Immerse yourself in the land of lakes and volcanoes on a private journey from the shimmering shores of Lake Nicaragua to the pristine Pacific coast. Venture into lush rain forest and watch the sun set over secluded beaches. Delve into vibrant artisan markets and surround yourself with warm-hued colonial architecture. Peer over smoldering lava flows and soak in steamy hot springs; and learn about shade-grown coffee and tropical birds, green iguanas, and other exotic wildlife that call Nicaragua home. The riches of this little-visited country unfold at every turn.
Set out on a guided hike through the La Calera Natural Reserve at the base of Mombacho Volcano, stopping for a picnic lunch and a swim in secluded hot springs.
Explore the Spanish-colonial history of Granada on a guided tour by car or bike, and meet Nicaraguan artists in traditional villages and on a visit to a local pottery school.
Step into an artisan workshop that makes masks for Nicaragua’s famed satirical drama, recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Managua, Nicaragua/Jicaro Island
Land in Managua, Nicaragua, and take a private transfer to Granada. Board the ferry for a short ride to Jicaro Island Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Get settled in your private treehouse-style casita on the shore of this tiny isleta in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Relax by the infinity pool or explore the lake by kayak or stand-up paddle board and spot tropical birds and butterflies. Later, sip a cocktail or fresh fruit juice and climb the observation tower for panoramic views as the sun dips below the Mombacho Volcano. Jicaro Island Lodge (D)
Day 2 — Jicaro Island
This morning you’ll be treated to an experience exclusively for National Geographic travelers. Take a short boat ride to the foot of the Mombacho Volcano, then set out on a guided hike through La Calera Natural Reserve. Stop for a picnic breakfast and go for a swim in secluded hot springs, then paddle your way along inland waterways on a kayak before catching the boat back to the lodge. Spend the rest of the day as you wish. If you’d like, join a lodge sustainability tour that includes a cruise to nearby islands to learn how Jicaro engages locals in their eco-initiatives. Jicaro Island Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Masaya/Jicaro Island
Head out on a guided cultural excursion to Masaya, a hub of the arts with a bustling open-air handicrafts market. Artists and local families welcome you into their workshops and homes here, for a glimpse of everyday life in Nicaragua. Continue to the traditional town of Catarina and watch potters throw clay in San Juan de Oriente. Visit a pottery school and learn about the works of acclaimed local ceramicist and painter José Ortiz Bracamonte. At dusk, peer over the edge of the smoking crater of Masaya Volcano and learn about the unique lava formations of this national park and active volcano. Jicaro Island Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Granada/Jicaro Island
Join a local guide on a tour of the picturesque city of Granada by car or bike. Learn about Nicaragua’s history and the legacy of the Spanish colonial era as you visit La Merced church, built in 1534, with sweeping views over the city’s central plaza and main street. Take a stroll through the local market before free time this afternoon. Back at the lodge this evening, enjoy inventive Nicaraguan fare at the open-air lakefront restaurant. Jicaro Island Lodge
Day 5 — Morgan’s Rock
After breakfast, take a short boat ride followed by a scenic drive to Morgan’s Rock, set on the Pacific Coast. Along the way, stop for a wilderness adventure: Journey to the top of the highest mountain in San Juan del Sur and look out over the Pacific coast from elevated viewing decks; zip through the tree canopy; watch for spider monkeys, toucans, and sloths on a guided nature walk; and encounter the green iguana—Nicaragua’s most exotic lizard—at the park’s Iguanarium. Continue on to your eco-lodge, nestled in a private jungle reserve. Cross the suspension bridge to the oceanfront restaurant for a farm-to-table dinner featuring ingredients grown at the lodge. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and EcoLodge (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Morgan’s Rock
Wake up to coffee on your private terrace with views of the ocean. Take advantage of the lodge’s nature-driven activities and enjoy a guided tour of your choosing. Take a surfing lesson, go on a guided hike through the jungle, paddle the mangroves on a kayak, watch for exotic tropical birds with a guide, or venture from virgin forest to white-sand beach on horseback. If you’d like, visit the lodge’s farm for the chance to milk cows, gather eggs, and learn about sustainable farming practices.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and EcoLodge (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Morgan’s Rock
After breakfast, continue your explorations of the surrounding private jungle reserve and sandy beach. Choose from guided activities that include surfing, hiking, birdwatching, kayaking through mangroves, and more. Toast the sunset with a glass of wine or a Nicaraguan cocktail in the shade along the beachfront.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and EcoLodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — D’Santos Private Reserve/Diriamba/Managua
Drive to D’Santos Private Reserve, located on a private reserve, for a private tour to learn how coffee is cultivated. Stroll through the forest with a naturalist, spotting unique flora and fauna as you go. Head to Diriamba City and learn about El Güegüense, a traditional satirical drama recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Stop in at a local workshop to see wooden masks used in the performances. Continue to Managua for a brief city tour and a visit to the National Historic Park Loma de Tiscapa. Enjoy an evening at leisure to discover the city. Elements Hotel (B,L)
Day 9 — Managua/Depart
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Managua for your flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.