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Exploring Nicaragua: Colonial Towns to Countryside

Program Number: 18125RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/18/2015 - 1/24/2015; 3/7/2016 - 3/13/2016; 5/10/2016 - 5/16/2016; 9/22/2016 - 9/28/2016; 10/25/2016 - 10/31/2016; 1/22/2017 - 1/28/2017; 1/29/2017 - 2/4/2017; 2/12/2017 - 2/18/2017; 2/26/2017 - 3/4/2017; 3/12/2017 - 3/18/2017; 4/2/2017 - 4/8/2017; 5/21/2017 - 5/27/2017;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Nicaragua
Price starting at: $1,395.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Natural History
Meals: 14; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 3 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

Emerging from decades of political transformation, the tiny nation of Nicaragua is on the brink of even greater change. For now, it still offers a window into the simpler past of Central America a generation or two ago. Downtown Granada is a city in restoration mode with emerging musicians, poets and artists, while León showcases its Spanish past and intellectual leanings. In these towns and in a beautiful countryside of volcanoes, cloud forests, hot springs and plantations, learn about the historical complexities and energetic spirit that are inseparable from Nicaragua’s identity.


• Discover the striking colonial architecture and lovely natural surroundings of Granada, a city on the verge of a cultural revival.
• See where your morning cup of coffee comes from at a local coffee processing facility high in the hills of Matagalpa.
• Experience Nicaragua’s spectacular natural beauty and power at Masaya Volcano National Park.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile per day; some uneven terrain.

No single supplement for limited number of rooms.

Date Specific Information


Can be taken in conjunction with #8577-01/10/2015 and #11586-01/24/2015
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

3-7-2016, 5-10-2016, 9-22-2016, 10-25-2016, 1-22-2017, 1-29-2017, 2-12-2017, 2-26-2017, 3-12-2017, 4-2-2017, 5-21-2017

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Managua, 1 night; coach to León, 2 nights; coach to Jinotega, 1 night; coach to Granada, 2 nights; coach to Managua for departure.

Arrival Managua
1 night
Coach to León
2 nights
Coach to Jinotega
1 night

Delve into the history and poetry of Nicaragua here in the country’s progressive university town, León. Visit a gourmet coffee processing facility in the lush Matagalpa hills. Learn about the process of making award winning, barrel aged rum during a visit to a famous local rum factory.

Coach to Granada
2 nights
Coach to Managua

Marvel at Masaya Volcano National Park and learn to identify its geological features. In Granada, interact with locals at the Masaya Market, where food, artwork and goods are for sale. Learn the history of this classic colonial city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, a story of overcoming imperialist designs, dictators and internal strife.


After declaring its independence from Spain in 1821 and briefly a part of the Mexican Empire, this agricultural economy has become renowned for its strong folklore, music and religious traditions. Locked between Honduras and Costa Rica, the people of Nicaragua reflect the Indian and Spanish-European heritage, among others, and is home to over 450 volcanic origin islands, including the world's largest volcanic lake island, Isla Ometepe.

Managua: Modern hotel with views of Lake Xolotlan. León: Colonial-style hotel with lush gardens. Jinotega: Small, comfortable hotel. Granada: Hotel in a restored, elegant colonial home.
Meals and Lodgings
   Holiday Inn Select Managua
  Managua, Nicaragua 1 night
   Hotel El Convento
  León, Nicaragua 2 nights
   Hotel Cafe
  Jinotega, Nicaragua 1 night
   Hotel La Gran Francia
  Granada, Nicaragua 2 nights
 Holiday Inn Select Managua
Type: Hotel
  Description: Excellent view of Xolotlan Lake. Only 20 minutes from Managua International Airport, this intelligent and ecological building offers comfort and fulfills the highest security standards for guests.
  Contact info: Autopista Juan Pablo II Avenue
Managua,  212 Nicaragua
phone: +505-2255-6010
  Room amenities: AC, Internet connection, security box, electric locks, cable TV, phone with data port, coffee maker, blow dryer.
  Facility amenities: Casino, Executive floor, 24 hr. room service, AC, dry cleaning, money exchange, pool, safety deposit box, gym. Guests wishing to use the hotel's airport shuttle service (this amenity is provided at an additional cost) should contact the hotel directly to set-up a pick-up/drop-off time.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to availability Please contact you travel provider - Holbrook Travel, for additional information at 1-800-866-7111.

 Hotel El Convento
Type: Hotel
  Description: This historical hotel in the heart of the magical city of Leon, is a true colonial jewel. San Francisco's Convent was the first and most ancient convent in Leon, with its church being founded in 1639 by the Reverend Fray Pedro de Zuniga. Because in the 1830's religious groups were expelled from Nicaragua, San Francisco’s Convent became the Intituto Nacional de Occidente. Now it stands completely refurbished in its original state. A true marvel of a hotel, the one to stay at in Leon.
  Contact info: Next to San Francisco's Church
Leon,  00000 Nicaragua
phone: +505-031-17053
  Room amenities: 31 beautiful double rooms (each with two queen beds) and one suite (king size bed), all equipped with air conditioning, cable TV, hot water, international dial tone, internet access, 24 hr room service
  Facility amenities: laundry service • Full service restaurant and coffee shop • Beautiful garden and fountain • Elegant conference and event rooms accommodating up to 250 guests • Free parking for guests
  Smoking allowed: No

 Hotel Cafe
Type: Hotel
  Description: Hotel Café is located in Jinotega, 160km northeast from Managua. Coffee is the most important economical activity, and the weather is quite warm from June to December. The mountains are always green with a wide variety of birds and animals. We offer tours to coffee states. The hotel is located downtown in Jinotega. You can walk around the city safely, buy typical black ceramic, corn bread and a delicious cup of coffee.
  Contact info: Texaco gas Station 1 Block East and 1/2 Block Nort
Jinotega,  0000 Nicaragua
phone: +5057822710
  Room amenities: The rooms are nicely decorated and have private bathrooms with warm water, cable TV, direct dial telephones and air conditioning.
  Facility amenities: Laundry service, internet connection, room service, conference room, bar and restaurant, money exchange and private parking. English spoken.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Hotel La Gran Francia
Type: Hotel
  Description: This charming hotel is housed in a restored, colonial-era building in the city center right off the main square.
  Contact info: Esquina Sureste del Parque Central
Granada,   Nicaragua
phone: +505-2552-6000
  Room amenities: Air-conditioning, telephone, satellite TV, safety deposit box, mini-bar, and WiFi.
  Facility amenities: Two restaurants, a bar, conference facilities, swimming pool, Internet access, laundry.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights after: Subject to availability. Room type and rates are subject to hotel availability. Please contact your Road Scholar program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or for assistance in booking additional hotel nights.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals at Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Holiday Inn Select Managua that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from Managua's Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Hotel La Gran Francia the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Participants will need to purchase a $10 tourist card (price subject to change) at the airport upon arrival in Nicaragua. The $35 departure tax is usually included in the price of the international airline tickets. In the event it is not, the fee will need to be paid at the international airport prior to leaving Nicaragua. Please note that these prices and requirements are subject to change without notice. For more information, please contact the Embassy of Nicaragua in Washington, D.C. at tel:202-939-6570/6543.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Managua
  Transportation to site: The Holiday Inn Select in Managua offers airport shuttle services for a fee. Interested participants should contact the hotel directly. Taxi services are also available at the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Granada
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available at the hotel. Participants wishing to hire a taxi should ask for assistance at the hotel's front desk.
Elevation Note: Mombacho Volcano is over 3,000 feet in elevation.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive to Managua.
(Sunday, January 18)
 Arrive To: Arrive in Managua.
Transfer to hotel.

Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in usually begins at 3PM.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Select Managua

Day 2: León -
Historical Sites of León & Las Huellas de Acahualinca.

(Monday, January 19)

Note: Transfer to León is approximately 2 and ½ hours. The elevation is approximately 282 ft.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Program Orientation.

Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Engage in a cultural journey through the city of Managua. The capital of Nicaragua, Managua is located between the cities of León and Granada, with an economy based largely on trade in coffee, cotton and other crops. Throughout its’ history, the city has been witness to the rise and fall of many political powers and devastating earthquakes.

Visit to the Plaza de la Revolucion, the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, the old and new Cathedrals, the old Somoza bunker, and the Sandino Statue.

Excursion to the archaeological footprint of Las Huellas de Acahualinca estimated to be over 7,000 years old.

Site lecture: Evidence of Early Human Presence in Central America.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to León.

This afternoon we arrive to the historic city of León, rich in both monuments and historical sites.

The liberal counterpart to conservative Granada, León is known as the intellectual and academic center of Nicaragua. The city's buildings serve as fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture; the Cathedral of the Assumption in particular. Despite León's importance as an industrial and commercial center, it is surrounded by lush natural beauty and is only 11 miles from the Pacific coast.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Lecture: Overview of Nicaragua.

Presentation of a poem by Ruben Dario.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel El Convento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: León –
History of the Colonial City/Flor de Caña Rum Factory

(Tuesday, January 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Visit to the World Heritage Site of the Cathedral of León.

The city of León was originally founded on the edge of Lake Managua in 1524. In 1610 it was moved to the site of an old Indian capital and shrine after an earthquake where it remained the capital of the Spanish province and the Republic of Nicaragua until 1855. Today, León is Nicaragua’s second largest city and the center of an important commercial and agricultural region, with principle crops including cotton, sugarcane, and rice and beef cattle for export.

Visit to a nearby beach for a stroll before lunch.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant on the beach.
 Afternoon: Visit to Flor de Caña Rum factory.

Flor de Caña, Spanish for “sugarcane flower” was founded in 1937. It is renowned as one of the best rums in Latin America and has won more than 100 international awards since 2000. Journey from station to station through the factory by trolley to discover the world of rum. A light tasting session concludes your exploration of the rum vault and the rum barrel operational area.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local fare in León.
Accommodations: Hotel El Convento
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Jinotega –
Boilers of San Jacinto/Matagalpa Region/Local Coffee Plantation.

(Wednesday, January 21)

Note: Transfer to Jinotega is approximately 3 to 4 hours. The elevation is approximately 3,000 ft.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Morning transfer to Jinotega.
En route stop to the boilers of San Jacinto. Explore the geothermal activity of the area featuring boiling mud fumaroles and steaming microcraters of the Telica volcano.

Visit the village of Matagalpa en route. Enjoy an on-site overview of Matagalpa's history.

Situated along the Rio Grande, coffee farms surround the lofty village of Matagalpa in northern Nicaragua. In the mid 1800s, Ms. Katharina Braun Elster pioneered coffee production. Today, coffee is the mainstay of Matagalpa’s economy. Matagalpa is built on a hilly terrain that is surrounded by mountains and receives a higher average of rainfall each year, making the surrounding areas green and lush.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Field trip to a local coffee processing facility.

Learn about the processing of coffee beans. Processing begins soon after the beans are delivered by truck to the mill where they are fed into the milling equipment to eliminate the husk and separate out the coffee cherry. Then comes the fermentation process before washing and finally roasting.

Lecture: The History of Coffee Production in Nicaragua.

Arrive in Jinotega and check-in at the hotel.

Jinotega, known as the “City of Mists”, is located in the inside a vast bowl formed by the surrounding mountains. Magnificent clouds move through the hillsides of this remote region known for producing 80% of the nation’s coffee.

Free time to rest before dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Cafe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Granada –
Masaya Volcano National Park/Historic Granada/Boat ride on Lake Nicaragua.

(Thursday, January 22)

Note: Transfer to Granada is approximately 2 and ½ hours. Elevation is approximately 107 ft.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Masaya Volcano National Park and the Volcanic Interpretation Center.

Field trip to Masaya Volcano National Park with site lecture. The volcano is one of the most active in the country with gaping craters and a continuous stream of sulfurous gas visible from far away. The Chorotegas, who most Masayan inhabitants today trace their ancestry back to, feared the volcano and understood the grumbling eruptions to be signs of anger that required sacrifices, often human.

Visit to Volcanic Interpretation Center.

At the interpretation center, you will receive a dynamic presentation by a park representative about the geology of the area.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Granada.
Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Lecture: History and Geology of Granada.

Guided exploration of the colonial center of Granada and its colorful history.

Granada is one of the oldest cities in Central America. In the nineteenth century, it played host to the likes of William Walker and others intent on taking control of the nation. Present day Granada offers its visitors copious amounts of charm and an excellent view of Central America's colonial past.

Boat ride on Lake Nicaragua. As you navigate around the islets, enjoy on-site instruction about the geology and natural history of Central America's largest lake.

Approximately 365 small volcanic islands can be seen spread out at the foot of Mombacho Volcano; formed when the volcano erupted more than 20,000 years ago. Today, a number of the small islands are inhabited by families who make their living from fishing, while other islands play host to extravagant villas owned by Nicaragua's rich and famous. Additional items of interest are the San Pablo Fort (built in the 18th century to protect Granada against English pirates) and Monkey Island.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local fare in Granada.
Accommodations: Hotel La Gran Francia
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Granada -
Field trip to Mombacho Nature Reserve/Masaya Market.

(Friday, January 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Horse and carriage ride around downtown Granada.

Field trip to Mombacho Nature Reserve.

This cloud forest reserve encompasses a large portion of the now dormant Mombacho Volcano. The park boasts a large collection of flowering plants including bromeliads and orchids, in addition to a variety of animal life. Well maintained trails wind along the volcano’s slopes; home to over 500 howler monkeys. When cloud coverage is less dense, visitors are rewarded with spectacular views of Granada and Lake Nicaragua.

Site lecture: The Natural History of Central America's Largest Lake.

Excursion to Catarina Outlook on Apoyo Lagoon where we will have a short walk before lunch.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Excursion to Masaya Market - home to some of the best craftsmen of Central America.

Masaya, also known as the “City of Flowers,” is Nicaragua’s folk culture and artisan center. Explore the colorful market and view the handicrafts from all over the country. Also visit a ceramic factory for a pottery demonstration to learn how the pottery found throughout the market is created.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Spend your last evening in Nicaragua with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow.
Accommodations: Hotel La Gran Francia
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Depart from Managua.
Return to the U.S.

(Saturday, January 24)

Note: Transfer to Managua is approximately 1 hour. There will be two transfers to the airport offered on this day: 4:30am and 10:00am. If you would like more information please contact the program coordinator at 1-800-866-7111 or

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel (dependent on flight times).
 Morning: Transfer from Granada to Managua's international airport.

Flight to the U.S.

Note: Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.

This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Moon Handbook Nicaragua

Author: Moon Handbooks

Description: A handy, practical guide to Nicaragua, this book is a good resource for planning a trip, featuring extensive, up-to-date listings, maps, volcano hikes, and other background information.

The Jaguar Smile, A Nicaraguan Journey

Author: Salman Rushdie

Description: Rushdie's account of visit to the country at the height of the Contra war goes underneath the headlines. It's a cultural portrait – simple, straightforward and "Written with a novelist's eye for irony," wrote the "New York Times."

Coffee and Power, Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America

Author: Jeffery M. Paige

Description: Panoramic in scope, this scholarly history examines the emerging democracies of Central America and especially the political impact on powerful families who control coffee production.

Forgotten Continent, The Battle for Latin America's Soul

Author: Michael Reid

Description: Economist editor Reid draws on his years in the cities, presidential palaces and shantytowns of Central and South America in this portrait of a region rich in oil, farmland and culture and its prospects in the face of globalization.

Nicaragua, Living in the Shadow of the Eagle

Author: Thomas Walker

Description: The fourth edition of Walker's invaluable portrait of Nicaragua with a focus on its recent political history.

The Country Under My Skin, A Memoir of Love and War

Author: Giaconda Belli

Description: The memoir of a young, upper-class Nicaraguan woman who joins the revolutionary Marxist Sandinistas while continuing to work her bourgeois day job at an advertising agency.

Selected Writings, Ruben Dario

Author: Ruben Dario

Description: This anthology of the beloved Nicaraguan modernist poet includes his best-known work presented in English and Spanish, along with short stories, fables, profiles, travel writing, journalism and letters.

The Naturalist in Nicaragua

Author: Thomas Belt, Daniel Janzen

Description: A reprint of the 1874 original by Thomas Belt, trained as an engineer, who lived four years in Nicaragua. Praised by Darwin and other Victorian luminaries, his classic account is a richly detailed natural history of the region.

Central America Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A detailed map of the Central American isthmus at a scale of 1:1,100,000.

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest

Nicaragua In Focus, A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture

Author: Hazel Plunkett

Description: Essential reading for Nicaragua, this compact, illustrated travel guide focuses on politics, economy, history and culture. It's especially strong on the difficult history of relations with the U.S. but also includes a good short summary of traditional culture and history from colonial times to the present. It's an excellent overview, strong on facts and unabashedly left-of-center in outlook.

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