Often you take a chance on something when travelling and it works out perfectly. But sometimes it’s a slight disappointment.
Somoto Canyon wasn’t initially in our plans, but a girl at a hostel in El Salvador said how much she enjoyed it, and it seemed like a bot of an adventure so we decided to go for it.
Somoto is a town close to the Honduran border, and the canyon was ‘discovered’ in 2004, though in reality it had always been known about locally. It was billed as an undiscovered adventure, with trekking, swimming and cliff jumping.
A local man, Henry Soriano, has setup a co-operative for tours, employing local guides on rotation. There are other companies with which ti visit the canyon but Henry and his family live right near the entrance and provide accommodation – at $15 for a room we took this option.
We expected the journey to be a nightmare and it fully lived up to expectations. This is not surprising when you have to travel through 3 countries in a single day. We took several buses to get to the Honduran border, then several more long, uncomfortable buses right across Honduras. A huge wait to get out of the country got us across the Nicaraguan border after dark – which was completely deserted.
Luckily Henry had realised we were delayed and had come to meet us at the border, not sure what we would have done otherwise!
The next morning we were up bright and early for our tour. We’d chosen the long tour, which was supposed to be 6 hours, and were put together with an American guy making us a group of 3.
We were all driven a few km down the road, and began a hike down a path before it turned into rocky terrain with a river running through it – this was the start of the canyon.
For the next hour we hopped, jumped and swum our way until we rested in a clearing. For ages, far too long in fact – the hike hadn’t really been that strenuous so far.
We eventually got underway again, and the canyon walls started to get higher and higher around us. It was hardly the Grand Canyon but it was quite impressive floating down the river admiring the view.
Unfortunately after a while we caught up with a LOT of other groups which made it less enjoyable as we had to keep waiting for people to get past certain areas. We then reached the biggest jump area of the lot, and I’m sad to say I chickened out of jumping the 10+ metre one and went lower – it’s frustrating when you get down there as it’s nowhere near as high as it looks when you are at the top!
A bit more floating and we reached a section with some boats. We were bundled into one and rowed 10 minutes down river, where we disembarked and started hiking. At this point we were barely 4 hours in.
We hiked along the side of a pretty river but then changed to a featureless path – we were walking back. And the path was long. It became clear that the duration of the trip included this dull walk back to the cabin, but even so it was still only 5 hours by the time we reached there.
And that was it. We had lunch, and then had the rest of the day to relax before we left the next morning.
It wasn’t a bad trip by any means but nor did it rock our world. It wasn’t cheap either – $30 per person, which meant a total of $90 with very few overheads. And there were several other groups that day.
I wonder if it’s just us, maybe we’ve seen too much and are harder to impress? But I look at the pictures here and they look dull. While it was better in real life, and it was an enjoyable day of activity, it didn’t blow us away, and the time wasting on the tour annoyed us.
Essentially, considering the hassle involved in getting there, and the extra travel to Leon afterwards, it wasn’t really worth it to us, but if you’re in this corner of Nicaragua it’s probably worth a visit.
As mentioned, we stayed with the Soriano family who have built several simple guest rooms. The bedrooms themselves were fine, simple concrete rooms with a bed and mosquito net but the bathrooms were too rustic for us.
The only toilet was an outhouse, a hole in the ground, which in fairness might be the only option somewhere so remote, but there was no light in it. Without going into detail, having a bad belly there at night was not pleasant at all.
And despite having running water, there was no sink nor soap, just a pipe into a clothes washing station, which was pretty unsanitary. The shower block was newer and not bad, except it faced the road and had a wafer thin curtain which blew open every 3 seconds revealing ourselves to everyone at the bus stop opposite.
When there are hundreds of dollars per day coming in from the tours, the conditions should be better than this, even for $15 a night.
On the plus side, the food was always good and the family themselves, despite speaking no English, were very friendly.
The long tour was $30 per person which included water shoes, lifejacket, guide, entrance fee and lunch back at the house.
To contact them to book a tour or accommodation, see here. If you’re a Spanish speaker, Henry will probably reply himself, if not then an English guy who works with the family (who we didn’t meet) will.