El CastilloRio San Juan department of Nicaragua.
Since 1995, the fortress has been on a "tentative list" of important Nicaraguan cultural sites with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a preliminary to nomination for consideration as a World Heritage Site.
By boatYou can get in from San Carlos at the south-east corner of the Lago Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca) by boat (C$75 pp = US$4).
Boats leave San Carlos at 6:30 am, 8 am, 10:30 (high season), 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30. For the first boat, book the day before, as it might be full already if you are too late. You can buy tickets at the muelle municipal half a block from the market, which also serves as San Carlos' bus terminal.
From San Juan del Norte the boat to San Carlos (once weekly 6 or 12 hours, depending on type of service and season) also passes El Castillo and stops upon request.
El Castillo is walkable and doesn't have any cars. The locals aren't used to cycling (though it is not explicitly prohibited) and there are none for rent.
Indio Maiz national parkThis national park covers a large region ranging from just beyond El Castillo to San Juan del Norte (aka San Juan de Nicaragua) and northwards. Typically it is visited either in a day trip from El Castillo, or by staying at the Refugio Bartola on the edge of the park. There are plentiful guides providing such trips from El Castillo and the Refugio, who will provide you with the requisite rubber boots. Visitors will see verdant and varied rain forest vegetation, and are very likely to also see various types of monkey, leaf cutter ants, poison dart frogs, and plentiful bird life, with other wildlife sightings possible. In March/April 2018 there were significant fires in the region to which the government responded slowly and rejected Costa Rican aid, causing protests which were soon overshadowed by protests against a social security reform which left to several dead and the ongoing (as of July 2018) civil conflict in the country. It is not fully clear how much of the reserve is still biologically intact or what caused the conflagration.
- Rapids of the Rio San Juan (called raudales) that made El Castillo a strategic place to build a fortress. Raudal del Toro (across from Boca de Sábalo), Raudal del Castillo (across from the fortress) and Raudal del Diablo are the most popular.
- Just a few kilometers downriver from El Castillo you can see Costa Rica on the Rio San Juan's right or southern bank; (the river itself in a political oddity belongs to Nicaragua entirely). They are constructing a new road right next to the river which has been controversial because of its (very visible) impact on the environment.
FortressThe fortress is crumbling a bit, but it offers great views of the river and the rapids that made this place a strategic location for a fortress in the first place
Reading a book in the library which is right inside the castillo. Listen to the sounds of the village and the water running down the river while reading a good book.
You can rent kayaks for various lengths of time or also do a guided tour on kayak. Some adventurous travellers have done the whole trip from here to the Caribbean at San Juan de Nicaragua (San Juan del Norte) in just over a week. Ask whether you can return your kayaks there or not.
Casa de Huésped – Restaurante Chinandeganophone: +505 83816493address: De la Iglesia Católica 190 metros al surestedoubles as a guesthouse
Restaurante Ranchón Las Vegas de San Juanphone: +505 86663679address: Frente al Puesto Militar del Castillo
Restaurante Daryzuphone: +505 84489170address: Frente al Minisúper San Antonio
phone: +505 8649 9012address: Frente Isla Sombrero de CueroAll inclusive: Room, all meals, use of horses, canoes, kayak, trails, fishing gear.
phone: +505 2583 0188address: Iglesia Católica, 200 metros al Suroeste
Posada del Ríophone: +505 84059998address: De la Iglesia Católica 250 metros al sureste
- San Juan Del Norte
- There are various small villages along the river some of them having hotels and some hotels just between villages. The biggest of those villages is Boca de Sabalos named for a fish that is common around that place.
- El Castillo is a convenient starting point for all your jungle adventures in the reserva Indio Maiz and downriver