can. There's no place else like it in all of Central America. A glorious jewel of colonial
architecture surrounded by mountains.
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Jan 27th, 2014, 11:57 AM
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Guatemala sounds very interesting, but then, the distances become too big for this trip. Although very tempted to fit everything in, maybe I'll leave it for another trip, to give it justice...
all the countries of the area are great destinations, I need another month!
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Feb 4th, 2014, 05:13 AM
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Hi again Nikolaos!

Firstly, let me tell you that solo trips in Nicaragua is fine. I don’t know what statistics you are talking about, but Nicaragua has the lowest crime rate in Central America. As everywhere, you need to be careful, but don't worry too much about that. You’ll see, Nicaraguans are really friendly people!

I saw you would be travelling in March, so this would be the dry season. However, you need to be aware that Nicaragua has quite a lot of micro-climates so this is not particularly instructive. But anyway, Nicaragua is a hot country with average temperatures often in the 30s (particularly around León and in the rainforests around the Rio San Juan).

Concerning beaches, I would recommend you without any doubt ‘San Juan del Sur’. Here you can find all sorts of activities, but this is actually most famous for its surfing

For volcanoes, the Cerro Negro walk in the area of Léon is amazing, it involves a good hour or two of hot uphill hiking for instance. Also, Léon is the revolutionary capital of Nicaragua (Sandanista revolution), it is considered as the cultural capital of the country.

In the area of Granada, I’d recommend you the wonderful volcanic Apoyo crater lake and then visit the market of Masaya, wander through the stalls and meet the artisans. Granada is probably the most visited place, you’ll find more people speak English, offering you trips… Locals here are more aware of tourism and tourists.

From Granada, there are nice trips to the 360 ‘isletas,’ but the best thing to do is kayak rather than boat, so you’ll be able to enjoy the bird life in silence. Also, the 'Reserva Natural Volcán Mombacho' offers amazing views of the city and isletas, however choose to go on a clear day.

On Ometepe there are different options for activities. The Maderas Volcano hike is a very challenging walk which must be guided. It is beautiful but hard, hard work! Concepcion Volcano is rather gentler and the walk to the San Ramón waterfall gentler still.

If you want to spend your time in places where tourists aren’t really expected, choose the less visited southeastern side of Nicaragua. The Solentiname archipelago (still in Lake Nicaragua) is a fascinating artists colony where it is very easy to fall into conversation with the locals. Here you’ll find artists painting brightly coloured naïve art, howler monkeys dangling out of trees, hammock makers hard at work in their homes, horse drawn carriages rattling over colonial cobblestones and sea turtles swimming through clear blue waters. If you have a little more time, the 'Indio Maiz Reserve' further in the eastern jungle offers unbelievable walks to spot the incredible wildlife of Nicaragua. Finally, the remote Corn Islands is also ideal for snorkelling, diving or just swim and soak up the Caribbean sun.

Hope that helps!

Laurent
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Feb 5th, 2014, 06:05 AM
  #10
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Many thanks, all this was super helpful!!!!!!
A river of good information!
I think that this will be my entire itinerary in Nic/a...
And just for practicalities:
I'll be coming from Costa Rica, and at some part, I'll try to visit areas between San Carlos and El Castillo. So do you think it is practical to use the border at Los Chiles on the border crossing north or south? Or use both ways the classic Penas Blances point?
And for transport, I wouldn't anyway do in one ride the whole trip San Jose -Managua, I'd break it in smaller parts. Is it easy to get buses on the spot for short journeys along the way there? (especially near the border areas)
thanks again for all!!!
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Feb 5th, 2014, 09:44 AM
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Nikolaos,

You can use the crossing via Los Chiles in either direction, and it's a good alternative to the Penas Blancas border, which can be pretty hectic. And yes it is easy to find buses on the spot for short journeys along the way San Jose-Managua.

Do not hesitate to ask more if you need info!

Have a great trip anyway!

Laurent
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Feb 6th, 2014, 04:17 AM
  #12
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It's perfect! thanks, all these sound a very good plan
I'm also working on the Costa Rica posting and itinerary, to come up with an interesting but low budget plan there, since that country seems much more expensive than Nicaragua. I hope I can make it, else, I'll stay more in Nicaragua!!
happy travels!
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Feb 6th, 2014, 04:32 AM
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Nikolaos,

I would also advise you to stay more time in Nicaragua if you want to save money (also you can try to stick on the northwestern area of CR too)! If you ask me what I prefer between both, it is difficult, but I think I'd say Nicaragua rather than Costa Rica

All the best!

Laurent
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