A flaming acacia tree adorns a Nicaraguan highway

For late July and early August of 2005, Rutahsa Adventures has organized a double-barreled, ocean-to-ocean trip covering two of Central America's lesser known republics: Nicaragua and Honduras! Historic colonial cities, scenes of revolution and intervention, a former dictator's home, the great inland sea of Lake Nicaragua, rain forest and cloud forest biologic reserves, active volcanoes, hot springs to bathe in, 1000-year-old Classic Maya ruins, arts and crafts, Pacific and Caribbean sea resorts... All this and more are in store for Rutahsa Adventurers!

This trip is set up to allow travelers to participate in either the Nicaragua or the Honduras trip segment, or the full combination trip. Preference will be given to travelers booking the entire trip.

Here's the Nicaraguan section of the itinerary:

Day 1, Sat., July 23: AM: Fly U.S. to Managua, Nicaragua. You will be met at Agusto César Sandino International Airport and be taken into Managua where we will have lunch. In the afternoon we will have a guided tour of the capital city and an introduction to its tragic history. Originally chosen in the 19th century as a compromise capital located midway between Granada (the power base of the conservative Legitimist party), and León, (the seat of the more liberal Democratic party), Managua remains the political capital of the nation today in spite of being flattened by the December 1972 earthquake and further damaged by civil war during the Sandinista Revolution that overthrew the corrupt Somoza dictatorship. In addition to visiting important sites in modern Managua (such as the Palacio Nacional), we will visit the famous Huellas de Acahualinca where footprints fossilized in volcanic mud attest to a human presence in this area since time immemorial.

After touring the capital, a drive of 35 miles in our private bus will bring us to the colonial city of Granada, founded in 1524 on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and our lodging for the next two nights, the Hotel Alhambra, right on the shaded Central Plaza across from the Cathedral.

Transportation from the Managua airport to Granada can be arranged for travelers unable to arrive in Managua in time to join the group for lunch and the city tour (at extra cost).

Day 2, Sun., July 24: In the morning we'll enjoy a guided walk about Granada, visiting some of its important historic sites, including the Convento San Francisco Museum. In October of 1855, Granada was captured by the American adventurer William Walker, who proceeded to make this city the base of operations for his nearly successful attempt to take over the entire country. A year later, when a Central American army forced Walker out of Granada, he vindictively ordered the city razed to the ground. Although Granada was rebuilt, the destruction wreaked by Walker's army explains, in part, the present forms of some of the historic buildings.

After lunch you will have free time to continue exploring the city of Granada, or perhaps take a scenic boat ride amongst the beautiful islands of the archipelago known as Las Isletas. Here more than 350 islands, islets and mere rocks appear to have been capriciously thrown into Lake Nicaragua. And that is not very different from what actually happened, as the archipelago is the product of a pre-historic landslide that roared down into the shallows of the lake from the flank of Volcán Mombacho. Second night at Hotel Alhambra.

Day 3, Mon., July 25: This morning we will board our bus for a visit to Masaya National Park and its huge active crater, Santiago, displaying like a textbook the gray lava flows and darker beds interlayered in the manner typical of a composite cone. The flat lava floor of Santiago often features a smoking pit crater, and sometimes lucky visitors can look right down into the glowing throat of the volcano! We won't know until we get there just exactly what kind of a show we'll see, but one thing you can count on is a closer-than-average view of whatever volcanic happenings are going on!

In addition to the Santiago crater, the park features a fine little museum, which we'll visit.

Back in Granada, some time around 2 PM, we'll go to the dock to board "El Ferry", the public transportation for folks crossing Lake Nicaragua, traditionally known as Lago Colcibolca. The lake, lying at a mere 32 m (105 ft) above sea level, is huge --some 8264 sq. km. We won't traverse the entire length of the lake to San Carlos (a long trip!), but will get off when "El Ferry" docks at the town of Altagracia on the island of Ometepe. In the meantime, we'll enjoy four hours of this laid-back mode of local transportation, and gain an appreciation for the size of the great freshwater sea...complete with breakers and freshwater sharks (so don't fall overboard!).

We'll be met at the Altagracias dock by our transportation for the 30-minute ride to hotel Villa Paraíso, whose lakeside bungalows will be our lodgings for the next two nights.

Day 4, Tues., July 26: Ometepe Island is formed by a pair of volcanic cones joined by a low isthmus created by a lava flow from one of the cones. The taller, northwestern cone is Volcán Concepción, rising to 1610 m (just over a mile high!). Concepción is still active, emitting a major lava flow in 1957, and spitting ash as recently as 1999. The southeastern cone of the pair is Volcán Maderas, extinct, lower due to erosion (1394 m, 4573 ft), and forested to its crater rim.

Our morning program is a visit to Volcán Maderas, our transportation being a combination of local pick-ups and our own two legs. We will hike part way up the forested western flank of the volcano to the beautiful San Ramón waterfall, said to be 110 m high. Plan on wearing your hiking boots for this outing!

The afternoon schedule is for rest and swimming in Lake Nicaragua, whose warm waters lap the beach just a few moments' walk from our bungalows at Villa Paraíso. Second night at Villa Paraíso.

For any intrepid adventurer wanting a more strenuous day, our hotel can provide a guide for an 8-hour hike (five up, three down) to the crater rim of Maderas, and a view of its crater lake, with hearings and sightings of howler monkeys possible en route (cost of this extra tour is not included in the trip fee). And anyone not interested in hiking can, of course, just spend the full day hanging out and relaxing at Villa Paraíso-- not a bad idea at all.

Day 5, Weds., July 27: Today we take another ferry, this one from Moyogalpa across a relatively short stretch of Lake Nicaragua to the town of San Jorge where we'll find our charter bus waiting to pick us up again. We drive from San Jorge to the city of Rivas, site of the most important battles in the Guerra Nacional, as the war to oust William Walker is known. Here Walker was surrounded and starved into finally surrendering... but that is a very complex story, to be told in Nicaragua. We'll make a stop here in Rivas, perhaps for lunch as well as history.

From Rivas we will continue on to the coast at San Juan del Sur. In the days of the Forty-niners, San Juan was the Pacific terminus of the most important route across the isthmus. Gold-seekers and other rough characters poured across Nicaragua to ship from this port to fabled California. Gold and disillusioned adventurers poured back east via the same route, known as the "Transit Route". During his campaign to conquer Nicaragua, Walker relied on this flow of hard-bitten types across the Transit as his source of reinforcements. Walker battled Costa Rican armies and agents of the wily capitalist "Commodore" Vanderbilt for control of this vital route. Then, after the mid-1800s, San Juan del Sur slipped into a near-somnolence from which it has only recently awakened. We'll enjoy a night here in the Hotel Casablanca, near the waterfront of this formerly sleepy little port town, now opening up to the possibilities of being a destination for tourism.

Day 6, Thurs., July 28: The morning will be free time for getting to know the little port town, swimming in the Pacific, or exploring the shoreline a bit. In 1978, your Rutahsa Adventures trip leader, Ric Finch, did some geologic sampling along a very picturesque section of rocky cliffs and sea caves just on the south side of the San Juan harbor; he has a notion to try to get back to this scenic area, if it is still accessible, and would welcome some company on what could prove to be a minor adventure.

This afternoon our private bus will take us to Montelimar Beach Resort also on the Pacific coast. Montelimar, formerly one of the dictator Somoza's estates, was confiscated by the Sandinista government, and converted into a luxury resort-by-the-sea, run by the Barcelo chain of international resorts. Montelimar features a very broad sandy beach, a huge swimming pool (with a swim-up bar), restaurants with extensive buffets, more bars, tennis courts, horseback riding, and a casino in the old Somoza seaside mansion! Your meals and bar tab (national drinks) are included in your stay here-- hence we'll stay two nights so you can take advantage of it!

Day 7, Fri., July 29: All day at Montelimar! Relax, surf, read while you sun. To see more of the facilities of Montelimar Resort, take a peek at their website, but be sure to use your "back" button to return to Rutahsa's trip description: Montelimar Resort.

Day 8, Sat. July 30: Today we take our bus from Montelimar to the important colonial city of León, founded the same year as Granada, 1524. Originally located closer to Lake Managua, at the foot of Volcán Momotombo, the city was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and eruptions during the years 1580 - 1609, and was refounded in its present location in 1610. Though "new" León has also suffered earthquake and war damage from time to time (as recently as the 1979 Revolution), its colonial architecture and ambience are much better preserved than that of Granada. The city is home to more than a dozen colonial churches, including the grandest Spanish colonial church in all Central America, the Catedral de León. Our lodgings tonight will be in the Hotel El Convento, a colonial building connected to the San Francisco Church. It is described by the Footprint Nicaragua Handbook as "Nicaragua's most charming colonial hotel, and León's best." (Not to worry, the bathrooms and plumbing are post-colonial!)

Evening: free time to explore León.

Day 9, Sun., July 31: After a continental breakfast (included) at El Convento, we'll go on a guided, walking tour of León's most important historic sites, including the massive cathedral. While at the cathedral we can ascend the towers for views out over the city and the impressive backdrop of volcanic cones.

For the afternoon, a hard choice must be made: We have planned an excursion out to Cerro Negro, another very young and active volcanic cone. Born just in 1850, Cerro Negro is the youngest of a cluster of four ash cones located about a 45-minute drive by 4X4 from León. We will hike about an hour to climb about 400 m (1300 ft) to the crater rim, then circle the smoking crater, for impressive views of the activity, before "ash skiing" back down to our waiting vehicles. Total time for the outing: 4 to 5 hours. The hard choice: whether to visit Cerro Negro or visit more of colonial León's historic sites. Second night at Hotel El Convento.

Day 10, Mon., Aug. 1: Today we end our Nicaraguan travels. For those signed on for the full Nicaragua-Honduras excursion, another charter bus, this one from Honduras, will pick us up after breakfast at El Convento, and carry us to the border, next the city of Choluteca, a short stretch of the Pan American highway, then up into the mountains to Tegucigalpa, capital city of Honduras. It's a full day's drive, but there's lots of scenery en route.

Travelers signed on for just the Nicaraguan portion of the excursion will be taken back to Managua for their afternoon flights out, or to overnight in Managua before flying out the next day. (The cost of the transfer from León to Managua --and hotel in Managua, if needed-- will be provided to the traveler at cost to Rutahsa Adventures, and will be dependent on the number of travelers returning to Managua.)

END of NICARAGUA INTINERARY. To see the costs for this segment of the excursion, scroll on down. To view the itinerary for Honduras, click here: Honduras 2005 itinerary.


This excursion is set up to allow the traveler to participate in either the Nicaragua or the Honduras trip segment, or to join for the full adventure of both segments. Costs for Nicaraguan and Honduran in-country services have been carefully negotiated and agreed upon by Rutahsa Adventures, Inc. and the Nicaraguan and Honduran suppliers. Barring an unexpected increase in costs beyond the control of Rutahsa Adventures, Inc., the following prices should be final:

The cost of the excursion, based on a minimum of 12 participants is:

Included in the inscription fee for Nicaragua: All ground and lake transportation mentioned in the itinerary, all hotels, guide services, entry fees to parks, museums and other visitors' sites included in the itinerary, meals mentioned in the itinerary, and national drinks while at Montelimar resort.

Also included for participants continuing on to Honduras: Transportation in private bus on Aug. 1 from León, Nicaragua to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Nicaragua/Honduras border fees. Services included for the Honduras segment of the excursion are detailed at the end of the Honduras trip website: Honduras segment.

NOT INCLUDED in the trip inscription fees: Transportation to and from Central America; Nicaragua entry fee ($5); tips; souvenirs; meals and drinks (except those specified in the itinerary as included); telephone/fax/e-mail services; other personal expenses.

For travelers participating in the Nicaragua section of the trip only, the following expenses are not included: transportation from León back to Managua for your flight home (we will arrange this transportation for you, and you will be charged only the direct cost); Managua airport tax/exit fee.

As always, the group size will be kept small (16), to maintain the quality experience that an intimate group can enjoy.


To request an application blank for Rutahsa's Nicaragua-Honduras Tropical Travel Adventure, to be placed on our mailing list for updates on this trip, or to request further information about the trip, drop an e-mail request to

Travelers electing to participate only in the Honduras segment of the trip need to arrive Tegucigalpa in the afternoon or early evening of Aug. 1. Rutahsa Adventures will be happy to make arrangements for any traveler to be picked up at the Tegus airport and taken to our hotel, Leslie's Place.

For favorable airfares to Managua and/or Tegucigalpa, we recommend you contact Patricia Guamuchi, of Solar Tours in Washington, DC: 1-800-388-7652, extension 558. Be sure to dial the extension or to ask for Patricia. For several years Patricia has given Rutahsa Adventures travelers exceptionally good deals; be sure to tell her you are participating in a Rutahsa Adventures trip.

For other great out-of-the-ordinary eco-adventures and cultural trips, see Rutahsa Adventures' homepage.

Images on this webpage by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.