Nicaragua vs. colombia
I'm looking for advice as to which country to pick for a 3 week backpacking adventure in September. I know I'm writing this on the C. America board, but I'm hoping maybe a few of you have visited South America as well and can shine some light on this dilemma. I have been backpacking for 2 years prior to this journey and want to satiate my backpacking bug with a shorter trip somewhere new. The flights are the same cost out of Florida to either Bogota or Managua and I can't decide. I really enjoy natural beauty (including hiking, camping, surfing and snorkeling) and also some cute colonial towns with great little watering holes. I like markets, indigenous tribes and local art as well. I know this really doesn't narrow anything down, but if anyone could tell me which country you enjoyed more and why and also, what your itinerary looked like that would be helpful! Thanks a lot!
Nicaragua has some lovely natural scenery (especially volcanoes), but Colombia has volcanoes too, and the Andes dwarf anything you'll find in Central America. Leon and Granada are lovely colonial towns, but Colombia's colonial architecture far outshines Nicaragua's. About the only area where Nicaragua comes ahead is in easily-accessible surfing. Nicaragua is a bit cheaper than Colombia for a backpacker, but both are still extremely budget-friendly.
And if you're into hiking, you gotta do the 5-day Ciudad Perdida trek out of Taganga.
In 3 weeks, you can fly into Cartagena, make your way to Bogota via Taganga, San Gil, Villa de Leyva and fly out (that's pretty much what I did, and I was there for 3 weeks as well).
Nicaragua is small and easy to travel around except getting to corn island over land. You can do some volcano boarding in leon. like felix said, leon and granada are great colonial towns. you can trek up either volcanos on ometepe, which offer amazing views. i've never been to san pedro sula, but heard it was a great place for surfing. and don't forget to try to gallo pinto. that was my staple everyday. so simple, yet so good.
Colombia is amazing. You can spend months there and that still wouldn't be enough. you can trek ciudad perdida from santa marta or taganga. the beach at santa marta is better than taganga, the other option is tayrona park, where you can do a little trek and camp as well. the old town in cartagena is really nice, don't forget to go to the mud volcano (it looks like a giant ant hill). there are cheap flights from www.aires.aero. sometimes it's just 10 usd more than the bus to medellin (which is 14 hours). around medellin you can go to guatape (2 hour bus ride), where there is a really nice colonial town. you can climb up la piedra, which offer great views of the reservoir. you can go to san gil for paragliding and rafting or head to la zona cafeteria in salento for more trekking.
The Pacific coastline and Cali, I've actually never been to. I've heard great things, but I just can't get everywhere I'd like to, dammit.
On balance, I'd have to stick with Colombia. I was there only a year ago...and the beer was still just a dollar. Still worth a good trip...and get there before the rest of the world discovers it.
But, if you go to Nica, which I love as well....leave Managua IMMEDIATELY...There is NOTHING NOTHING there....Go to Granada.
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