Day 1 - Monday, January 22:
Early morning departure from Toronto for Managua, Nicaragua, with Air Transat. Arrival at noon, and introductory sightseeing tour of the Nicaraguan capital, with sights such as Revolution Square, where the Sandinistas celebrated the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979; the new and the old Cathedral, Tiscapa crater lake park; and the shores of Lake Managua. Afterwards we check into the Hotel Hyatt Place, Managua's finest hotel, situated in the upscale Santo Domingo neighborhood. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 2 - Tuesday, January 23:
This morning we complete our sightseeing program in Managua with visits to the National Museum and the National Palace of Culture with its fine collection of pre-Columbian artefacts as well as modern Nicaraguan art; and Tiscapa Lagoon, with the memorial of the legendary national hero, Augusto Sandino and a wonderful panorama of the city and Lake Managua. After a lunch of traditional Nicaraguan specialties (at Doña Haydée Restaurant or similar), we motor to the ruins of the colonial town of León Viejo
, founded in 1524, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afterwards we explore the micro-geysers of San Jacinto, then cross the impressive volcanic Maribios Mountain Range on our way to the city of León. Dinner and overnight in the colonial-style Hotel El Convento
, a restored 17th-century Franciscan monastery. Approximate distance covered today: 120 km.
Day 3 - Wednesday, January 24:
Morning tour of colonial León, a city founded in 1610, with as absolute highlight a visit to the world-famous Cathedral
, built between 1747 and the early 19th century, Central America's biggest church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lunch in León and afternoon visit to the rum distillery in nearby Chichigalpa, north of León. Return to Leon and dinner in a typical restaurant.
Day 4 - Thursday, January 25:
After breakfast we transfer to the port of San Jorge on the shores of Lake Nicaragua
, the largest lake in Central America. Short ferry crossing to Ometepe, an island in the shape of an hourglass (or peanut?), formed by two volcanoes joined by a low-lying isthmus. Transfer to Hotel Villa Paraiso
, reputed to be the best accommodations on the island, where we will be accommodated in lake front cabins, basic but equipped with the necessary amenities. After lunch at the hotel, the afternoon is free to relax, swim, take a walk on the beach, etc. Dinner at hotel. (Approximate distance covered today: 220 km)
Day 5 - Friday, January 26:
Morning “archaeology and culture” tour of Ometepe, the crossroads of mesoamericana cultures for more than 6,000 years, with visits to Balgue to see the petroglyphs and the plaza at Altagracia to see Chorotega basalt idols, El Ceibo Museum, featuring an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artefacts discovered on the island. Lunch at Charco Verde, a lagoon-nature reserve with abundant wildlife. Late-afternoon return to our hotel and free time before dinner.
Day 6 - Saturday, January 27:
Morning at leisure. Afternoon transfer to the mainland by “El Ferry,” followed by a short drive to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Our destination is the half-moon bay of San Juan del Sur, a once-sleepy fishing village of clapboard Victorian houses, overlooked by a towering hilltop statue of Christ, that morphed recently into a lively resort. Here we will stay, and have dinner, in one of the best hotels in town, the Villas Palmero
Day 7 - Sunday, January 28:
A full day at leisure in easy-going San Juan del Sur. Breakfast and dinner will be served at the Villas Palermo, but we will enjoy lunch at Restaurant El Timon, located right on the waterfront.
Day 8 - Monday, January 29:
After breakfast we motor to Granada, one of the most beautiful Spanish colonial cities in the Americas, founded in 1524. After a sightseeing tour, we check into the traditionally Nicaraguan Hotel Plaza Colón
. Dinner in the hotel or in a typical restaurant. (Approximate distance covered today: 100 km).
Day 9 - Tuesday, January 30:
Morning visit to the quintessentially Nicaraguan highland villages known as Los Pueblos Blancos, strongly associated with pre-Columbian roots and traditions. Each community, such as San Juan de Oriente, has its own fiestas and artisan traditions, producing hammocks, furniture, ceramic, stone carvings, leather work, ornamental plants, etc. Some of these villages enjoy wonderful views over the blue waters of Lake Apoyo and others are famous for its delicious homemade “cajetas” or sweets. Lunch in a restaurant on the shores of the deep-blue Apoyo Crater Lake. In the afternoon we visit Masaya, the “city of flowers,” with its famous artisan market, and take a ride to the summit of one of the peaks of nearby Masaya Volcano National Park. Return to Granada and dinner in the hotel or in a typical restaurant.
Day 10 - Wednesday, January 31:
After breakfast, boat tour to wonderful archipelago known as Las Isletas. On to the Mombacho Volcano for a leisurely nature walk on its summit. Lunch on the mountain at Café Flores, followed by a visit to a coffee plantation. Late afternoon return to Granda and free time before our final group dinner.
Day 11 - Thursday, February 01:
Breakfast and private transfer to airport (40km) and return flight to Toronto, departing at 3:15 and arriving at 9:25.