Somoto is a city in Northern Nicaragua.
From Managua, head to Mercado Mayoreo and take any Esteli-bound bus. Once in Esteli, go to Cotran Norte (a short walk north of Cortan Sur, where your bus may have arrived--ask anyone), and take any bus to Somoto. These leave roughly hourly. Alternatively, direct buses leave from Managua (Mercado Mayoreo) to Somoto less frequently.
From Choluteca (Honduras), take any bus to San Marco de Colon, take any frontera-bound bus, then transfer to any Somoto bus once you cross the border.
Coming from Managua, you'll end up in Somoto's bus station. To get to the centro, cross the highway and walk four blocks. The central park will be one block to the right, next to the church. At night, you may want to hop in a taxi.
Somoto is a small city, and most destinations can be reached on foot. A taxi (20c or $1 per person) can be used for outlying destinations that aren't accessible by bus.
The Mirador on a hill on the northeast side of town offers a great panorama of the mountains that rise 300m above the town. The cost is 10c per person, in addition to 20c per person cab fare.
The Canyon de Somoto is the big tourist draw.
The canyon is 200m deep, with sheer 100m cliffs falling straight to the water in places. At some points, it is merely a few meters wide. The canyon is dramatic and beautiful with rock formations and wildlife.
The canyon can be explored with a guide or alone. In either case, make sure to bring sandals with you, as the stones on the bottom of the river can hurt your feet.
Exploring the Canyon Without a Guide
Typically, guidebooks describe the process for getting to the bottom of the canyon. Taking the bus to the border (La Espina) from Somoto, tell the driver you want to go to the Canyon and keep a lookout for a sign. You will be dropped off at the top of a road. After a short walk down a dirt road, you will come to a gatehouse where you will be asked to pay a fee. Continue down the road for about 10 minutes until you reach the river. Cross the river and continue down the road. Follow the road upriver until you reach a place with some boats parked. This is the bottom of the canyon.
Once you reach the boats, look for someone to pay to take you upriver a ways. You will be taken as far as the boat goes, at which point you will come to a place with some inner tubes. You can swim as far upsteam as possible from this point, exploring the bottom portion of the canyon. Be careful, especially if you don't have any lifejackets. Certain portions of the canyon are deep, and distances can be far for people not used to swimming. Be aware that you will be swimming most of the way; walking on the side of the river is rarely an option. After you've had your fill, turn around and go back to the bottom.
Exploring the Canyon With a Guide
Hiring a guide will give you a somewhat different experience of the canyon. Although certain guides could simply accompany you on a trip similar to the one described above, others will take you on a more thorough trip. This trip involves using another entrance to the park further upstream, then going downstream through the entire length of the canyon.
It is not advisable to attempt this trip alone. It is difficult to find the top of the river, and the guide must sit on an inner tube keeping your possessions out of the water.
Before buying any guide's services, make sure of all of the following:
- Whether your trip will be through the entire canyon or starting at the bottom. - Life jackets are included - An inner tube will be provided to keep your possessions dry
Transportation To and From the Canyon
The canyon can be reached by taxi or by chicken bus. The chicken bus costs 6c ($.30) each way, and the taxi is perhaps 2-3 times as much. Normally, transportation is not included with the fee for a guide; in fact, you need to pay for your guide's transportation as well.