Tora Adventure

Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.

Matagalpa – Exploring the Northern Mountains of Nicaragua [Day 201]

The saga of a replacement ATM card continues

We were still waiting for Toby’s replacement ATM card two weeks after it had been stolen. Sadly the first card had reached Managua airport (about a 1.5hr drive from Leon), but a confusion on the address, Leon spelt as “Lean” had it being sent back to the bank. Two weeks later and the second card was in Managua and thankfully they had Toby’s phone number to reconfirm the address. They had called at around 3pm on a Friday afternoon but said it wouldn’t arrive until Monday because of business days. In fact, they actually delivered it on Saturday morning, when Toby was already in Matagalpa. A sigh of relief that it was in our hands and our travel was no longer on hold.



Chicken bus to Matagalpa

As we mentioned in a recent blog post we had learned a big lesson about how to travel smarter with our important items. Toby was off to do a quick weekend trip to Matagalpa since Rodora was not feeling well and we were expecting the ATM card on the Monday. Travelling with just a day pack, money and phone was being much more carefully watched and not put on display. The bus was an “Expreso” (express) to Matagalpa that left Leon at around 7.20am. The cost was 74cords($3) and included karaoke and music videos along with a free plastic bag of cold water. Arriving into the southern bus station in Matagalpa around 10am, the quickest and easiest way to the hostel was by collective taxi for 10cords($0.40).



Checking in

The destination was the hostel “La Buena Onda”, a quite large and modern hostel towards the North of town. A dorm bed in an 8 bed dorm cost $8 per person with huge lockable lockers. Free morning coffee was still available; I took in a couple of cups to plan my moves for the next two days. The guy at the reception desk was extremely helpful in giving transport advice and timing and spoke quite good English as I tried practicing my less than perfect Spanish.


Matagalpa - La Buena Onda

Matagalpa – La Buena Onda


Cascada Blanca

Tours go here for around $30 per person, but that was too much for the budget. I chose the cheap way of walking to the Northern bus station and getting on the bus going to “La Dalia”. I charged up with some energy by finding a local Comedor at the market serving a fried chicken (Pollo Frito) lunch for 55cords ($2.20). In search of the bus, it was already near capacity, but a friendly woman near the front offered me an aisle seat. I was still being super cautious with my bag and potential theft, so I was hanging onto the bag with a death grip on my lap.


The ride out to Cascada Blanca took about 30 minutes and cost 15 cords ($0.60). Entry into Cascada Blanca cost 50 cords ($2) with a nice restaurant and built up area next to the entry on the road. Climbing down into the area takes only a couple of minutes on a very well developed stair case where you almost immediately get views of the waterfall. This location is actually an overnight camping spot on the Quetzaltrekker Northern Highlands hike. There’s a ledge just next to the waterfall where you can setup a tent and light a camp fire.


It was mid-afternoon and I was hot and tired, so I jumped straight into the water. It wasn’t all that busy with less than 20 other people in total either walking around or swimming. Tour groups came in and out as I relaxed for the afternoon trying to get my white skin to change to a browner colour.


Matagalpa - Cascada Blanca

Matagalpa – Cascada Blanca

Matagalpa - Cascada Blanca

Matagalpa – Cascada Blanca

Matagalpa - Cascada Blanca

Matagalpa – Cascada Blanca




The plan was to return by bus, but I got lucky by hitching a ride with a 30 year old man from Masaya who was a Lawyer travelling in the area for work. He spoke quite good English so we shared some stories for the ride and I again practiced some bad Spanish. I took the opportunity to explore some of Matagalpa including the central parks and churches. I think this could easily be done in a couple of hours depending on how fast you walk. It was nice enough, but maybe too similar to other places I’ve been, so it didn’t capture my attention very well.


I returned to the hostel to clean up and find a cold beer and a drinking partner. This took no time at all as the hostel was full of sociable people. I met two people from the US, one who had been volunteering in Managua for quite some time and the other who was visiting him. They’d volunteered together in Fiji a few years earlier and had a wealth of information on the opportunities available around the world.


Matagalpa - Cathedral

Matagalpa – Cathedral

Matagalpa - Central Park

Matagalpa – Central Park




Selva Negra

The next morning was an early start to get on a bus heading to Jinontega (12cords/$0.48) further North and meant to be a beautiful spot to stay on its own. I was getting off at a place known as Selva Negra where the entry road was marked with an old tank from the war. Funnily enough it was overcast and drizzling ever so slightly as I left the hostel. I hadn’t come prepared for wet. It didn’t last long as the sun burnt through the clouds in under an hour to reveal blue skies again.


Matagalpa - Selva Negra entry point

Matagalpa – Selva Negra entry point


This was an old Finca (estate/farm) that now has a quite fancy hotel with conference area and church. It’s a surprisingly large area that is well hidden into the surrounding area. My plan was for a hike to the view point of Matagalpa and the hopes of seeing some Howler Monkeys. The following trail map supplied by the hotel gives you an idea of what you can see and do.


Matagalpa - Selva Negra Trail Map

Matagalpa – Selva Negra Trail Map


You could easily spend a few hours hiking the trails and searching for wildlife. I took a couple of hours hiking around and felt like I could have done more. I didn’t physically see the Monkeys, but I know I got really close due to the sound they make. I just couldn’t see them through the thickly forested canopy. There was a lot of interesting old growth trees to look at and the forest was still a very lush green considering it was the middle of March. The view of Matagalpa itself is not really worth the hike. It’s around 14km by road away, so you won’t exactly get a clear view.


Matagalpa - View from top of Selva Negra

Matagalpa – View from top of Selva Negra

Matagalpa - Selva Negra hiking

Matagalpa – Selva Negra hiking


This trail was great because I only saw two other people in total for the time I was on a trail and really let you explore nature up close. There were quite a lot of birds, butterflies and other animals to keep most people interested.



Bus back to Leon

This was probably the more annoying part of my trip. It was a Sunday which meant transport was irregular and busy. The inter-local shuttles don’t seem to run on Sunday and the Expreso bus runs much more infrequently. I was back at the bus station before 12.30pm with the expectation of getting on a 12.45pm bus. This didn’t exist and the next wasn’t likely until 3 or 4pm. I was mildly saved by getting on an express bus to Chinandega (70cords/$2.80) which had many Leon bound customers that departed at 2pm. At the main turnoff to Leon, the bus had arranged a private inter-local bus to take us into the main terminal in Leon.



Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates.


2 comments on “Matagalpa – Exploring the Northern Mountains of Nicaragua [Day 201]

  1. prantik
    December 29, 2014


    Stumbled upon your blog while searching for transportation to Matagalpa from Leon. Could you let me know where you got the express bus from in Leon? Also, did you have to make a reservation ahead of time? Is it a particular bus company? Thanks!

    • Tora Traveller
      January 5, 2015

      We got it from a business that was almost next door to Bigfoot hostel on the same side of the road. In peak season you would be best to pre-book a day in advance to ensure you get the departure time you want. It shares it’s location with an internet cafe. It was a year ago now, so can’t remember all the exact details.

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