Nicaragua Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Nicaragua is a really up and coming destination with friendly local people and a stunning coastline. This country is very stable and safe to visit with the civil war in the 1990's long finished. Tourism is playing a key role in helping the economy with new facilities, hotels and infrastructure being built. It's best to visit Nicaragua now before more people discover this special destination.
Nicaragua Travel Ideas, Gap Year Programs & Experiences
Get inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua Travel Guide
Get essential information, ideas and inspiration for travelling to Nicaragua:
- Capital: Managua
- Currency: Gold Cordoba (NIO)
- Country Size: 129,494 km2
- Dailing Code: +505
How to Get to Nicaragua
International flights from Central America and worldwide arrive into Managua International Airport or you can cross the borders of Costa Rica and Honduras fairly easily.
Best Time to Visit Nicaragua
There is no best time to visit this country, we recommend visiting all year round.
Top Reasons to Visit Nicaragua
- History and culture
- Pretty towns and villages perfect for photography
- Spectacular beaches
- Friendly people
- Tasty food
- Great value for money. This country is very cheap compared to nearby countries like Mexico and Costa Rica
Best Places to Visit in Nicaragua
Here is a run down of places you might want to think about adding to your Nicaragua travel itinerary:
The Masaya National Park
In the Masaya National Park you can go up a volcano - it's all pretty active at the moment so you will be happy only to be allowed to take photos for about 5 minutes and then driven back down. The sulphuric fumes are pretty lethal so a short as stay as possible will be enough - there are spectacular views for the top. This location is included in most international tour itinerary but also some local travel agents offer day trips to see the volcano and then they will also take you to the Masaya market; a laguna and then to a ceramic school where you will be taught how to make ceramics - all in all, this is an enjoyable trip.
There is a tour to the Mombacho volcano (a dormant one) plus canopy zip tour through the forest which is a lot of fun! You will be driven up to the top of the volcano which includes a small hike of about an hour to check out the views over Granada and then go down for the zip tour. There are 11 platforms in 45 mins which will be an amazing challenge and probably something you haven't done before. A lot of people say this is their favourite tour/place to visit in Nicaragua.
There are boats to Las Isletas - a collection of 365 small islands formed when one of the volcanoes erupted years ago. This will be a very relaxing experience and also scenic - some of the islands have the prettiest houses and there are also monkeys that you can see close up and feed. Lunch is usually included in excursions here and you can also stop off for a swim on the way back to the mainland.
Off the Beaten Track
You might want to visit Masaya to have more of a wander about the sights, there are some scenic churches and buildings and it is a lot less touristy here. The Laguna De Apoyo is a beautiful and peaceful location, you can go swimming or hire a kayak to go out in the water.
Travelling & Backpacking in Nicaragua
Nicaragua the largest country in Central America, a tropical paradise and there are so many reasons why you should visit.
If you are looking for an authentic Nicaragua experience then our travel packages and backpacking ideas will appeal to you. Top things you can do here include relaxing in San Juan Del Sur, exploring the bustling city of Managua, checking out Las Penitas beach, learning to surf, taking a visit to Ometepe Island or kayaking around Las Isletas or Lake Apoyo. Other popular ideas for tourists include visiting Botanic Gardens, Museum of Legends and Traditions, The Ortiz-Gudian art gallery and for history the ruins of Leon Viejo are incredible.
Nicaragua is a very active destination and you can rent bikes at selections spots in the country, or if you are feeling like a challenge there are overland cycling tours throughout the whole country. You will get to ride about seeing the main sights in in places like Granada like the old train station, a few parks, the old hospital, the old fort, the centro turismo. The beaches in Nicaragua are also amazing and a top draw for internationals. Volcano boarding in Leon is popular with travelers or if you are looking for an adventure to relax by the beach head to San Juan del Sur which is one of the highlights.
Nicaragua is also a great wildlife watching destination, you can see exotic animals like monkeys and rare birds and there are also 25 volcanoes to visit. When visiting you can also enjoy the architecture of Granada or go swimming or snorkeling on the West coast. If you would like to escape away from the main tourist trail we recommended visiting the Caribbean Corn Islands which are spectacular and far away from the crowds. Leon is one of the highlights of Nicaragua, this place is very similar to Granada but much smaller which is great as it makes it all so walkable and you can manage to see quite a few sights in a short period. There are a lot of churches and pretty buildings, great for photos and the relaxed pace to life here will appeal.
If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime then something not to be missed whilst in Nicaragua is to go volcano boarding, this can be arranged on a pre-organised tour or visit a local travel agent to get booked on to a volcano boarding tour. From Leon you will take an extremely bumpy road to Cerra Negro - the most active volcano in Nicaragua which is where most volcano boarding activities are held. You will have to hike to the top of the volcano with heavy boards in tow (sometimes this can take around 45 minutes) and then sliding down the other side on boards wearing yellow and green jumpsuits - this is an amazing experience. Sand and grit will get everywhere - in your mouth, nose, ears... you might have to wash and rinse your hair 6 times to get the stuff out! It will be worth it though.
We have an exciting range of authentic travel packages and holidays where you can explore the Río San Juan jungle, see old Spanish fortress ruins or visit active volcanoes in Maribios Volcanic Chain.
Nicaragua Gap Year
View ideas, trips and progams for taking a gap year in Nicaragua on our website. You could explore the Río San Juan jungle and see old Spanish fortress ruins or visit active volcanoes. On our website you can find structured trips and programs for students, graduates and people looking to go backpacking. The people of Nicaragua are extremely kind, there are lots of adventures but most importantly, for some travelers, they serve up the best Fanta Orange with ice. To experience this country on a budget you might want to avoid eating at Western places or Western food, you will find street food and eating locally will save you a lot of money. You might also want to combine experiences and book a gap year in Costa Rica too.
Health & Safety
The 1990's civil war which ravaged the country is long over and generally this is a safe country to explore. You might want to learn basic Spanish which will make getting around and everything easier.
View our Central America travel tips.
Book a Tour to Nicaragua
Some tours include adventure activities like surfing, camping, horseback riding, hiking, zip-line's and canopy walks. Joining tours of Nicaragua is becoming ever more popular as people want to get more thrills out of the country and also get guided to the very best locations. There are so many places in Nicaragua just waiting to be explored but it takes an adventurous traveller to get there. There are also combination tours available where you can travel, discover new areas of the country and join activities too.
A great way to see these places is through adventure tours which will take you to the heart of rural locations and unique destinations that are off the usual tourist trail. You will have a guide who can teach you everything you need to know and will travel with a group of like-minded adventure travellers, so there is never a dull moment. Our trips are perfect for solo travellers, couples, groups and families - there are departures all year round.
If you book a tour through our website you will most probably be taken to all the best locations in the country. If you are looking to experience the country independently then you might still want to join a excursion to see more of the country, your best bet is to book an experience in somewhere like Granada or Leon where there are lots of local operators offering different packages.
Nicaragua Tours for Solo Travellers
Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-35 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
Nicaragua Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
Nicaragua City & Day Tours
Short for time? Want to see the highlights as quick as possible? There are day tours available to book throughout the country. Popular options include city tours where a local guide will usually show you the sights. These types of tours can be booked as part of a group or you can spend a little extra and get a private tour. Some city tours are totally free but you might be expected to give a tip.
- Accommodation: Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location. Some tours also include homestays which allow for a facsinating cultural exchange.
- Group Sizes: Typical group sizes are around 8-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator.
- Transport: On most tours you will travel overland in a private small tour van. For day trips and excursions sometimes you will use public transport.
How to Book
Thinking about making an enquiry or booking? Search our featured trips above or contact us for specific advice.
Nicaragua Tour Operator Reviews
Have you ever been on a tour? Would you like to review a company or tour? Contact us today.
- Nicaragua Budget Travel Guide
- Volunteer in Nicaragua
- Central America Tours
- Costa Rica Tours
- Honduras Tours
Apply to Volunteer in Nicaragua
Is the hustle and bustle of daily life taking its toll? Would you like to escape the rat-race and do something amazing? Well, now could be the time for you to take a sabbatical and view our amazing projects in Nicaragua. Our partner local organisations allow internationals to give service and really help have a positive impact.
Ask anyone who has been volunteering in Central America and a large percentage will say Nicaragua was their favourite destination. This country offers so much, infrastructure is still quite basic and tourism undeveloped compared to other places nearby and so you will get a really authentic experience. Living and volunteering in Nicaragua is a great way to learn / improve your Spanish language skills whilst getting immersed and learning more about the culture, history and people of this Latin American country.
Nicaragua offers great value and is a lot less touristy than going to volunteer in Costa Rica and other destinations nearby, also if you learn some basic Spanish phrases this will really make your experience easier and more enjoyable. When you get time off these days will probably time to get rest and a chance to either go out to see more locations or just relax and get washing done, eat some tasty local food or take a long walk around your surroundings. With temperatures averaging around 38 degrees during summer, it doesn't take much to get tired so you will be happy to have relaxing time off.
How You Can Help
Community Development Volunteer Projects in Nicaragua
If you are thinking about visiting Central America then why not do something rewarding and contribute to worthwhile local causes beneficial to local communities in Nicaragua. There are lots of programs where local people in Nicaragua can visit including drop in community centres where you might be based, this is a great way to help local people and really get to understand and help them. There are also agriculture and sustainable food and energy projects where you can live on ranches and farms paying for your board whilst helping development projects like installing electric energy or helping to grow crops. You will meet meet friendly and like minded international volunteers when working on community projects in Nicaragua and you'll find local people really friendly.
Childcare, Orphanage & Educational Volunteer Programs in Nicargua
There are various career training centres and projects which help to improve literacy, English and job prospects, you will be able to help people improve their knowledge and skills. Education is free in Nicaragua but there is still a need for assistance, you can join teaching projects and work with local staff in Nicaragua helping with educational and fun activities like teaching English, instructing art and crafts, leading music / dance lessons and generally help out. There are lots of local NGO's and non-profits offering projects where you can work to help homeless and disadvantaged children who are living on the streets or in poverty. There are orphanages and childrens homes in Nicaragua which care for some of the most vulnerable members of society and you can apply to help.
Medical & Healthcare Volunteer Programs in Nicaragua
Only a small number of the population have medical insurance (around 5%) whilst some people live in too remote areas to get the necessary healthcare treatment. If you are working in the medical field of work and would like to help your skills will be put to good use, or if you would just like to help you will be able to join non-skilled placements. There are clinics and outreach teams working throughout the country.
Location of Projects
Programs can be joined in places Limon, Granada, Leon, Ticuantepe, Managua and San Juan Del Sur. One of the main attractions of Nicaragua is the spectacular coastline where there are white sandy beaches, cafes and a great atmosphere, if you are based here you will be amazed by the natural beauty the country has to offer as this area is still relatively undeveloped.
The capital Granada is possibly the most popular volunteer destination in the country (this doesn't make it the best - this is personal preference), here there are lots of colonial buildings, lots of art galleries and museums whilst the spectacular Lake Nicaragua is close by to visit. When you arrive in Granada you might want to spend time wandering about town and get your bearings, it's a pretty lovely town with a main strip of restaurants and bars which the tourists congregate around. You should feel at ease here straight away.
You might also like to cross the border North, we offer some fantastic volunteering programs in Honduras.
You can join volunteering programs in Nicaragua for a short or long period, some people stay a few weeks others a few months. Some local organisations will require you to stay for a minimum of 4 weeks whilst for some childcare programs you might need to be aged 21 and over. Please be willing to get involved, try to learn Spanish which will help improve your effect on programs and also make the experience a lot more enjoyable. No previous experience is needed to participate.
If you apply independently you might need to pay for accommodation but this is usually cheap around $5-$10 per night depending on what type of option you choose, there are dorms, hostels and private rooms / hotels available. If you apply through a large organisation or charity they will provide shared accommodation or a home stay. If you pay a little extra you can also get private accommodation.
How to Apply
If you would like to help great organisations who are making a difference in Nicaragua contact or apply today for more information. Some organisations might charge a fee to participate - this usually includes a structured placement with meals, accommodation, transfers, in-country support and also training. Volunteering with a well-established volunteer organisation is a highly recommended option as you will get a safe and structured experience.
Volunteer in Nicaragua for Free
There are free and low cost volunteer opportunities in Nicaragua and you can find find these by seeking out local NGOs in country but even apply this way you will be expected to pay for your board, food and drink by yourself though.
Nicaragua Volunteer Reviews
If you have ever volunteered in Nicaragua and would like to share your experiences, review your program or give advice to future participants please contact us.