For late May and early June of 2000, Rutahsa Adventures has organized a double-barreled, ocean-to-ocean trip covering two of Central America's lesser known republics: Nicaragua and Honduras! Historic colonial cities and Spanish forts, the great inland sea of Lake Nicaragua, rain forest and cloud forest biologic reserves, active volcanoes, 1000-year-old Classic Maya ruins, arts and crafts, Pacific and Caribbean sea resorts... All this and more are in store for Rutahsa Adventurers!
This trip is set up to allow travelers to participate in either the Nicaragua or the Honduras trip segment, or the full combination trip.
May 28, Sun.: Fly U.S. to Managua, Nicaragua. We will meet at the airport and drive a few miles to the colonial city of Granada, founded in 1524 on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. After checking into the Hotel Alhambra, right on the shaded Central Plaza across from the Cathedral, we will take a late afternoon walking tour of Granada's historic central area. Ghosts of Spanish conquistadores and William Walker's mid-19th century filibusters will accompany us! And who better to tell us about Granada's past than Dr. Alejandro Bolaños-Geyer, Nicaragua's greatest living historian and the world's leading authority on William Walker. We are indeed fortunate that Don Alejandro has agreed to be with us in Granada and share his knowledge with us.
May 29, Mon.: Today we drive to the small port town of San Jorge to board a chartered boat that will take us across the immense inland sea of Lake Nicaragua. Don't fall overboard: the lake is home to freshwater sharks! At the far end of the lake we reach San Carlos, where lakewaters drain into the Río San Juan to make their way down to the Caribbean. At San Carlos we leave the lake to travel down the San Juan-- highway of buccaneers, forty-niners, and filibusters. We'll stop at El Castillo, a small riverside town dominated by an ancient Spanish fort. Here we'll overnight at the Albergue El Castillo, a rustic (shared bathrooms), but very picturesque and nice hotel with restaurant and bar service.
In the evening we can climb "Nelson's Hill" to enjoy the cool air and the peaceful views that belie the turbulent past of this spot.
May 30, Tues.: In the morning we'll clamber into a motorized dugout canoe and head down through the El Toro rapids to follow quiet waters downstream to the Indio-Maiz Biosphere Reserve established along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border not only as a biological preserve, but as a monument to peace. A hike through tropical rain forest, guided by a professional Nicaraguan biologist, will let us appreciate the amazing vegetation up close, and begin to understand Nature's immense powers of regeneration in the tropics. Wildlife is shy and hard to spot, but neon-colored "poison dart" frogs are likely to be sighted. How about this living jewel of the forest floor? On our way back upstream to El Castillo, we can make a side trip to explore one of the Río San Juan's tributaries.
Upon our return to El Castillo, we'll tour the historic fortress, "El Castillo La Inmaculada Concepción". The Spanish constructed the hilltop fort to defend the colony of Nicaragua from Caribbean pirates, but in 1780 it was attacked by a young Captain Horatio Nelson-- who was defeated. In the mid-1850s this fort was a key element in William Walker's attempt to take over Nicaragua and create a Central American empire. Second night in the Albergue.
May 31, Weds.: This morning we will re-board our chartered motorboat to carry us back up the Rio San Juan to San Carlos and Lake Nicaragua. [Originally we had planned to make this trip aboard a plana colectiva, a riverine version of a local bus making all the stops, carrying sundry cargo, including pigs below decks, and passengers riding on benches or in their hammocks(!) on the main deck. Unfortunately, the colorful plana colectiva no longer plies the Río San Juan. We understand that a very similar craft operates between San Carlos and Ometepe, and we are investigating the possibility of using this service for part of that trip, although the reliability of the service may make this impractical. More on this later.]
At San Carlos we'll reboard our chartered boat to cross Lake Nicaragua to the island of Ometepe. The island is formed by two great volcanoes that soar dramatically up out of the water to form twin cones, Volcán Concepción and Volcán Madera, connected by a low land bridge of lava. Our night's lodging will be at the resort Hotel Cari, with full amenities: restaurant, bar, air conditioning, and of course private baths.
June 1, Thurs.: Today we'll spend all day enjoying the resort, the lake, and the volcanic mountain. Hotel Cari offers horseback riding and bicycling (extra cost services); you can also swim in the lake or go hiking.
Those who want a good hike can take an optional guided tour to ascend Volcán Concepción ($25 per person, minimum two persons).
June 2, Fri.: In the morning we'll take the ferry across to the western shore of Lake Nicaragua, arriving once again at the small port town of San Jorge. Here we'll be met by our private bus to be taken to Montelimar on the Pacific coast. Montelimar, formerly one of the dictator Somoza's estates, has been converted into a luxury resort-by-the-sea, with restaurants featuring extensive menus, bars, swimming pool, tennis courts, horseback riding, and a casino! Your meals and bar tab (national drinks) are included in your stay here-- hence we'll stay two nights so you can take advantage of it!
June 3, Sat.: All day at Montelimar! To see more of the facilities of Montelimar Resort, take a peek at their website, but be sure to use your "back" button to return to Rutahsa's trip description: Montelimar Resort.
June 4, Sun.: Up early today to leave for Managua, Nicaragua's capital city. In central Managua we'll see much lingering evidence of the devastation wrought by the Dec. 1972 earthquake, and visit the famous Huellas de Acahualinca, where human footprints are fossilized in hardened volcanic mudstone.
Next we'll visit Volcán Santiago National Park, where we can drive right up to the rim of the huge open crater and see a classic geologic cross-section of a composite cone. The floor of the crater normally features a smoking pit crater and lucky visitors can look right down into the volcano's fiery throat.
Finally, we'll zip back to the Augusto C. Sandino Airport to board our new bus from Honduras to begin a cross-country drive to Tegucigalpa, capital of Nicaragua's sister republic, Honduras. It will be interesting to see what evidence of the great floods and mudslides caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 can be seen along the way.
Formerly a mining center, Tegucigalpa is a blend of colonial and modern buildings nestled in a bowl in the mountains, and is one of only two western capitals never reached by rail lines. Our hotel in "Tegus" (as visiting gringos immediately nickname the city) will be Leslie's Place, a B & B conveniently located within walking distance of the historic center of town and various restaurants. For a tiny peek at Leslie's B & B, click here; Leslie's Place.
June 5, Mon.: After a continental breakfast at Leslie's Place, we'll motor up to the west entrance to La Tigra National Park and hike an old mining road up into cool, misty cloud forest, where humongous ferns overhang the trail and exotic bromeliads and orchids encrust the trees. Much of this area was stripped of its forest as trees were needed for timbers to shore up the mines and for fuel--but you'd never think it to look at it now. Again, the powers of Nature to heal in the tropics are phenomenal!
After cresting the mountain, we'll come down past beckoning mine adits to the abandoned El Rosario mine camp, situated at exactly one mile above sea level. Mines were opened here in Spanish colonial times, and from 1878 to 1954 the whole mountain was the site of intensive gold and silver mining activity by the New York & Honduras Rosario Mining Co. Your fearless excursion leader, Rutahsa's Ric Finch, actually worked here for Rosario, making a geologic map of the area in the mid-1970s! At El Rosario, after about six hours of hiking, we meet our bus to be driven to the town of Valle de Angeles, originally another mining town, but today an artesan's center. Finally, we return to Tegus for a second night at Leslie's Place.
June 6, Tues.: This morning, after breakfast at Leslie's, we will visit El Hogar, an orphanage for street kids run by the Episcopal Church of Honduras. You will find this visit interesting and heartwarming as you learn of the terrific success that El Hogar staff have with rescuing street kids and turning them into educated and productive young Honduran citizens. It is a truly inspirational operation.
While in Tegucigalpa we will also undoubtedly see much evidence of the terrible damage inflicted on this capital city by Hurricane Mitch, the "Storm of the Century" according to National Geographic (Nov. 1999 issue). If possible, Rutahsa Adventures will make arrangements through a relief agency to see what our group of travelers can do, even if only in a small way, to help out. We may be able to bring down quantities of needed supplies to help the victims of Mitch who are still struggling to recover from this terrible blow.
After lunch we'll head north over pine- and oak-covered plateaux and interspersed valleys to beautiful Lake Yojoa, Honduras' largest freshwater lake. Overnight at Finca la Gloria at the north end of the lake. This hostelry was originally a finca, or plantation, and is located right on the lake, features horseback riding and a cave nearby to explore. The lake area is a fine place for birdwatching.
June 7, Weds.: Today we head into backwoods Honduras, via a gravel road that passes through the mining town of El Mochito, climbs up and over a ridge to drop down into the valley of the Río Ulúa and finally winds up at the sleepy departmental cabecera (capital city) of Santa Bárbara. The scenery en route is dramatic, and visiting this area gives us a chance to appreciate the "real" Honduras-- not the big cities, not the tourist attractions, but the Honduras of the majority of Hondurans. The central plaza looks much the same as it did when adventurer-author Richard Harding Davis published a similar photo in 1896, in his charming book "Three Gringos in Central America and Venezuela". In the late afternoon we'll walk down to the swimming hole and swim in the Río Cececapa with the local kids. In town we can buy hats of junco, a palm that produces a fiber equal to that of the famed "Panama" hats of Ecuador. Weaving of these sombreros de junco is a cottage industry, involving many of the local women; we'll try to visit a women's cooperative to support it with our purchases of junco products. Our hotel in Santa Bárbara will be the Boarding House Moderno.
June 8, Thurs.: You have two options today: laze around the town of Santa Bárbara for a better feel of life in a small Honduran country city, or board the bus for a day trip out to the town of El Níspero where we'll do a bit of hiking. First we'll walk down to the Puente del Diablo ("Devil's Bridge") to see a curiously eroded and highly picturesque slot canyon cut into limestone by the Río Palaja. Then we'll do a longer hike downstream from the canyon to get to the bottom of the 70 m high El Níspero falls, shown here after a big rain. Depending on water conditions we might swim and/or visit a cave below the cliffs of travertine. Overnight again in Santa Bárbara.
June 9, Fri.: Drive west (via a detour forced upon us by the fact that Mitch washed away the main highway bridge over the Río Ulúa) through mountainous country to the charming town of Copán Ruinas, home to a world-class archeological site. Here 1000-year-old Classic Maya ruins have been partially excavated and restored. Pyramids, temples, stelae with altars, sacred ballcourts, and archeological tunnels await the visitor. Copán has been called the "Paris of the Maya" due to the high artistic achievements of the Maya here; artwork in the form of sculpture carved from enduring volcanic stone abounds here, and the museums of the park feature ceramics, jade and astonishing works of art in flint. The Copán archeological site is truly majestic, and the present day pueblo of Copán Ruinas is amazing in that in spite of being visited annually by thousands of tourists from all over the world, it remains a friendly, charming little country village. We will stay in the first-class Hotel Marina Copán. For a glimpse of the Marina, visit their website at Marina Copán, then just use your "back" button to come back to this itinerary.
June 10, Sat.: All day in Copán. In addition to the main ceremonial center at the archeological site, there is the recently excavated "suburb" of Las Sepulturas to visit, plus two excellent museums, the Museum of Sculpture at the ruins, and the Copán Museum in town. Or you can take a horseback ride out to see carved rocks on the far side of the Copán valley. Plenty to enjoy today. Second night at the Hotel Marina Copán. All park and museum entry fees are included in the trip fee.
June 11, Sun.: Drive from Copán to the town of Tela on the Caribbean coast, where we'll overnight at the Hotel Villas Telamar, right on the beach. Before arriving at Tela, we will visit the famous Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, formerly a banana company botanical research station, now a Honduran National Park.
June 12, Mon.: You'll have time for a morning swim if you arise early, but today we'll drive on to La Ceiba to catch a flight over the sparkling Caribbean to Roatán, the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands, and famous amongst divers worldwide. On Roatán we'll take up lodging in Lost Paradise Inn right on the beach so we don't lose time getting on with what we came here for: enjoying palm-shaded beaches, swimming and snorkeling, colorful fish, corals and underwater scenery in the crystal clear Caribbean waters. Dive services are available for those who are qualified. Fishermen will have to check to see if spearfishing is permitted, but expect to see some big ones in any case.
June 13, Tues.: All day on Roatán. Second night at Lost Paradise Inn. To preview Lost Paradise, and learn more about Roatán Island, click here: Lost Paradise.
June 14, Weds.: Return to the Roatán airport to catch our
flight to the international airport at San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital
of Honduras. Here the trip officially ends, and we say goodbye to our traveling
companions, regretting only that all good things must come to an end.
This excursion is set up to allow the traveler to participate in either the
Nicaragua or the Honduras trip segment, or to join for the full adventure of
both segments. Costs for Nicaraguan and Honduran in-country services have been
carefully negotiated and agreed upon by Rutahsa Adventures, Inc. and the
Nicaraguan and Honduran suppliers. Barring an unexpected increase in costs
beyond the control of Rutahsa Adventures, Inc., the following prices should be
For a group of seven travelers, the following prices will be in effect.
For a group of nine travelers, the following prices will be in effect.
Included in the full trip inscription fee: All ground, lake and river transportation, including transportation by private bus from Managua, Nicaragua to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on June 4; Nicaragua-Honduras border fees for travelers participating in the June 4 trip from Managua to Tegucigalpa; flight from La Ceiba to Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras on June 12, and flight from Roatán to San Pedro Sula on June 14; all lodging; all meals and national drinks while at Montelimar Resort; two continental breakfasts at Leslie's Place in Tegucigalpa; all park, museum, and bioreserve entries; bilingual guide service; biologist guide service on the Río San Juan in Nicaragua; and Honduras exit fee.
NOT INCLUDED in the trip inscription fees: Transportation to and from Central America; Nicaragua entry fee ($5) or Honduras entry fee for travelers joining the excursion in Tegucigalpa; meals and drinks (except as noted above); tips; souvenirs; other personal expenses.
As always, the group size will be kept small, to maintain the quality experience than an intimate group can enjoy.
To request an application blank for Rutahsa's Nicaragua-Honduras Tropical
Travel Adventure, to be placed on our mailing list for updates on this trip,
or to request further information about the trip, drop an e-mail request to
Travelers electing to participate only in the Honduras segment of the trip need to arrive Tegucigalpa in the afternoon or early evening of June 4. Rutahsa Adventures will be happy to make arrangements for any traveler to be picked up at the Tegus airport and taken to our hotel, Leslie's Place.
For other great out-of-the-ordinary eco-adventures and cultural trips, see Rutahsa Adventures' homepage.