When To Go and What To Take During Tour of Nicaragua

Generally speaking, the most luscious months—when everything is still green from the rains and the days are often sunny and dry—are December, January, and February. June, July, and August are nice as well, with cooler temperatures and few crowds. April and May are the hottest, driest months, prone to intense dust and clouds of smoke caused by farmers burning their fields in preparation for planting; September–November are the wettest months, and also hurricane season, when you can expect periodic tropical depressions or worse.

Located between 11 and 15 degrees north latitude, Nicaragua has a tropical climate. Temperatures range from 27°C to 32°C (81°F to 90°F) during the rainy season, and from 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F) in the dry season, but regionally vary remarkably: In the mountains of Matagalpa and Jinotega, the temperature can be 10°C cooler, while in León and Matagalpa, they can be 10°C warmer, making ordinary travelers feel like glazed chickens roasting over the coals. Nicaragua’s invierno (winter, or rainy season) lasts from approximately May to October, and verano (summer, or dry season) lasts from November to April—rain during these months may mean just a quick shower each afternoon, or it may go on for days. As you travel east toward the Atlantic coast or down the Río San Juan, the rainy season grows longer and wetter until the dry season only lasts the month of April.

Travelers can witness fiestas patronales (saint’s day parties) throughout the year in various cities and villages, but several are worth planning your trip around: the fiestas in Diriamba around January 19th, the Palo de Mayo on the Atlantic coast (throughout the month of May), the Crab Soup Festival on Corn Island (August 27–28), and the Fiesta del Toro Venado in Masaya (last Sunday of October).


Your clothing should be light and breathable in this warm, tropical country, but in the mountains outside Matagalpa, Jinotega, and Estelí, you will appreciate something a bit warmer, like a flannel shirt. Don’t forget a shade hat that preferably covers the back of your neck: You’ll use it during the entire trip to keep the sun off. It’s not necessary to come to Nicaragua dressed for safari or wilderness (although Nicas laugh themselves silly watching gringos get off the plane dressed to hunt elephants). It is, however, very important to look clean. Having a neat personal appearance is important to all Latin Americans. Most travelers to Nicaragua are surprised to see how well-dressed even the poorest Nicaraguans are. Old, faded, or torn clothing is tolerated, but you’ll find being well-groomed will open a lot more doors. In the countryside, Nicaraguan men typically don’t wear shorts. Jeans travel well, but you will probably find them hot in places like León and Chinandega; khakis are lighter and dry faster. Roads are rough, even in cities, so good walking shoes will ease your trip considerably, since you’ll be walking more often than you expect. You’ll be hard-pressed to find shoes larger than a men’s 10.5 (European 42) for sale in Nicaragua. Take a pair of shower-sandals with you, or better yet, buy a pair of rubber chinelas anywhere in Nicaragua for about $1.

A lightweight, breathable raincoat and/or umbrella will serve you well. A small flashlight or headlamp is indispensable for walking at night on uneven streets and for those late-night potty runs in your hospedaje, and an alarm clock will facilitate catching early-morning buses. If you wear glasses, bring along a little repair kit. The smallest keychain-type compass will be invaluable for finding your way around, as directions in this book typically refer to compass directions (finding the hotel three blocks north of the park is a lot easier if you know which direction north is).

Make a photocopy of the pages in your passport that have your photo and information. When you get the passport stamped in the airport, it’s a good idea to make a photocopy of that page as well, and store the copies somewhere other than in your passport. This will facilitate things greatly if your passport ever gets lost or stolen. Also consider taking a copy of your health/medevac insurance policy, an international phone card for calling home, and a small Spanish dictionary and phrase book. Also bring a couple of photos of home to show Nica hosts and friends, who will invariably be interested.

Bring a small first-aid kit, plenty of plastic bags and zip-locs for protections from both rain and boat travel, and a cheap set of ear plugs for the occasional early-morning rooster or karaoke concert. Don’t worry if you forget reading material—most hotels and lodges have a selection of abandoned or traded English-language books.

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