Exploring Nicaragua: Colonial Towns to Countryside
From local coffee production to idyllic Masaya Volcano National Park, from the ancient footprints of Acahualinca to the colonial architecture of downtown Granada, Nicaragua has it all.
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Program No. 18125RJ
7 days
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7 days
6 nights
14 meals
6 B 4 L 4 D
Getting There
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In Transit to Program, Arrive Managua, Check-in
Holiday Inn Express Managua

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Upon arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room assignment. Then take some time to freshen up and relax. As this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Settle in, get a good night’s rest, and prepare for transfer to León tomorrow.

Orientation, Exploring Managua, Transfer to León
Hotel El Convento

Activity note: Getting on/off a minibus. The drive to León is about 73 miles (117 kilometers), approximately 2.5 hours. The elevation is approximately 282 feet. At León, walking approximately 1.2 miles, about 1 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet that includes orange juice and coffee.

Morning: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Then, led by a local expert, we’ll set out on 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. Highlights include the Plaza de la Revolucion, the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, the old and new Cathedrals, the ruins of the old Somoza Presidential Residence, and the Sandino Statue.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll taste local specialties including fish.

Afternoon: Aboard our minibus, we’ll transfer to the historic city of León and check in to our hotel upon arrival. Rich in both monuments and historical sites, León is the liberal counterpart to conservative Granada, known as the intellectual and academic center of Nicaragua. The city's buildings serve as fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture. 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 to hotel and check in. After taking some time to freshen up and relax, we’ll gather at the hotel for a presentation by a local expert and former guerilla who will provide an overview of Nicaragua.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated meal including a natural soft drink.

Evening: At leisure.

History of the Colonial City, Flor de Caña Rum Factory
Hotel El Convento

Activity note: Getting on/off a minibus. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 2 hours including stops. The drive to the beach is about 12 miles, approximately 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Led by a local expert, we’ll go out from the hotel on a walking field trip around the historic district of Leon. A highlight is the historic Cathedral of León, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll explore the cathedral and catacombs and learn about its traditions. 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. Next, we’ll ride to a nearby beach for some time to stroll the beach or simply relax and enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in León. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Our next field trip is to the Flor de Caña Rum factory. Flor de Caña, (“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: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer to Jinotega in the morning.

Transfer to Jinotega, Boilers, Matagalpa, Coffee Plantation
Hotel Cafe

Activity note: Getting on/off a minibus. The drive to Jinotega is about 108 miles (173 kilometers), approximately 3-4 hours. Elevation approximately 3,000 feet.Walking on dirt paths that may be rocky and at times may be muddy from rain; wear athletic/hiking shoes with a closed heel and toe.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel, board the minibus and begin our transfer to Jinotega. En route, we’ll stop and take a short walk to see the “boilers” of San Jacinto, an area of dynamic geothermal activity with boiling mud fumaroles and steaming micro-craters of the Telica volcano. We’ll make another stop to visit the village of Matagalpa and learn about its history. Matagalpa was an indigenous village settled by the Spanish in 1554. Surrounded by mountains, it has a higher than average annual rainfall that keeps the area green and lush. The first people to plant coffee trees here were German immigrants in the mid-19th century. Coffee agriculture soon developed and expanded until the area became widely known as coffee growing region. Today, Matagalpa coffee is enjoyed worldwide.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, choose what you like from the extensive buffet.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our focus on coffee with a field trip to a processing facility, where we’ll learn about more about the history of coffee production in Nicaragua and how coffee beans are processed. Then, driving on to Jinotega, we’ll check in to our hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner. Jinotega is known as the “City of Mists” for clouds that move through the surrounding mountains in remote region that produces 80% of Nicaragua’s coffee.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated meal and order from a select menu.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer to Granada tomorrow.

Masaya Volcano, To Granada, Lake Nicaragua Boat Ride
Hotel La Gran Francia

Activity note: Getting on/off a minibus. The transfer to Granada is about 102 miles (164 kilometers), approximately 2.5 hours. Elevation is approximately 107 feet. At volcano, walking about 100 steps from bus to crater. Getting into/out of Tiburonera boat.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet that includes natural juice.

Morning: After checking out, we’ll begin our transfer to Granada via Masaya Volcano National Park and the Volcanic Interpretation Center. 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. At the Volcanic Interpretation Center, a park representative will give a presentation on the area’s fascinating geology. We’ll then drive to the volcano and walk to the steaming crater (volcanic activity permitting).

Lunch: At a restaurant overlooking the Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve, we’ll have a barbecue lunch. The lagoon was formed after a volcanic eruption some 23,000 years ago that left a hole nearly 4 miles (6 km) in diameter. Over time, the crater filled with water and vegetation covered the slopes. Apoyo is still a “sleeping” volcano.

Afternoon: Arriving in Granada, we’ll check into our hotel and drop off our luggage. We’ll then set out on an expert led 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. Next, we’ll go for a ride on a Tiburonera boat (with a covering for sun protection) on Lake Nicaragua. On-board commentary will tell us about the 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.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy local fare in Granada.

Evening: At leisure.

Mombacho Nature Reserve, Masaya Market
Hotel La Gran Francia

Activity note: Getting in/out of horse and carriage, on/off minibus. The drive to Mombacho is about ½ hour. The Mombacho Nature Reserve activity may be done in the morning or after lunch, depending on weather. Total net elevation gain during walk is 328 feet. Distance about 2 miles. Duration approximately 1.5 hours. Please wear closed toe shoes suitable for hiking. Terrain is irregular at times and muddy when wet.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll start the day with a horse and carriage ride around downtown Granada to see some of its historic sites. Next, we’ll board the bus and head off for a field trip to the 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. In the Reserve, we’ll learn about the natural history of Central America's largest lake, followed by a ride to Catarina Outlook on Apoyo Lagoon for a short walk. The Catarina look out on Apoyo Lagoon is bordered by the Mombacho Volcano and affords spectacular views of the whole lagoon, as well as Lake Nicaragua behind it.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal.

Afternoon: For our next encounter with local life, we’ll ride to the Masaya Market. En route, the Group Leader will provide an overview of this distinctive market that hosts some of the best artisans and craftsmen in Central America. Masaya, also known as the “City of Flowers,” is Nicaragua’s folk culture and artisan center. We’ll have time to explore the colorful market independently. We’ll then ride to the small town of San Juan de Oriente where a local craftsman will take us through a ceramic factory. We’ll observe a pottery demonstration to see and learn how their pottery is made, some of which we saw at the Masaya Market.

Dinner: At local restaurant, we’ll have our farewell dinner and share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. It’s our last evening in Nicaragua. Say farewells, finish packing, and get a good night's sleep in preparation for check-out and departure tomorrow.

Program Concludes, In Transit From Program
In Flight

Activity note: Hotel check-out depending on transfer time. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. For those with an included transfer on Road Scholar group flights, there are two transfer options: 4:30 a.m. and 09:00 a.m. The transfer to Managua is about 26 miles (41 kilometers), approximately 1 hour. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.”

Breakfast: At the hotel, depending on flight times.

Morning: This concludes the program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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