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Cotinga: Off the beaten track Nicaragua

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This group holiday will be a real adventure: we’ll be travelling by road and by boat across the country, arriving at remote, hard-to-reach destinations where we’ll be flung back in time. We’ll meet back-water rural and riparian communities, discover once wealthy Spanish colonial towns and clamber over a monumental frontier fort. We’ll gasp at the plethora of exotic wildlife on the fringes of Lake Nicaragua, gaze up at the crater of a sizzling volcano, and stroll on the sands of a folksy, English-speaking Caribbean Island. You’ll hardly believe how a country of such variety and richness can be so little-visited.

Nicaragua, much loved at Journey Latin America, is one of the few remaining Latin American destinations which can truly be described as unspoilt. Having suffered decades of civil war, geological and economic instability it remained off the tourist trail during the expansion of tourism in the early years of the 21st century. Now shyly opening up to visitors, it’s a country of great understated charm, from its verdant volcanic landscapes to its deserted jungle-fringed beaches; the people are particularly welcoming, the wildlife profuse, and the history and living culture riveting.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients arrive in Managua, Nicaragua, the same day, Wednesday.

Day 1

Transfer to a coffee plantation south of the capital and overnight.

Day 2

At leisure to relax.

Day 3

Travel to San Jorge and take a ferry to Isla Ometepe.

Days 4-5

Two days to explore the islands history, wildlife and scenic vistas.

Day 6

Travel back to the mainland and onto colonial Granada.

Day 7

Excursion to Masaya volcano and market.

Day 8

By road and boat to the unspoilt Solentiname Islands.

Day 9

Guided tour of Los Guatuzos Wildlife refuge.

Day 10

Cruise down the Rio San Juan to El Castillo.

Day 11

Day trip to Indio Maiz Reserve.

Day 12

Overland journey to Managua.

Day 13

Fly to the Corn Islands.

Days 14-15

Explore the beautiful beaches and interior of the island.

Days 16-17

Fly back to Managua and transfer to León.

Day 18

Transfer to Managua airport for your international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Sunday.

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Places visited on this holiday

Cotinga: Off the beaten track Nicaragua

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Granada
The gorgeous colonial city of Granada is a paradox: now the country’s principal emblem of restoration and beautification, it has a history of piracy and pillage. The oldest city in Central America is nowadays quiet, peaceful and easily explored on foot, but increasingly seen by foreigners as an attractive place to buy a home, as is the case in Antigua, Guatemala or San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.  Squatting on the lakeshore and at the foot of Mombacho volcano it has a romantic setting almost unequalled on the continent.
When to go

Granada has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round May-Nov is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. It can be windy Nov - Feb. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There are several banks with ATMs where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to Granada’s historical rival, colonial León (114 km); Ometepe Island, reached by road and ferry (50 km).
Getting there

An hour’s drive from Managua.

Key events

La Hípica, Granada, 2nd week Sep. Horse riding events preceded by bull running through the town’s streets.

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Ometepe Island
Ometepe Island
Relaxed, tranquil Ometepe  - the largest freshwater island in the world, rising from Lake Nicaragua, is dominated by the twin volcanoes of Concepción and Maderas. There’s a timeless feel to the place, where legends and jaguar cults are still in circulation, and the people lead a traditional rural lifestyle avoiding the boisterous political events of the country.  The volcanic landscapes are partially blanketed with luxuriant jungle vegetation populated by monkeys and a plethora of bird species. Thanks to the rich, fertile soil, the slopes and flatter parts of the island are peppered with citrus, banana, watermelon, avocado and cacao plantations.
When to go

The island has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round at low altitude. May - Nov is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. It can be windy Nov - Feb. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There’s a bank with an ATM close to the pier where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to colonial Granada on the lakeshore; a boat adventure down the tropical San Juan river to the west of the lake. 
Getting there

There are boat connections from Granada and San Carlos, or a 1 hour public ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa.

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Rio San Juan
The beautiful 170km-long Rio San Juan marks the border with Costa Rica and runs from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea. Strategically important, it has a hectic history of disputes and attacks from outside Nicaragua and within. The remarkable fortress at El Castillo, built by the Spanish to repel pirates (although Horatio Nelson briefly held it after capture by stealth), bears witness to that. However it’s now a peaceful waterway passing through thick tropical jungle, where efforts are being made to encourage eco-tourism. Downstream from El Castillo is the primary rainforest of the Reserva Biológica Indio Maíiz, possibly the largest nature reserve in Central America.
When to go

Situated well within the tropics, Rio San Juan has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round. May - Nov is rainy season, but places on the eastern coast, the Caribbean side, tend to be rather wetter, and to have a longer rainy season, than those on the Pacific coast to the west. There’s a risk of tropical storms or hurricanes Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish, English.

Getting local currency
Córdoba. Notes can be obtained from money exchanges (casas de cambio) and also from banks which will supply advances on a debit or credit card. There are ATMs in large towns where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited. There is no ATM in el Castillo, bring dollars and córdobas with you. Obtain your local currency needs before travelling to Rio San Juan.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with

A stay at Morgan’s Rock, the well regarded eco-lodge on the Pacific Coast; a few days in the tranquil tropical islands of Solentiname in the southern part of the lake, a 1 hour boat ride from San Carlos at the source of the river.

Getting there

San Carlos, at the lake end of the river, is reached by air from Managua (1hr) or by scenic drive through rolling cattle country on a paved (in 2013) road (3-4hrs). El Castillo is accessible by river from San Carlos, although a bridge makes road access possible from 2014. San Juan del Norte is accessed from Nicaragua by air or by road (3-4hrs) to San Carlos then by river via el Castillo (8-9hrs); there is an erratic service to Bluefields.

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Corn Islands
Corn Islands
The Corn Islands represent a little bit of mellow Caribbean culture 70km off Nicaragua’s east coast. The two islands are classic barefoot paradises, with sugary beaches shaded by brigades of waving coconut palms.  It’s the simple life here; local people, English-speaking Afro-Caribbean, are pretty well cut off from the rest of the country, although nowadays there are more incomers setting up home here. You get the feeling this is how the whole the Caribbean region was like in the 1950s: there are no high rise buildings, shopping malls, or glitzy resort hotels. Beaches and roads, studded with open-air family-run fish restaurants, are almost empty and the people relaxed with no tourist-related hassling. The unpolluted undersea world around the rocky sea shore is, as to be expected, a theatre of colour and movement, and some of the region’s best snorkelling and diving is possible in the clear warm waters.
When to go
The islands have a typical tropical climate with high temperatures all year round May - Nov is rainy season. The sunniest and driest months are Feb - Apr. Easter and Christmas holidays are very busy. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.
Language

English.

Getting local currency
Córdoba. There’s a bank with an ATM close to the pier where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK and amounts may be limited. There is only one ATM (2014), beside the airfield on Big Corn, so it is best to bring dollars and córdobas cash with you. Obtain your local currency needs before travelling to the Corn Islands.
Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A stay on equally laid-back, but Latin, Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua; A visit to colonial Granada on the shores of the lake; a boat adventure down the tropical San Juan river to the west of the lake; a stay on the remote historically and culturally significant Solentiname islands in the far south of the lake.
Getting there

It’s a 1-1.5 hour flight from Managua; flight time-keeping is irregular.

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León Map
Like Granada, the core of Nicaragua’s second city and intellectual capital is brimful with red-tiled colonial-style buildings but, unlike its peaceful rival, effervesces with artistic and political energy.

Founded in Nicaragua’s plantation-covered northwest corner, León Viejo (now being excavated) was the capital of the country until destroyed by an earthquake in 1609. A city with a strong religious tradition, it hosts a dozen crumbly churches juxtaposed with murals depicting events from Nicaragua’s revolutionary story. There’s a university and its students enliven the nightlife scene.
When to go

León has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures (30°C upwards) all year round. May - Oct is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Córdoba. There are several banks with ATMs where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and withdrawal amounts may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.

Combines with
A visit to León’s historical rival, colonial Granada (114 km); Matagalpa, a northern mountain town in coffee country close to the Selva Negra Nature cloud forest reserve. (115 km).
Getting there

From Managua (75 km) it’s a 1 hour drive to León, from Granada (114 km), 2 hours.

Key events

Semana Santa, Easter.  Religious ceremonies and processions with a street carpet of designs created in sawdust, not unlike Antigua’s (Guatemala) carpet of flowers.

Día de la Concepción, León, 7 Dec. Fiesta with dancing, music and fireworks.

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Please note

We offer the option to leave the tour on Day 13 whilst in Managua (missing the Corn Islands and León) for those wanting a shorter trip. Please enquire for details on how this works and the reduced price.

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Start Date

4 Dec 2019

End Date

21 Dec 2019

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£2,755

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£495

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1 Apr 2020

End Date

18 Apr 2020

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£495

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