Swimming through Nicaragua’s Somoto Canyon

The day after I visited Alberto Gutierrez’s eccentric mountainside artwork, I awoke early to set out on my next adventure: visiting the Somoto Canyon in Northern Nicaragua.

The Somoto Canyon is a natural formation outside of Somoto, Nicaragua that has only recently become a tourism destination. The canyon consists of a single river running between beautiful, soaring cliffs. The river is deep and runs at a fairly gentle pace, making it a perfect destination for a day of swimming, floating, and –most importantly –jumping.

I signed up for a six hour tour and a night of lodging in Somoto through TreeHuggers, a local tourism group in Esteli that I highly recommend. When my “chicken bus” reached Somoto, two local guides were waiting to lead several other travelers and me to the mouth of the canyon. We dropped our stuff, suited up in watershoes and lifejackets, and set out for the day.

Somoto Canyon
ready to get in that Canyon

The Somoto Canyon

We spent four hours hiking, floating, swimming, and ogling the canyon. During the dry season, Somoto is located in the midst of rolling, brown hills. The wet, luscious canyon is stark against the desert-like backdrop. It is a gorgeous backdrop to a fun-filled day on the river.

I had recently had a somewhat similar experience in Boqueron Canyon in Guatemala, but Somoto Canyon was unique enough to stand out on its own. Most notably, Somoto has dozens of great opportunities to leap into the river! One of our tour guides led me to increasingly higher cliff jumps—it was my dream day! The highest I jumped from was 9 meters (roughly 30 feet) but our outrageous tour guide went as high as 18 meters (60 feet)!

It was an amazing day. By the end, we were exhausted and hungry. We trudged back up to the top of the canyon to get a late lunch at the local guides’ headquarters.

The view of the canyon from the top

A Luxurious Night

I would have been ecstatic if that had been the end of my day, but I was in for one more pleasant surprise. One other person and I had booked a night at the hostel run by the local guides. However, when we returned from our day they informed us that the hostel was full for the night. Instead, they were going to put us up at another location about halfway down the canyon.

At first I was annoyed to walk back down the hill we had just climbed. My annoyance was immediately extinguished when I spotted the new location. We would be staying in a stunning 10 person lodge with terraces and hammocks overlooking the canyon. The house was normally available for large groups to rent. Since it was empty at the moment so we each got our own room – not to mention access to the beautiful terrace, living room, and kitchen!

It was definitely the most luxurious eight dollar night of my life! I spent the evening watching the stars and reflecting on my adventures in Somoto Canyon.

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