An Insider's Guide to Exploring the Somoto Canyon

Somoto, Nicaragua
Somoto, Nicaragua | © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock
Photo of Jack Guy
26 April 2018

Near the Nicaragua-Honduras border lies an amazing natural feature that surprisingly few tourists take the time to visit. Here’s how you can explore the Somoto Canyon on your trip to Nicaragua.

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua | © Zenia Nuñez / Flickr

What to expect

An adventurous experience which can involve hiking, swimming, and abseiling in the Somoto Canyon, depending on your tastes. The 3-kilometre (1.86 mile) long gorge drops 160 metres (525 feet) in altitude, and at some points is just 10 metres (33 feet) wide.

You can go on a hiking and swimming tour, with just 200 metres (656 feet) spent in the water, or embark on a 13-kilometre (8 mile) circuit over 6 hours in which you’ll jump off cliffs and boulder-hop down from bat caves to the river.

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua | © James Wagstaff / Shutterstock

Top tips

There are plenty of ways to see this beautiful canyon, so don’t be put off if you don’t want to do the more extreme stuff. There are many guided trips to the area, but you can even explore on foot by yourself if you don’t want to hire a guide. That said, you’re better off having a knowledgeable local by your side for the experience.

What to bring

Bring a dry bag for your valuables because certain sections can only be navigated by swimming. If you don’t have one, just bring water, sunblock and some sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.

River in Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua | © Riderfoot / Shutterstock

How to get there

From further afield, the town of Esteli is the first place to aim for. There are good bus links with Managua and Leon, as well as international services to Honduras and El Salvador. From here you’ll need to take a local bus to the town of Somoto, and then on to the village of La Playa. Walk ten minutes out of town and you’ll get to the canyon, and from there you just follow the river downstream.

What else to do in the area

The canyon is the biggest draw in the area, and most visitors move on swiftly to Leon, Managua or San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, or hop over to Honduras and El Salvador.

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