Undiscovered Nicaragua

Old churches abound in Colonial GranadaNicaragua is a country of beautiful mountain landscapes, island-dotted lakes and a long pristine Pacific coastline. Now that its tumultuous period is over, this friendly Central American nation is an undiscovered gem a short flight from the US. Small Footprint Travels will take you to enjoy some of the world’s best coffee, chocolate, rum and cigars, all of which are made in Nicaragua.

After landing in Managua, the nation’s capital, we will travel to the NW corner of the country to visit Leon, the historic city founded in 1524 known for its universities and baroque colonial architecture. We will drive into the mountains to Esteli which is the center of cigar making. Next we travel to a enchanted mountain retreat of Selva Negra where coffee is grown and bird watching is abundant. We will see chocolate being made in Matagalpa before driving to Granada, the beautiful colonial city of the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Finally, we will spend time on the bucolic Ometepe Island in the middle of the large Lake Nicaragua to experience a peaceful and traditional part of Nicaragua.



Detailed Itinerary

Day One.   Arrival in Managua

Lovely old cathedral brightly lit with evening light show

Cathedral of Santiago downtown Managua, Nicaragua

You are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in downtown Managua. In the evening, we will have a Welcome Dinner and enjoy a musical performance by Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, whose folk music explores Nicaraguan culture.

Lodging: Hotel Boutique Elements

Meals Included: Dinner


Day Two.  Managua – Leon

We drive in our private van to the city of Leon, the ancient capital of Nicaragua founded in 1524.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, Leon is the country’s second largest city and rivals Granada in the number of historic Spanish colonial churches, secular buildings, and private residences. Outside of the city, we will visit the factory where Flor de Caña rum is made. In the late afternoon, you can explore the streets of this city which is known as the university city of Nicaragua.

Lodging: Hotel El Convento

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch


  • Nicaragua
  • $3295/person (double occupancy)
  • $575/person (single occupancy)
  • Oct. 25 – Nov. 5, 2017 (12 days)
  • Group Size: 6 min – 10 max
  • View Nicaragua Map Below



Day Three.  Leon – Esteli

Fresh tortillas are made at the downtown market.

Making tortillas in Estelí

Following breakfast, we drive to Estelí, known as the cigar capital of Nicaragua. Situated at an elevation of 2700 feet, Esteli enjoys a refreshing climate which is conducive to the growing of tobacco. In the afternoon, we will have the chance to hike to a local waterfall.

Lodging: Hotel Los Arcos

Meals Included: Breakfast



Day Four.  Esteli

Growing conditions are excellent for cigar tobacco in Nicaragua.

Tobacco plants used for making cigars in Estelí.

Cuban cigar makers immigrated to Nicaragua (and other countries) after  fleeing the Cuban revolution in 1959, and today some of the finest cigars are made in Estelí. We will visit cigar factories where some of the world’s best brands, such as Nick Perdomo, Padron, and Joya de Nicaragua, are made. For any not interested in the cigar tour, there is the opportunity to explore the markets in the city center.

Lodging: Hotel Los Arcos

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner



Day Five.  Esteli – Matagalpa – Selva Negra

Today we drive (1.5 hrs) to our mountain hotel, Selva Negra, near Matagalpa. This is the mountain coffee growing region of Nicaragua where the temperatures are pleasant and the vistas are beautiful. At Selva Negra, there are 14 trails, 6 of which are for horse riding, that make this pristine cloud forest an enchanting place to explore.

Lodging: Hotel Selva Negra

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch


Day Six.   Selva Negra

Selva Negra, Nicaragua, is a verdant beautiful eco resort in the mountains of Nicaragua

Eco-retreat in the mountains at Selva Negra

For the birders, there is an early morning tour to observe the abundant wildlife. Also, there is a coffee tour through the coffee plantation followed by a coffee cupping to taste the locally grown coffee. The afternoon is free and the opportunities abound for more hikes, boating in the lake, and relaxation.

Lodging: Hotel Selva Negra

Meals Included: Breakfast


Day Seven.  Selva Negra – Matagalpa – Granada

Old churches abound in Colonial Granada

The colonial gem of Nicaragua is Granada

Following breakfast, we will drive to Matagalpa to visit an artisanal chocolate factory and learn how Nicaraguan chocolate is made. Continuing our drive, we will stop at the first National Park (created in 1979) to see the Masaya volcano and the colorful handicraft market. We continue on to Granada  where we check into our hotel.

Lodging: Hotel Plaza Colon

Meals Included: Breakfast




Day Eight.  Granada

Granada is the colonial jewel of Nicaragua. We are picked up at our hotel in traditional horse drawn carriages for a city tour of art galleries, historic churches and the restored train station. In the afternoon, we will boat on Lake Nicaragua to view many small islands and the inhabitants who live off of fishing and farming.

Lodging: Hotel Plaza Colon

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Nine.  Granada – Ometepe Island

Historic plazas in Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is filled with lovely colonial architecture.

After breakfast, we drive to Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve, a 4600 foot extinct volcano which is covered with vegetation and is home to a rich ecosystem of 50 species of mammals, 174 species of birds, 30 types of reptiles and 750 species of flora. At the top of the volcano, we hike along the crater trail (1.5 hrs) enjoying the stunning views and flora. Later we will go to the port of San Jorge to catch a ferry to Ometepe Island. Upon arriving we will be met by our driver and taken to our lodging.

Lodging: Finca San Juan de La Isla

Meals Included: Breakfast


Day Ten.  Ometepe Island

Ometepe Island rests in the middle of the large Lake Nicaragua

A non active volcano on Ometepe Island.

Ometepe Island is the largest island in a fresh water lake, and as a result has many activities to enjoy. Optional activities can be organized such as an island tour, a hike to the Maderas volcano, visiting waterfalls and natural lagoons, and kayaking in the Istian river.

Lodging: Finca San Juan de La Isla

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day Eleven.  Ometepe Island

Weddings on Valentines Day in Nicaragua are free.

Couples line up for a Nicaraguan group wedding

The inhabitants of Ometepe Island are known for their happy and friendly ways. We will visit a local village and see how traditional foods are made. In the afternoon, there is the opportunity for a hike to see petroglyphs on a trail with excellent vistas of the island and lake.

Lodging: Finca San Juan de La Isla

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner



Day Twelve.  Ometepe Island – Managua. Tour Ends

After breakfast, we will take the ferry back to the mainland and then drive to the airport in Managua to catch afternoon or evening flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast

What’s Included

  • Eleven nights in boutique hotels, for two people sharing
  • Transfers to and from airports in Managua
  • All local ground & river transportation with bottled water, driver, English-speaking guides.
  • Admission to attractions.
  • Breakfast everyday, three lunches and four dinners
  • A personalized packet of information including market buying tips, restaurant recommendations and information on places you will visit.

What’s Not Included

  • Nicaragua Tourist Visa ($50), international airfare to and from Nicaragua, trip insurance, some meals as per itinerary, drinks, and personal expenses.
  • Single Room Supplement for rooming alone.
  • Tips for English speaking guides, drivers &  baggage handlers
  • International airport taxes

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“This was a primo trip. The kind of experience you remember with fondness forever. Do it! Small Footprints does not do those annoying large group stereotypical tours. These folks are dandy.”
– Patrick, Asheville, NC