Backpacking Nicaragua

Week 10 – Leon to San Juan del Sur

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Another day another country. This time backpacking Nicaragua. The border crossing was something else. Probably the longest and toughest ones I have encountered to date. That was even with a company doing it for you. This was the only border where our bus was checked over plus we had to take our luggage inside for the scanners.

Border Crossing from Hell

The border crossing started with a dodgy Covid test. I think it was dodgy as we got the results back within 10 minutes. Therefore, this makes me think it’s not all above board. Anyway, we were nearly at the border after traveling 10 hours in a cramped mini-bus. We had set off early from Honduras to be able to make it to Leon, Nicaragua at midnight. It was well over the 12-hour time scale given but we arrived in one piece with negative covid tests. That is the main thing.

The Next Morning

Volcan Negro's Crater with vibrant green forest as the backdrop
Crater at Volcan Nergo

After hanging most of my clothes out to dry due to them getting wet on the roof of the mini-bus. We set off to explore the town of Leon. Then came the pouring rain. Well, due to it being the wet season it was to be expected. Leon was our first experience of the wet season, we knew it would rain for maybe a couple of hours in the afternoon however it rained all day long.

We were here in Leon to do one activity. The only thing I wanted to do was volcano boarding. Yep, sliding down the side of an active volcano on a wooden plank.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

Volcano Boarding

This activity is why everyone stops off here as well as the cathedral. However, as we set off to Volcan Negro the nerves started to set in. I am someone who gets a little nervous before trying something new. So, with the short hike to the top over with stunning views all around, it was time. Time to suit up and look like we have just escaped from prison and slide on down. It was so much fun and when the speed picked up even more fun. Well worth the experience.

Backpacking Nicaragua Some More

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception whilst backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

Next on the list of places to go was Granada which was a cute town but again the rain was intense. So intense we couldn’t really explore and partake in the activities on offer. One was closed because of the landslide, the party was canceled and the clouds ruined the magma experience.

Therefore, we just went on our way as planned to Ometepe. An island in Lake Nicaragua made up of two volcanos. It was pretty impressive. Again, the hikes were closed and it rained non-stop whilst we were exploring the island by moped. However, there was one night when the sun was out and we watched it set behind Volcan Conception. It was a truly magical sunset.

Our Last Stop San Juan del Sur

The last stop was this unique, charming beach town. I really liked it despite it being the wet season here there were breaks in the rain. It looks a bit rough around the edges but I enjoyed it. Maybe because this is where I caught my first green wave and rode it all the way! What a feeling, these three days here really made me realise that I want to be able to surf. Therefore it has kicked started a new hobby. It was again nice to be somewhere for four days to relax. Finally, I was able to get some dairy-free ice cream again so I made the most of that.

Summary of Nicaragua

Backpacking Nicaragua was charming, you really get to see the day-to-day lives of the locals. I enjoyed this country for this reason despite the onslaught of rain, I was won over. I would definitely like to go back and experience more of this beautiful country.

Next week I move on to Costa Rica, a country that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. So I’m excited.

Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Week 8 – Antigua

This week’s journal entry is all about the 24 hours of experience hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala. This experience deserves its own blog. This has to be my highlight so far. I am not sure if my words can truly sum up the magical experience I had.

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

Arriving at the Starting Point

From the city of Antigua which is stunning, cute, and filled with charm. We set off early to reach the starting point of the hike. The very bottom of Volcan Acatenango. This was where we had our safety briefing and picked up some warm clothes. We chose to go with one of the more expensive companies because after cutting costs on tours before; I really didn’t want to on this one. We chose Soy Tours.

What sold us on this one was the fact it was one of two that camped on the sunset side of the volcano plus the cooked pancakes in the morning. Yes, someone runs up the volcano in the morning with pancakes so they are waiting for you for when you return from sunrise.

Starting the Hike

Anyway, let’s not skip ahead. We have to talk about the hike. Oh wow, it was a hike. It was tough. There is no sugarcoating just how hard I found this. The altitude and the steep incline of the volcano really didn’t do me any favours. We hike all day through clouds upon clouds. The cloud forest we passed on our way up was misty and magical adding to the atmosphere. The clouds kept the temperature down which made the hike just a little bit more bearable. I couldn’t imagine making it to camp if that sun was blaring down on us too.

Volcan Fuego erupting at Dusk
Volcan Fuego Erupting at Dusk

We had regular breaks on our way up, the guides were great at setting a good pace for us all to follow. I do have to admit I did opt to pay extra for someone to carry my bag. Simply because we had to carry all our own water. This meant no backache. Plus, I was already unfit so the extra weight wouldn’t have worked out. When we all reached camp the clouds were still hanging about. Therefore, we all took a well-earnt rest.

When the Clouds Lifted

After, a little rested and only a little one because it wasn’t long before we could hear Volcan Fuego erupting. We were about to have the best luck because just like that the clouds that had been there all day started to slowly lift. Revealing Volcan Fuego in all its glory. Then, from that moment on the volcano didn’t disappoint. It kept going. It erupted as the sunset gave us a view for miles across the exposed valley. A valley lined with volcano after volcano. We were finally weeping the reward from my toughest hike to date.

Lava Flowing from Volcan Fuego at Nightime
Volcan Fuego at Night

Mother nature was showing off and I was all here for it as dusk turned to dark. Although, it was cold and I was happy. Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala was amazing and I just sat there watching the volcano into the night just like it was a television. The night was clear and Fuego was giving us a show shooting lava up into the air, then watching it tickle down the sides. It didn’t seem real. This moment is definitely one of those surreal moments in life.

Hiking for Sunrise

Hiking up for sunrise was a difficult one, tired from yesterday and I had a lack of sleep. However, the lack of sleep was worth listening to the volcano erupting all night long. There were some very loud bangs ringing out around the valley. However, this part of the hike was more like scrambling over rocks than following a clear nicely craved-out trail. Yet, I made it up for sunrise (just) but I did miss the break of the day. Again, Volcan Fuego was performing spluttering ash cloud after ash cloud up into the sky.

Coming Back Down

Volcan Fuego Erupting at Sunrise
Sunrise Over Looking Volcan Fuego

You would think it was easier, it was in some ways but at this point, my legs were jelly so just trying to stay upright and not slip on the stones was the mission when coming back down. Also, this time the sun was out so we got to see all the views we missed out on, on the way up. Oh my… they were pretty! All in all what an incredible experience.

Summary of Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Wow. What a truly raw experience something I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime. The company provided great guides, good food, and a perfect camp. I fully recommend using them. This is a unique experience camping on the side of one volcano whilst watching another erupt. There are no words, to sum up, the fierceness of mother nature.

Read about another exciting Central American adventure here!

2-Week Adventure Backpacking in Nicaragua

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

This blog is about my 2-week adventure backpacking in Nicaragua. Again, as always I choose my destinations based on my interests. And so should you. This country was beautiful, eye-opening, and magnificent all rolled into one. This country truly touched me. In my opinion, this blog covers the most beautiful places in Nicaragua.

Magnificent Leon – 2 Nights

So, our first stop in Nicaragua was the city of Leon. We arrived at midnight by shared tourist shuttle from Honduras. It just made the border crossing a little easier by having someone do it for you. This place you can just wander around and take in the culture. The best place to stop by is the Cathedral. Remember to go to the roof for the best view. It was too wet when we were there so we missed it.

Me getting ready to sandboard down the side of a volcano
Volcano Boarding

The main reason backpackers stop by here is for the volcano boarding. Yes, you slide down an active volcano (US$35) on a plank of wood. Yes, it does sound crazy but it sure as hell is fun. Don’t worry you can easily control your speed, not that you will want to!

Rough and Ready Managua – 1 night

This capital city is a little rough around the edges and I wouldn’t really recommend a stop here. Travelling around Nicaragua on the local buses is easy because vendors yell out their destinations. Yet, don’t expect a bus to leave straight away because they only leave when they are as full or near to full. Therefore, you need to allow extra travel time for this.

However, stopping in Managua is convenient if you need to get some shopping done. Also, the capital is the main hub for flights over to the Corn Islands. This is something we missed as the weather wasn’t going to be great. Although, after speaking to other travelers; they didn’t regret visiting these Caribbean Islands on the coast of Nicaragua. They do look pretty untouched and impressive.

Lively Granada – 3 Nights

A old dirty looking church
The Church in Granada

In the bustling, colourful streets of Granada, there were street markets, historic buildings, and Lake Nicaragua. Also, this town is a good hub for day trips. Unfortunately, with it being the green season and raining every day all day whilst I was there most of the activities were called off. Normally, you can go swimming in a crater lake, see magma from an active volcano, and party hard at the famous Treehouse Hostel.

Beautiful Ometepe – 3 Nights

yellow circular sun over the shadow of Volcan Conception during 2-week adventure backpacking Nicaragua
Sunset over Volcan Conception

This beautiful island is made up of two volcanoes; the main one is Volcan Conception. It is possible to hike both volcanoes however in the middle of the green season it is not recommended. We did hire a scooter for a day (US$18). A scooter is definitely needed to visit the key sites as places of interest are all spread out over the island.

There are plenty of places such as having a swim at Ojo de Agua, Hiking to San Ramon waterfall, and exploring nature at Charco Verde. Also, you can relax at El Pital which is known for its chocolate and great views of Volcan Conception. Lastly, you can chill at ‘the beach’ at Punta Jesus and watch the sun go down.


Laid-back San Juan del Sur – 4 Nights

San Juan del Sur is a place to chill out and take it easy for a few days. This is an ideal stop with great surf for you surfers out there. There is plenty of companies to choose from for surf lessons. I had some lessons at Alex’s Surf Shop. These were okay, helpful more for a private one. Also, after lesson they let you enjoy more waves or lounge in the sun for an hour.

I hope you enjoyed the highlights of my 2-week adventure backpacking in Nicaragua. Please click here for more adventures.

A 2-Week Adventure Through Guatemala

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

This is the route I took through Guatemala. I stuck to the ‘touristy’ areas which were all completely safe. Also, we travelled around on tourist shuttles which were heavily advised to do. It was more expensive but a lot safer than the chicken buses. Again, have a read of where I went and choose a route that suits your interests.

Flores Island – 2 Nights

me with the ruin temple towering over me
Tikal National Park

This small island sits on a lake and is so small you can walk around it within an hour. The island itself is cute and worth stopping by to catch a good sunset and maybe have some fun over on the rope swing. I was here to visit Tikal National Park. This place was amazing. The entrance fee is Q150, the tourist bus there and back Q15 or Q100 with a guide. I opted for no guide but I would recommend going with the guide. This way you won’t get lost and you will be provided with information about the ruins you are looking at. The wildlife here is insane so don’t forget to look out for monkeys!!

Lanquin – 2 Nights

Waterfall Pools lined with lush green forest
Semuc Champey Pools

Getting to Lanquin is a bit of a nightmare. It is a very long bus ride around 10-12 hours. Also, it isn’t a very pleasant journey. The road winds around mountain range after mountain range. Also, there is another long journey to leave for the next destination too. So, if you are pressed for time maybe this stop is not worth it for you.

Semuc Champey is beautiful and enchanting; however, in my opinion, I am not sure the long journey is worth it. I have seen better. The entrance is only Q50 just for the hike and access to the pools. There is also a tour option that includes tubing and exploring caves by candlelight. This costs around Q170. You get from your accommodation in Lanquin to the pools in a pick-up ride for Q20 each way. This again is a rough 4×4 journey up narrow bumpy roads stood in the back of the truck. So I would give it some thought to see if it is worth it for you!

Lake Atitlan – 4 Nights

A view over looking small villages along Lake Atitlan

This massive lake is not to be missed. It is a common backpacker stop with each lake-side village offering something different from one another. I stayed in the party village of San Pedro but it is easy to visit each village by boat. The journeys cost between Q5-Q20 depending on how far you are going. I visited the hippie village of San Martin and the cool San Juan.

Also, the other activity here is to hike the Indian Nose at sunrise. You have to book this through a tour as it makes it safer. The tour can cost between Q85-Q100 depending on how much of a hard bargain you can drive.

Antigua – 5 Nights

Homemade chocolate in the moulds
Chocolate Making

This town has a great charm and I really enjoyed spending a bit of time here. There is a cool viewpoint that has a volcano as a backdrop so make sure before you climb there is no cloud in the sky that could possibly ruin the view.

In Antigua, I did a chocolate-making class which I recommend as well as staying at Somos Hostel. The chocolate class was with Ek Chumel for Q100 or Q90 if you stay at Somos. This town is just simply nice to walk around and see all the different buildings.

Volcan Fuego Erupting at Sunrise
Volcan Fuego at Sunrise

The main attraction for backpackers is the Volcan Ancatengo Hike. This is a 24-hour hike straight up a volcano to see the neighbouring Volcan Fuego erupting long into the night. I went with Soy Tours which cost Q450 for the trip. Optional extras were a bag carrier Q200 (which I would recommend as you have to carry all your water) and Q200 to hike extra to Volcan Fuego. Soy Tours is one of the two companies that camp on the sunset side. Ultimately this is what helped me make my decision on who to go with because of the better camping spot.

If you enjoyed this blog itinerary you should check out my ultimate month in Mexico.