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The peaceful little village of El Castillo is set on the Rio San Juan, made up of colorful wooden buildings which sit on stilts above the fast flowing river and powerful rapids.

An impressive 17th century fortress dominates the town, strategically located on a sharp curve in the river, raised above the town on a grassy hill with magnificent views over the white-water and jungle canopy downstream.


This colorful and diminutive little town and its welcoming inhabitants belies its key role as a stronghold for the Spanish in colonial times as it came under siege from the British in the 18th century and is reputedly the place where Nelson lost his eye. The town was also an important transit point for US steam ships in the 19th century, transporting settlers to California via the Rio San Juan to avoid hostile Indians in the US interior.

El Castillo, NicaraguaToday El Castillo is undoubtedly one of Nicaragua's most picturesque towns and is a great base from which to explore the river and Indio Maíz Biological Reserve.

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Map of El Castillo

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near El Castillo

    Accommodation choices for El Castillo

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit El Castillo. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing El Castillo

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting El Castillo, and which use the best local guides.

    • Indio Maíz Biological Reserve
      Walking in the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve

      Indio Maíz Biological Reserve

      Indio Maíz Biological Reserve

      Expect to see howler monkeys, brightly colored poison dart frogs, a wide range of birdlife including trogons, manikins, tanagers and if you're lucky scarlet macaws. There is also an endless variety of flora and the chance to see larger mammals such as ocelots.

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