Nicaragua Backpacking Itinerary: 1, 2, or 3 Weeks in Nicaragua

Author Carina Klein
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Efficient Nicaragua backpacking itineraries for 1, 2 or 3 weeks in Nicaragua.

We backpacked Nicaragua to teach you how to do it yourself. We’ll give you a detailed breakdown for an efficient Nicaragua backpacking itinerary depending on your time window:

  • Nicaragua 1 Week Itinerary
  • Nicaragua 2 Week Itinerary
  • Nicaragua 3 Week Itinerary

We will teach you how to get from one destination to the other by public transport.

Additionally, we will reveal the accommodations we stayed at and whether we can recommend them or not.

Backpacking Nicaragua

It’s fun and easy to backpack Nicaragua with public transport. Buses are affordable and connect bigger and smaller destinations frequently.

If you’re looking for more comfort, tourist shuttles are available between the main tourist hubs.

We found many affordable accommodation options everywhere we went.

On average, we paid 40$ per person and day – including some amazing tours.

Picture of Buses in Nicaragua
Buses in Nicaragua

Nicaragua Backpacking Route Map


How long?

1 Week Itinerary

2 Week Itinerary

3 Week Itinerary


Somoto Canyon, Miraflor Natural Reserve, Northern Highlands

2-3 days




Volcano boarding, colonial architecture, Las Peñitas

2-3 days





Masaya volcano, Tree House Party, colonial architecture

1-2 days





Beaches, volcanoes, Ojo de Agua, petroglyphs, sunsets, chocolate, island vibes

3-4 days




San Juan del Sur

Sunday Funday, beach

2-3 days



Little Corn Island

Caribbean Island vibes

7 days


Nicaragua Travel Itinerary

1 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

If you have 1 week in Nicaragua, we recommend to visit

  • Leon (3 days)
  • Granada (1 day)
  • Ometepe (3 days)

Most Nicaragua itineraries start in Granada. We much preferred Leon hence this is where our Nicaragua itinerary starts.

Picture of 1 Week Itinerary Nicaragua
1 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 1 – Leon

Leon was our favourite city in Nicaragua. Established in 1524, it is one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

Like always, we love to begin our stay with a free walking tour. You can find plenty of options around town.

Amidst its vibrant street art and delectable street food, the historic churches stand out. Explore the charming streets to discover the vivid Iglesia El Calvario, the yellow-hued Church of the Recollection, the San Francisco Church, and more. The white Leon Cathedral is the highlight. Ascend to the summit for a breathtaking view – an ideal photo opportunity in Leon.

Where We Stayed in Leon

We stayed at Volcano Hostel and can 100% recommend it. The location was super central and the pool was much needed.

How to Get to Leon

Depending on where you’re coming from, you have several options to get to Leon.

  1. Bus from Managua to Leon: To take an express bus from Managua to Leon, head to the bus terminal at UCA (Universidad Centroamericana). Look for buses with the sign “León Exprés”. The trip takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. The fare is around 60 Cordoba (around 2$).
  2. Shuttles from
Picture of Leon Cathedral, Nicaragua
Leon Cathedral, Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 2 – Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro

Volcano boarding Cerro Negro was one of our highlights in Nicaragua.

Contrary to what you might think, it's not solely for thrill-seekers. While you have the option to descend the volcano at a thrilling speed of 100 km/h (60 mph), you can also opt for a more leisurely pace by using your feet to brake – like we did.

Naturally, every volcano boarding adventure starts with an ascent up the volcano. The hike itself is quite manageable, and if you prefer, you can pay a guide to carry the somewhat cumbersome board for you. At the summit, you'll gear up in a robust onesie, goggles, and a mandatory mouth and nose cover to shield yourself from the scattering volcanic rocks.

After the adrenaline rush of the descent, many tours provide a celebratory drink.

How to Get to Cerro Negro

A Volcano boarding Cerro Negro tour is your best option as we assume that you don’t carry a volcano boarding board with you.

Picture of Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro
Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 3 – Las Peñitas

In case you want to check out the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua but you don’t have the time to go to San Juan del Sur, Las Peñitas is a great alternative for you.

It’s only a 30-minute bus ride from Leon so it can also be an easy day trip.

The two main activities here are beach bumming and surfing.

Where we Stayed in Las Peñitas

We stayed at Mano a Mano Eco Hostal. It’s directly at the beach and has a super chill surfer atmosphere with nice food and drinks as well as a yoga deck.

How to get to Las Peñitas

Buses from Leon to Las Peñitas leave at Sutiava Market. Buses should leave every hour and take around 30 minutes.

In case you’re like us and you don’t want to walk, you can take a local bus from Plaza Parque Central de León to Sutiava Market.

Bucketlist2life tip: Shuttles from Leon to Las Peñitas are an inexpensive option as well.
Picture of Pacific coast of Nicaragua
Pacific coast of Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 4 – Granada & Masaya Volcano

As you know by now, we weren’t the biggest fans of Granada. We thoroughly enjoyed the Masaya Volcano though, that’s why we have included this stop.

In our opinion, one day in Granada is enough to see the main sights and visit the volcano.

In contrast to Leon, there are not many free walking tours on offer and ours was a bit awkward, to be honest. Our suggestion is to either book a guided City Tour without a horse carriage or explore on your own. The highlights are:

  • Parque Central and Cathedral.
  • Calle La Calzada.
  • La Merced Inglesia bell tower.
  • Lake Nicaragua.

In the evening, head to see the magma of Masaya Volcano – it’s best observed when it’s dark.

Bucketlist2life tip: You need more time in Granda if you’re a party animal:
  • Wednesday Booze Cruise on Lake Nicaragua (recommended).
  • Friday Tree House Party (also recommended).

Where to stay in Granada

We recommend Selina Granada. It’s super central and comes with a swimming pool.

How to Get to Granada

To take a local bus from Leon to Granada, you have to change buses in the capital Managua:

  1. Terminal de Buses Leon to UCA Managua (2 h).
  2. UCA Managua to Granada (1.5 h).

The buses leave super regularly during the day.

Picture of Masaya Volcano
Masaya Volcano

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 5 – Ometepe Island

Although no longer a hidden gem, Ometepe undeniably remains a gem in Nicaragua. Despite its popularity among backpackers, the island has retained its rustic charm. It’s the largest island on Lake Nicaragua and it’s towered by not one but two volcanoes.

Upon our arrival, we quickly discovered that renting a scooter is the best way to explore the island. Public transportation is scarce and taxis come with high price tags by Nicaraguan standards.

Where We Stayed on Ometepe Island

We can personally recommend two accommodations on Ometepe:

  1. Hostel Life is Good within walking distance from the ferry.
  2. Caballito's Mar offers amazing beachfront bungalows at a great value but you need a scooter.

How to Get to Ometepe Island

Taking the bus from Granada to Ometepe was a rather hectic experience for us. Here is how it should work:

  1. Bus from Granada to Rivas. Head to the Nueva terminal de buses a Rivas. You can walk there. We asked a couple of people but eventually ended up on the right bus.
  2. Shared taxi from Rivas to the ferry terminal in San Jorge. We were swarmed by taxi drivers and it took us a stressful while to find a shared taxi that was willing to drive us for the fair price of around 1$ per person.
  3. Ferry from San Jorge to Ometepe. Most boats will go to Moyogalpa and some to San José. Smaller lanchas and bigger ferries are making the crossing.. We opted for a ferry both ways. You can just head to the port and buy a ticket, no need to buy in advance.
Picture of Ometepe

Nicaragua Itinerary 7 Days: Day 6 & 7 – Ometepe Island

There is so much to do on Ometepe that we decided to just give you a list of options for you to decide what to do:

  • Climbing not just one but two volcanoes.
  • Relaxing on numerous beaches with inviting warm waters.
  • Refreshing yourself in natural spring pools.
  • Chasing waterfalls.
  • Embarking on a quest for ancient petroglyphs.
  • Renting kayaks.
  • Witnessing breathtaking sunsets.
  • Indulging in delectable chocolate.
  • and so much more…
Picture of Chocolate with volcano views on Ometepe
Chocolate with volcano views on Ometepe

2 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

With 2 weeks in Nicaragua, we recommend to visit:

  • Esteli (3 days)
  • Leon (3 days)
  • Granada (1 day)
  • Ometepe (3 days)
  • San Juan del Sur (3 days)

To create our 2 week Nicaragua itinerary, we extend our 7 day Nicaragua itinerary.

Picture of 2 Week Itinerary Nicaragua
2 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 2 Weeks: Day 1 – Esteli

We chose Esteli as our base in the Northern Highlands because of its convenient location – especially when using public transport.

There is not a ton to do in Esteli. Everybody and their mom seem to visit the cigar factory.

Where we stayed in Esteli

We actually stayed at Hostal San José in Somoto and loved loved loved it.

In case you want to opt for a more convenient location in Esteli, we would choose Luna International Hostel because of its great tour options.

How to Get to Esteli

There are several direct buses per day both ****from Managua to Esteli and Leon to Esteli.

Esteli is also a great first stop if you’re taking public transport from Honduras as it’s close to the border.

Nicaragua Itinerary 2 Weeks: Day 2 – Somoto Canyon

The Somoto Canyon National Monument is a protected area spanning approximately 170 hectares. Somoto Canyon still flies under the tourist radar. We encountered only one other pair of tourists. Canyoning was a super fun activity!

Prepare for ample opportunities to jump and swim. While swimming is mandatory, crazy jumps are not. There is only a modest 1-meter (3-foot) jump which is easily manageable. If we can do it, so can you! For those more daring cliff jumpers, various optional jumps, ranging up to 12 meters (40 feet) or higher depending on your climbing skills, await!

How to Get to Somoto Canyon

We read stories from several travellers who tried to go on their own but we personally recommend taking a tour! Both Hostal San José and Luna International Hostel organise it. It’s affordable, you can securely store your valuables, and you’ll learn about the safe spots to enter, exit, and jump!

Picture of Somoto Canyon
Somoto Canyon

Nicaragua Itinerary 2 Weeks: Day 3 – Reserva Natural Miraflor

Reserva Natural Miraflor is both a nature protection zone with beautiful forests and an area of rural farming.

The main activities are chasing waterfalls, hiking, horse riding, birdwatching and organic coffee farming.

The most popular tours are hiking tours, horse riding tours, and homestay experiences.

How to Get to Reserva Natural Miraflor

Again, the easiest way to get to Reserva Natural Miraflor is by guided tour. Luna International Hostel can help you organise it.

Picture of Rural life in the Northern Highlands of Nicaragua
Rural life in the Northern Highlands of Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 2 Weeks: Day 4 - 10 – See the 1 Week Itinerary Nicaragua Above:

  • Day 4 - 6: Leon (maybe substitute Las Peñitas with a Telica Volcano tour)
  • Day 7: Granada
  • Day 8 - 10: Ometepe

Nicaragua Itinerary 2 Weeks: Day 11 - 14 – San Juan del Sur

There are three main reasons to visit San Juan del Sur: Beaches, surfing, and Sunday Funday.

If you’re into parties, make sure to be here on a Sunday!

Bucketlist2life tip: Many backpackers go to the Treehouse Party in Granada on Friday and Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur on Sunday. If partying is your thing, you can do the same and go to Ometepe afterwards 😉

Where to Stay in San Juan del Sur

Hostel SaltWater is both the cheapest and best-rated place in town. Hostel Pachamama is the best option for party animals as it’s the starting point for Sunday Funday.

How to Get to San Juan del Sur

To get from Ometepe to San Juan del Sur, you have to

  1. Hop on a ferry to San Jorge.
  2. Take a shared taxi to Rivas.
  3. Take a bus from Rivas to San Juan del Sur.
Picture of Drinks on the beach in Nicaragua
Drinks on the beach in Nicaragua

3 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

If you have 3 weeks in Nicaragua, we recommend you take our Nicaragua 2 week itinerary and extend it with a visit to Little Corn Island on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua.

  • Esteli (3 days)
  • Leon (3 days)
  • Granada (1 day)
  • Ometepe (3 days)
  • San Juan del Sur (3 days)
  • Little Corn Island (7 days)
Picture of 3 Week Itinerary Nicaragua
3 Week Itinerary Nicaragua

Nicaragua Itinerary 3 Weeks: Day 14 - 21 – Little Corn Island

Little Corn Island is a Caribbean Island paradise. It is off-the-beaten-path and still very affordable. We loved it so much that we even extended our stay so if you’re a beach person like us, plan for enough time.

The main reasons to go are relaxing on the untouched beach, snorkelling, and scuba diving.

Picture of Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island

Where we Stayed on Little Corn Island

We stayed at Sunrise Paradise/Carlito´s Place. They offer super affordable amazing beachfront bungalows.

How to Get to Little Corn Island

You have to go via the capital Managua to get to Little Corn Island. You have two options to go from Managua to Little Corn Island:

  1. Public transport:
    • Take a bus from Managua to Bluefields. If you want to avoid travelling at night, the latest bus you can take is 9:15 am.
    • Sleep one night in Bluefields. We stayed at Typical House Bluefields which was not great but it was cheap and the location close to the ferry was convenient.
    • Take the ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn Island. Currently, it leaves every Wednesday and Saturday. The ride is around 7 hours long and can be quite choppy.
    • Take a panga from Big Corn Island to Little Corn Island.
  2. Take a direct flight from 1. Managua to Big Corn Island. Currently, there are two flights per day.

Personally, we opted to take public transport, but you have to be aware that it will take two full days each way to do so.

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