Here is a guest post from blogger and photographer A.O. Tucker. Read along as he details his trip to Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve and gives us some tips for traveling in Nicaragua.
We visited the Tisey Reserve a few times during our visit to Nicaragua
. It’s very close to Esteli, where we stayed in our time in Nicaragua. Esteli is about a 2 hour drive north from the capital city of Managua.This posting contains photos and information from all three of the visits we made. The reserve name is an amalgamation of the Cerro El Tisey nature site and the river La Estanzuela. The area is a mountain rain forest containing wildlife, hiking, and farms. Instead of just going to Tisey, we will turn the trip into a loop so we are able to see a little more of Nicaragua.
Below is the route we will tour in this post.
- NIC 1 Highway (Pan American Highway) south from Esteli
- Left on NIC 45 Highway towards San Nicolas
- Left on the dirt road at the restaurant Rancho Don Luis
- A visit to the Salto de la Estanzuela Waterfall
- Continue on the dirt road back to Esteli
Some quick facts about Nicaragua.
What To Pack-
- Managua is the capitol and 3rd largest city in Central America
- Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America
- The main language is Spanish
- There are three main regions, Pacific lowlands, North-central highlands and Caribbean lowlands
- Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Central America and also one of the safest
- Gas and diesel are sold by the liter, one gallon equals 3.785 liters
- The speeds are posted in KPH (Kilometers per hour, 80 KPH equals about 50 MPH). Distances are also in Kilometers
- The currency in Nicaragua is the Cordoba, during our last visit the rate was 27 Cordoba equals 1 US dollar (A lot of places will take both currencies)
In addition to the normal things you bring on a trip, below are a few items I would recommend specifically when traveling to Nicaragua.
- Light weight rain jacket (example: REI Crestrail Rain Jacket).
- Light weight and fast drying long pants (example: REI Sahara Cargo Pants).
- Light weight and fast drying short pants (example: REI Sahara Cargo Shorts).
- Short-sleeve T-shirts.
- Long-sleeve T-shirts.
- Sun Block
- Insect Spray
I have some words of advice if you plan on renting a car. It’s easily the best way to explore Nicaragua. That being said, it'll be even better if you or a companion know Spanish, and you travel with someone that knows the area.
- Recommend renting a 4WD (Four Wheel Drive), gives you more freedom to see the country (don’t be surprised if the rentals have a manual stick). Have had good luck using a company called Casa Pellas (Dollar Rent A Car).
- As often is the case when driving in foreign countries, most traffic signs and signals seem to be more of an recommendation instead of a law.
- Travel signage may not always be available.
- Don’t be surprised if you get stuck behind slow moving trucks and buses, especially going up hills.
- Be aware that most roads are also used as sidewalks.
- You may come across farm animals using the road in ways the makers may not have intended.
- Using a GPS (like on your phone) works better than using maps.
A view of the drive on NIC 1 after leaving Esteli (driving south toward Managua). This was at 5:30 in the morning, so traffic was pleasant.
This amazing view was about 10 minutes after turning onto NIC 45. This panoramic was captured after pulling off the right side of the road.
Most people see Nicaragua as a tropical country covered by rainforests, but they also have cactus! This was spotted along the highway scaling a rock wall a few minutes after the photo above.
Where we turn off NIC 45 onto the dirt road, is at the Rancho Don Luis (follow the sign for La Garnacha). This is the view you are treated to if you take the short stroll from the Rancho Don Luis. A purchase at Don Luis’s restaurant or paying a small fee per person is also required. This image was captured in the afternoon. In the distance is the town of San Nicolas (see below under Optional Side Trip). The “El Rancho de Don Luis” was created in 2004 by Don Jose Luis Lopez Alfaro and his wife Odili Gutierrez.
Another great view from Rancho Don Luis with a slumbering volcano in the distance.
This gives you an idea of the dirt road on the drive back to Esteli. On this particular trip having the 4WD (four wheel drive) wasn’t necessary, but depending on the weather it can be.
This is a Blue-crowned Motmot
, Nicaragua’s national bird. It's one of many different species of birds found in the Tisey Estanzuela reserve.
The Salto de la Estanzuela Waterfall is beautiful and probably the most famous place in the reserve. To get to the waterfall you need to pass thru a local farmer’s land, which again requires a small fee. The fee should be less than $1 per person. The road to the waterfall will require a 4WD, but you can always walk the short .6 km (.4 miles) hike as well. Below is a view from our 4WD headed down the rocky road to the falls.
Here is the view you will be greeted with once you reach the base of the falls. The waterfall is an impressive 10 meters high (35 feet), and yes, that is a swimmer enjoying the natural pool at the water fall's base.
After departing the Salto de la Estanzuela Waterfall we are back on the road to Esteli. The waterfall is only about 6 km (3.7 miles) from Esteli. The image below is one of the several farmer we came across on our trip.
Optional Side Trip
A great little side trip is to the small town (around 9,000) of San Nicolas, which is mostly surrounded by rivers and mountains. To get there you just stay on NIC 45 instead of turning onto the unpaved road at Don Luis. A festival is held there on December 15th, in honor of ‘San Nicolas’. There is view of San Nicolas from the Rancho Don Luis overlook pictured above. The image below is from a farmer selling chicks on one of the streets in San Nicolas.
Photos and writing by A.O. Tucker
Read A.O. Tucker's blog at aotuckerblog.com