While backpacking for one month in Central America, I planned 7 days in Nicaragua solo travel which ended up becoming one of my favorite countries. It is a beautiful country bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Has a population of around 6 million people and the capital city is called Managua. Nicaragua is known for its stunning natural landscapes, including volcanoes, lakes, and beaches, as well as its rich culture and history.

I spent 2 days in Leon, 2 days in Granada, and 3 days in Ometepe. ( more on these below) I skipped San Juan del Sur because wasn’t keen on visiting another beach on this trip.

The morning I was ready to leave Nicaragua and cross the border to Costa Rica, I realized my passport was missing! Long story short, I ended up staying 5 days extra in Nicaragua just waiting for my emergency passport but didn’t do much so this blog is based on those 7 days in Nicaragua solo travel when I did do things. Luckily the emergency passport arrived exactly 5 days later and I was able to continue my one month in Central America solo travel. Needless to say, it is wise to have some buffer time in case something unexpected happens and def take care of your belongings AT ALL TIMES.

Leon is a city located in the northwest of Nicaragua, about 90 km northwest of the capital city of Managua. It is the second-largest city in Nicaragua and is known for its colonial architecture, historic landmarks, and vibrant arts and culture scene. Some of the must-visit sites in Leon include the Cathedral of Leon, the Museum of the Revolution, and the Rubén Darío Museum.

Granada is a city located in the south of Nicaragua, about 45 km southeast of the capital city of Managua. It is one of the oldest cities in the Americas and is known for its colorful colonial architecture, historic landmarks, and beautiful natural landscapes. Some of the must-visit sites in Granada include the Granada Cathedral, the San Francisco Convent, and the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve.

Ometepe is an island located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, which is the largest lake in Central America. The island is formed by two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, and is known for its stunning natural landscapes, including lush forests, beautiful beaches, and scenic hiking trails. Some of the must-visit sites on Ometepe include the Ojo de Agua natural pool, the Charco Verde Nature Reserve, and the San Ramón Waterfall.

7 days in Nicaragua solo travel

How to go from El Tunco, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua?

There are two ways you can cross the border from El Tunco to Leon. First one via boat and the second via land.

Boat from El Tunco to La Union:

To start your journey, you’ll need to go from El Tunco to La Union, which is located on the eastern coast of El Salvador. In La Union, there are boat operators that offer the boat service to cross the border, but the days they ran, it did not work with my travel plans so I had to think of an alternate way. Must add, this boat journey is a quicker way to arrive in Leon tho because it goes directly to Nicaragua than via land. You can ask around in El Tunco to find a reliable operator and it’s important to plan ahead and book your tickets in advance, especially for the boat ride from El Tunco to La Union, as this can be a popular route.

Border crossing via land from El Sunzal to Leon, Nicaragua

Just a heads up, the information below is a bit vague for a reason because this is what I found in my research. Basically, you have to stop and stamp in and stamp out 4 times in 3 countries, and just thinking about finding local buses after each stop and the time it will take seemed like a hassle to me at the time.

Plus having done all 3 previous border crossings independently, I decided to pay for a shuttle for this one. The shuttle I used is called Roneey Shuttle, they were having a reopening promo for $45 USD which seemed decent. They included help with immigration, and door-to-door service i.e. pick up from the hostel in El Sunzal to a hostel in Leon was included.

Note: El Tunco is only 10-15 mins on the beach walk from El Sunzal but with a backpack, it was handy to have a pickup. Accommodations were full in El Tunco so I stayed at El Sunzal and took a local bus from the capital San Salvador to get there.

More power to you if you complete this border crossing yourself, feel free to share the details here so others can learn from you too.

  1. From El Tunco, take a bus to the border town of Amatillo. The journey takes around 2-3 hours.
  2. Stamp out of El Salvador at the immigration
  3. Cross the border into Honduras and go through immigration to stamp the passport
  4. Get another bus to the border town of Choluteca in Honduras and go through immigration again to Stamp out
  5. Once you cross the border, go to the immigration and stamp in Nicaragua.
  6. Then take a bus to the city of Chinandega. The ride takes around 1-2 hours.
  7. From Chinandega, take a bus to Leon. This journey takes around 1-1.5 hours.

Cross the border: At the border, you’ll need to go through immigration and customs procedures for both El Salvador and Nicaragua. Be sure to have all necessary documents, such as your passport and visa (if required), ready for inspection.

Overall, this journey can take around 8-12 hours, depending on your mode of transportation and how long you spend at each step. Additionally, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for the journey, as it can be a long and tiring day of travel.

Is Nicaragua safe for solo female travelers?

The safety of solo travel in Nicaragua can vary depending on a number of factors, including the specific areas you plan to visit, the time of day, and your own behavior and precautions. Nicaragua has experienced political and social unrest in recent years, which has led to some safety concerns, particularly in the capital city of Managua and other urban areas. However, many areas of Nicaragua, including popular tourist destinations like Granada and San Juan del Sur, are generally considered safe for travelers.

With that said, I felt completely safe in every city I visited in Nicaragua. As a solo traveler, it’s important to take extra precautions to stay safe tho, such as

  1. Stay in well-lit and busy areas, particularly at night.
  2. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items with you.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert at all times.
  4. Research your destination ahead of time and be informed about any safety concerns or risks in the area.
  5. Stay up to date on relevant local news and follow any travel advisories issued by your home country’s government
  6. Use licensed taxis or transportation services, particularly at night or when traveling to unfamiliar areas.
  7. Respect local customs and dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention or harassment.
  8. Be cautious when consuming alcohol and avoid overindulging or accepting drinks from strangers.
  9. Consider staying in reputable accommodation that has good security measures in place.
  10. Get a local sim card with data, I bought claro in Guatemala and it worked till I get to Nicaragua! lol Bought a new one here.

Overall, Nicaragua can be a safe destination for solo travelers with proper planning and precautions. However, it’s important to stay informed about local conditions and take necessary safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Which hostels to stay in Leon, Granada, and Ometepe?

When it comes to hostels in Nicaragua, there are several great options in Leon, Granada, and Ometepe. Here are some recommendations:

In Leon:

In Granada:

In Moyogalpa, Ometepe:

How to go from Leon to Granada to Omtepe?

There are several options for getting from Leon to Granada and then to Ometepe:

  1. Private Transportation: You can hire a private taxi or van to take you from Leon to Granada, and then to the port in San Jorge, where you can catch a ferry to Ometepe. This option is convenient and comfortable, but it can be expensive.
  2. Public Transportation: This is what I did – You can take a local minibus from Leon to Granada, which takes about 1-2 hours depending on the traffic.
    From Granada, you can take a local bus to Rivas, then pay about 30 Q for the taxi to the port in San Jorge, which takes about 1 hour. From there, you can catch a ferry to Ometepe. This option is more budget-friendly but can be less comfortable and time-consuming.
  3. Shuttle Service: Many shuttle services operate between Leon, Granada, and San Jorge, which can be a convenient and affordable option. You can book these services online or through your hostel/hotel.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for transportation, as travel times can vary depending on traffic and other factors. Also, make sure to check the ferry schedules ahead of time, as they can change seasonally or due to weather conditions.

Food and drink to try in Nicaragua and where?

As for food in Nicaragua, there are plenty of delicious options to try. Here are some must-try dishes and recommended restaurants:

  • Gallo pinto: a traditional dish made of rice and beans, often served for breakfast. You can find it at most local eateries.
  • Nacatamales: similar to tamales, but made with corn dough and filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. You can find them at street food vendors or local restaurants.
  • Vigorón: a popular street food made with boiled yucca, pickled cabbage, and chicharrón (fried pork rinds). Try it at Mercado Oriental in Managua, Mercado in Leon, and/or homemade at any residential street in Granada.
  • Sopa de mondongo: a soup made with tripe, vegetables, and spices. You can find it at most local eateries.
  • Seafood: Nicaragua has a long coastline, so seafood is plentiful and delicious. Try it at El Timón in Granada or any coastal town.

In terms of restaurants, here are some recommendations:

  • Pita Pita in Granada: Best falafel wrap with a drink $5 can’t beat that!
    Restaurante La Terraza in Granada: great for traditional Nicaraguan food and a lovely view of the city.
  • Café de los Sueños in Granada: a popular spot for breakfast and lunch with a beautiful courtyard
  • El Zopilote in Ometepe: an eco-lodge and restaurant with delicious vegetarian and vegan options.
  • La Cueva del Buzo in San Juan del Sur: a seafood restaurant with stunning views of the ocean.
  • Asados El Gueguense in Managua: a casual restaurant with delicious grilled meats and traditional dishes.

Highlights in Leon

During 7 days in Nicaragua solo travel I stayed 2 days in Leon and managed to explore the local town with Leon Cathedral and some of the places below.

  1. Leon Cathedral: This impressive cathedral is the largest in Central America and a must-see attraction in Leon. Recommend paying $2 to go up on the roof for the view of the town and volcanos around. (white one pics above)
  2. Museum of the Revolution: Learn about Nicaragua’s revolutionary history at this museum, which is housed in the former presidential palace.
  3. Ruben Dario Museum: This museum is dedicated to Nicaragua’s most famous poet, Ruben Dario, and showcases his life and work.
  4. Art galleries: Leon has a thriving arts scene, and there are several galleries and studios worth visiting, including the Ortiz-Gurdian Foundation and the Fundacion Casa de los Tres Mundos.
  5. Cerro Negro volcano: Located just outside of Leon, Cerro Negro is an active volcano that’s popular for hiking and sandboarding.
  6. Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve: This protected area is home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, crocodiles, and birds. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the mangroves and beaches.
  7. Central Market: This bustling market is a great place to experience local culture and try traditional Nicaraguan food.
  8. Sutiaba neighborhood: This historic neighborhood in Leon is known for its colonial architecture and traditional crafts. Visitors can see artisans at work and visit the Sutiaba Museum.
  9. Flor de Cana Rum Distillery: This famous Nicaraguan rum is made in Chichigalpa, which is about an hour from Leon. Visitors can take a tour of the distillery to see how it’s made and sample some of the rum.
  10. Los Maribios Range: This range of volcanoes is located near Leon and offers stunning views and opportunities for hiking and exploring.

Highlights in Granada

On this 7 days in Nicaragua solo travel, I stayed 2 days in Granada initially and then went to Ometepe in the south but when I realized my passport was missing, I had to backtrack all the way to Managua, the capital city to apply for an emergency passport. (I will write a separate post on the process of it)

As I wanted to avoid busy Managua city, I chose to wait for my emergency passport in Granada. It was about an hour’s bus ride from the Consulate office in Managua to Granada which wasn’t too bad and a week later the emergency passport finally arrived from Mexico. So I ended up staying here longer which actually forced me to slow down and enjoy daily life for a bit.

  1. Granada Cathedral: This stunning cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Granada and is worth a visit for its architecture and historical significance. Additionally, you can pay to go up the bell tower of the cathedral for a great view of the city and surrounding area.
  2. Calle La Calzada: This pedestrian street in the heart of Granada is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops and is a great place to soak up the city’s lively atmosphere.
  3. Mi Museo: This museum showcases the private collection of Granada resident Karen Gritzma, featuring pre-Columbian ceramics, colonial-era paintings, and other historical artifacts.
  4. Lake Nicaragua: Granada sits on the shores of this massive lake, which is home to hundreds of small islands and offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and birdwatching.
  5. Masaya Market: This market, located just outside of Granada, is a great place to shop for local crafts and souvenirs, including ceramics, hammocks, and textiles.
  6. Las Isletas: These small islands in Lake Nicaragua can be explored by boat tour and offer opportunities for birdwatching and swimming.
  7. Iglesia de la Merced: This colonial-era church is known for its bright yellow facade and impressive bell tower, which offers great views of the city.
  8. Chocolate Museum: This museum, located in a restored colonial-era home, offers tours and tastings of Nicaraguan chocolate.
  9. Laguna de Apoyo: This volcanic crater lake, located about 30 minutes from Granada, offers opportunities for swimming, kayaking, and hiking.
  10. Mombacho Volcano: This active volcano is located just outside of Granada and offers opportunities for hiking and ziplining, as well as stunning views of Lake Nicaragua and the surrounding countryside.

Bonus tip: Granda has a secret Rave party on Fridays that runs in a Treehouse Hostel, in the forest at the base of Mombacho Volcano! 25$ for tickets and sells fast

Highlights in Ometepe

Lastly, during my 7 days in Nicaragua solo travel I spent 2 days on the beautiful island of Ometepe. It’s a unique destination in Nicaragua, located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua! The island is dominated by two large volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, which give it its distinctive infinity sign shape.

In addition to the stunning volcanic landscape, Ometepe offers visitors a wealth of natural and cultural attractions to explore. The island is home to a number of beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and nature reserves, where visitors can hike, swim, and spot wildlife such as monkeys, birds, and butterflies.

Ometepe also has a rich cultural heritage, with pre-Columbian petroglyphs, ancient ruins, and a vibrant artisan community that produces traditional ceramics, textiles, and other handicrafts. Visitors can learn about the island’s history and culture at local museums and cultural centers, or by attending one of the many festivals and celebrations that take place throughout the year.

Overall, Ometepe is a destination that offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion.

Here are some of the top highlights to visit in Ometepe:

  1. Concepcion Volcano: This active volcano is one of the most prominent features of Ometepe’s landscape and offers opportunities for hiking and exploring.
  2. Ojo de Agua: This natural swimming pool is fed by underground springs and is a refreshing place to cool off on a hot day.
  3. Charco Verde Nature Reserve: This nature reserve offers hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, and a beach with views of the Concepcion Volcano.
  4. San Ramon Waterfall: This waterfall is located in the hills of Ometepe and is a beautiful spot for a hike and a swim.
  5. Punta Jesus Maria: This narrow spit of land juts out into Lake Nicaragua and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape.
  6. Altagracia: This small town is home to a number of historical and cultural sites, including the Altagracia Church, which features murals depicting the island’s history.
  7. Museo El Ceibo: This museum offers exhibits on Ometepe’s history and culture, as well as a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts.
  8. Finca Magdalena: This coffee farm offers tours and tastings of Nicaraguan coffee, as well as a chance to learn about the coffee-making process.
  9. Santo Domingo Beach: This black-sand beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing.
  10. Los Ojos de Agua: This natural spring offers crystal clear water to swim in, with a picnic area and facilities for visitors.
  11. Playa Mango: One of my favorite spots in Omtepe, it offers a great view of the Conception Volcano, food, and drinks, and also a decent place to do some work!

These are just a few of the many highlights to visit in Ometepe, so be sure to explore and discover more of what this beautiful island has to offer.

Let me know in the comments:

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