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I am often asked by people who only have a 2 week holiday from their jobs where I would prioritise in the given time. So behold! Below is my 2 weeks in Nicaragua backpacking itinerary for anyone who is tight on time but still wants to soak up the best that this incredible country has to offer.
This is a versatile nation, so I’ve made sure to include a wide range of destination types, giving you relaxing beaches, surfing hotspots, cultural wonders, backpacker parties, island retreats and plenty of volcanoes to hike up, peer into or board down. I’ll also give you some options at the end for places to add to this 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary should you find yourself with a little more time.
I’ve written this 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary to be in a weird way circular, which is mainly because it all revolves around being in San Juan del Sur for a Sunday to take part in the infamous Sunday Funday (if backpacker bar-crawls are your thing, of course, otherwise make a conscious effort to time your Nicaragua itinerary to hit San Juan on literally any other day of the week). This means you can pick it up from any starting destination to suit your dates and still get around all the points on the plan.
You could mix-and-match the destination order if you wanted to, but I’d avoid going from León to Isla de Ometepe directly just because of the number of transfers you have to take, including the ferry.
Now, my 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary is going to feel pretty fast-paced, and you need to be alert with making all your transfers. If you want a more chilled experience around the country, I’d perhaps skip the San Juan del Sur leg and spend a couple of extra days in any of the other destinations.
After reading this 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary, you may also want to have a skim of:
If you’re coming via plane or on a bus from Honduras into the capital, Managua (which I’m not recommending spending any time in for this trip plan as there are far more beautiful, safe parts of the country to explore), you can get to essentially anywhere in the western side of the country via bus to pick up the 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary from wherever you like.
People coming from Costa Rica will probably find themselves in San Carlos or San Juan del Sur, which again are very well-connected.
2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary:
Here’s a quick run-down of my suggested 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary with recommended places to stay; below I’ll tell you more about what to do in each of these destinations.
Turn your phone to the side to see the full thing!
What not to miss in your 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary:
Days 1-3: León
No backpacking in Nicaragua itinerary should miss out on seeing the beautiful city of León. While there, definitely make sure you save a day for volcano-boarding on Cerro Negro, catch a sunset on the beach of the nearby village of Las Peñitas (where you may find yourself wanting to stay a night), learn about the city’s fascinating history and get views of the whole city from the white roof of the cathedral – just bring socks as you can’t wear shoes!
Days 4-7: Granada
There really is something for everyone in the colonial stunner they call Granada. My top recommendations things to do are to take a sunset boat tour out to Las Isletas, see another sunset from the grand yellow cathedral, see lava flowing in Volcán Masaya at night, and spend a day at Paradiso Hostel on Laguna de Apoyo, with the option to stay the night (if you do this, I highly recommend a sunrise swim/SUP!). There’s also a whole load of nightlife here, check it all out in my Granada guide.
Days 8-11: Isla de Ometepe
Since you have a fairly short time on Isla de Ometepe, I’d definitely recommend hiring your own form of motorised transport so that you can get around to all the spots you want to see – public transport is an extremely limited way of travel on the island. Hikers are going to want to spend a day trekking up the active Concepción Volcano, and resting your legs while you watch a sunset from Punta Jesús María is not to be missed. The San Ramón Waterfall on the other side of the island is also well worth the journey.
Days 12-14: San Juan del Sur
Once you’re done on Isla de Ometepe, join the weekly migration of backpackers over to San Juan del Sur for the Central-America-renowned Sunday Funday. This is a bar crawl that begins in Hostel Pachamama in the afternoon, takes you up into the hills for sunset and ends on the beach in the early hours. It’s tacky, loud and dirty but it’s become a rite of passage for those backpacking through Nicaragua.
Luckily, there’s more to do in San Juan del Sur than getting gazeboed on cheap rum, such as walking up to the Jesus statue that overlooks the bay (Cristo de La Misericordia), watching turtles lay eggs in a protected area and surfing on one of the many nearby beaches, such as Playa Maderas.
Got more than 2 weeks in Nicaragua?
If you have an extra week or two for your Nicaragua itinerary, there are plenty of things you can fill your time with. There is of course always the option just to spend a little longer appreciating each of the destinations in this 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary, or you could also add places like Popoyo for laidback surfer vibes, embark on some rainforest exploration in Mombacho or soak up the Caribbean paradise of the Corn Islands (though plan well ahead as the flights to Bluefields and boats from there to the islands are sporadic at best).
Not quite convinced on a 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary?
If you’re not yet sold on a 2 weeks in Nicaragua itinerary, and want to hone in on where in Latin America to spend your 2 weeks’ holiday, you might also want to check these out before booking those flights!