The Best of Nicaragua & El Salvador in 1 Week

Money rich but time poor? You have to be both if you wish to see both countries in 1 week. My advice is to avoid the capitals and choose either tour companies or taxis to whisk you around on what will be a whistle-stop tour of each country's highlights. Thankfully, the colonial gems of Suchitoto and Granada have well-developed tourist facilities that will allow you to use both as bases of operations. Their short distances from other attractions mean you can see a lot on day trips. However, you'll have to abandon thoughts of visiting such jungle paradises as the Barra de Santiago and the Río San Juan, as these are multiday destinations in themselves. Below is a 1-week fleeting taste of both countries that will surely have you begging to come back and see more.

Days 1 & 2: Arrive in San Salvador & Transfer to Suchitoto 

Arrange for your hotel to pick you up and transfer you to the pretty village of Suchitoto, 1 hour north. Take a stroll around its radiant, cobbled streets and browse through its art galleries and handicraft stalls before jumping on a boat to tour the bird-filled waters of Lago de Suchitlán. Stay at the glorious colonial hotel Los Almendros de San Lorenzo and dine in the restaurant/gallery/war museum known as Villa Balanza. The next day, explore the surrounding countryside with a tour company, visiting the unusual Los Tercios waterfall, bullet-scarred villages, and abandoned rebel camps.

Day 3: Ruta de las Flores 

The Ruta de las Flores is a collection of beautiful little towns along a 35km (22-mile) stretch of winding mountain road, located about 2 hours west of Suchitoto. You can do the route on a 1-day tour with either a tour company, rented car, or a taxi. Stop in Nahuizalco to check out the handcrafted furniture, Juayúa to see the black Christ, and Ataco  to experience some cool art you won't find elsewhere in El Salvador. Stop for lunch at the lovely garden restaurant Entre Nubes. End the day back in Suchitoto to prepare for your flight out the next day.

Days 4 & 5: Arrive in Managua & Head to Granada 

After flying into Managua, don't hang around the capital too long. It has its hidden charms, but more beautiful places beckon, like the radiant colonial city of Granada, 2 hours south. Head there immediately and settle into the Hotel Plaza Colón to relax and perhaps sip a rum on the rocks from the gigantic balcony overlooking the colorful plaza. The next morning, catch a horse-and-carriage ride through the city's enchanting cobbled streets and down to the lakeshore, where you can take a short boat tour of Las Isletas archipelago.

Days 6 & 7: Tour Isla de Ometepe & Arrive in San Juan del Sur 

Arrange for a tour company to pick you up at your hotel and take you to the small town of San Jorge, where you can catch a boat across to the twin-peak jungle island of Ometepe. You won't have time to climb its volcanic peaks, but a 4WD can take you on a coastal tour of this island of howler monkeys, pre-Columbian carved stones, and mud-bathing farm animals.

Arrive back in San Jorge in the early evening to be transferred to the beach town of San Juan del Sur. Stay at the lovely villa La Posada Azul and eat in the garden of El Colibrí. The following day, catch a water taxi up the coast to some beautiful, secluded beaches, or, depending on the time of year, take a night excursion to watch the spectacular turtle hatching in Playa La Flor. Return to Managua the following day for your trip home.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.