Paradise, Diving, Cigars, Volcanoes, Turtles, and a little bit of sun for your soul.
If you have read the book “The Beach” by Alex Garland, or have seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, then you yourself, like most travelers, are on a quest for that magical place where tourism hasn’t yet exploited paradise.
Check out the 11 reasons to travel to Nicaragua:
1. Amazing volcanoes
The country is known for its more than 50 volcanoes. One of the most famous and most tourist-friendly is Vulcan Mumbacho, 6 miles from Granada. You can catch a white-knuckle ride up the volcano (it’s supersteep) thanks to the Reserva Natural Volcan Mumbacho, and hike one of two trails. For an actively venting volcano where, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of red glowing lava, there is Volcan Masaya – the “gate to hell,” according to the Spaniards who discovered it. If it’s long, expert climbs you’re looking for, try Volcan Momotombo, near Leon on Lago de Managua, or Volcans San Cristobal and Maderas on Isla de Ometepe near San Jorge in Lago de Nicaragua. At Cerro Negro, one of the newest volcanoes in Nicaragua located in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range, you can hike up and surf down the volcano’s gravel-like ash.
Surf culture is big on the beaches of Nica, and the epicenter of it all is a fishing village turned expat-pat beach town called San Juan del Sur. About 80 miles south of Managua, you’ll find killer breaks, fellow wave riders, and plenty of surf camps. Recommended surf beaches include Playa Remanso (great for beginners, with a sandy bottom and gentler waves), Playa Yankee, and Playa Maderas (better for experienced surfers). There are also yoga classes, hotels, and the closest thing to trendy restaurants and bars you’ll find in the area – all in a charming walkable downtown.
3. It’s a new hot spot for volun-tourism
Just ask Julie Speier, who moved to the country in 2008 to start the San Juan del Sur Day School – now a full-service primary school educating Nicaraguan and ex-pat children from the ages of 18 months to 10 years, and employing staff from all over the world – and never looked back. The school partners with Comunidad Connect, where travelers can stay with Nicaraguan host families and volunteer to do everything from cleaning up neighborhoods and beaches to teaching English. Kemp also volunteered in Nica. “After vacationing there, I was so drawn to go back to the country and help that nothing could’ve stopped me,” Kemp says. “We volunteered with our kids instead of sending them to summer camp. Many people there live in 10-foot by 10-foot shacks. So there’s lots we can do. And there is also a lot we can learn from them.” Kemp and her family volunteered though La Esperanza Granada, an organization dedicated to helping local children receive an education.
4. The amazing beaches from “Survivor”.
The current 29th season of Survivor: San Juan del Sur, Blood vs. Water, airing now, is the third season to be filmed in Nicaragua. (Season 30 takes place there, too.) Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s worth taking a trip to the beaches – Playa Hermosa, Mixtocal, and Playa Escamequita. For the ultimate experience, head over to Rancho Chilamate and take its horseback riding adventure through the countryside, ending at Playa Escamequita, the main beach where the original Survivor: Nicaragua cast lived. There, you can ride your horse at a full canter down the long stretch of beach. It may be the most fun you can have in Nicaragua, or anywhere for that matter. It’s pure joy. Then hang out and have a drink before heading back.
5. Admire Granada
Granada has some of the most well-preserved architecture in Nicaragua. It was the first big Spanish settlement in the country and many of the buildings and churches in the Spanish colonial style are beautifully preserved (and painted a myriad of colors). Besides wandering around gawking at the architecture, you can take a kayaking trip to the nearby islets, enjoy hiking trips to Mombacho volcano, or visit the nearby markets in Masaya. While you’re in town, be sure to eat at one of the kiosks in the town square serving vigoron, a local pork and cabbage dish that was delicious (and only $2). Kathy’s Waffles and the Garden Café serve good Western food.
6. Visit Ometepe Island
This extraordinary island is located on Lago de Nicaragua and is formed by two joined volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Hiking, kayaking, cycling, and healthy food are the island’s main draws. Hiking the volcanoes is as hard as it appears; you’ll need to start really early or the midday heat will slow you down significantly (I learned this lesson the hard way). The volcano hikes cost around $20 USD if you’re part of a group or up to $40 if you’re by yourself (hike with a guide as it’s rather unsafe due to poorly maintained trails). Keep an eye out for all the monkeys—spotting them was more interesting than the hike!
7. Go Volcano Boarding
Cerro Negro, a young and active volcano, is where tourists (mostly backpackers) board down the gravelly slopes on one of the many organized tours to the mountain. You hike up to the top, which takes around an hour, sit on a piece of wood, and then fly down side of the volcano. Tours from León leave in the morning and in the afternoon. It’s the main reason lots of travelers visit León and, while not my cup of tea, is extremely popular. I couldn’t visit anywhere in the country without seeing someone wearing an “I went volcano boarding” t-shirt.
8. Escape to the Corn Islands
Located off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, the Corn Islands are a gorgeous place for a vacation retreat. Most people come to the islands to snorkel, scuba dive, fish, soak up the sun, and relax with a good book. There are two islands: Little Corn and Big Corn. Little Corn is the quieter, more backpacker-oriented island with cheaper guesthouses and fewer resorts. You can fly or take a ferry to Big Corn and then a smaller boat to Little Corn. Big Corn is more developed with larger resorts and more restaurants, and it’s more expensive.
9. Visit the Stone Man
Alberto Guiterrez has been carving animals and symbols into the stones outside Esteli for decades. He had a vision of angels who told him to carve, and in an effort to end his alcoholism, began carving every time he craved a drink. He’s not easy to get to, but when you find him, Alberto will welcome you into his home, give you fresh fruit, and show you all his stone carvings, which he says were inspired by God. He doesn’t speak any English, so if you don’t speak Spanish, just nod and enjoy the carvings. He also won’t ask for any money, but donations are welcome. This is a really great “off-the-beaten-path destination.” Special thanks to Rodney McDonald, director of ERSLA (a fantastic non-profit that sets up fire departments in the country), for taking me there and introducing me!
10. Visit Apoyo Lagoon
Though lots of people visit Lake Nicaragua (which is the biggest and where Ometepe is), this lagoon near Managua is a nice spot to relax. You can sail on the lake, fish, and hike around. It’s a beautiful part of the country.
Nicaragua is a great country to just hang out in. Sit on a beach with a good book, relax in the jungle, stay on the farm, surf, or swing in a hammock. The pace of life here is slow and relaxed, so slow yourself down and enjoy some lazy, wonderful days.
- Amazing rainforests- Agribusiness centre of cigars in Esteli- The Spanish city Granada with its volcano Mombacho- The world’s largest lake islands, Isla de Ometepe
Bordered by Costa Rica on the South and Honduras on the North, Nicaragua is the largest Central American republic. The vast Pacific Ocean forms her western border, the balmy Caribbean Sea the east. Is is a warm and friendly land of lakes and mountains; rivers and volcanoes, sea and sun. The country is divided into three geographic regions: the Pacific Lowlands on the west, the mountainous Central Region and the Atlantic Lowlands on the east.
Spanish is spoken by 90% of the country's population. The black population of the east coast region has English as their first language. Several indigenous people of the east still use their original language, the main languages being Miskito language, Sumo language, and Rama language.
Nicaragua has a tropical climate, alternating between two seasons: rainy and dry (winter and summer). This is the result of its geographic location between 11 and 15 degrees latitude north and the humidity from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which give it a fairly stable season. In the Central Region the rainy season lasts from May to October. The dry season occurs from November through April. During December the weather is more temperate. The warmest months are March, April and May, Nicargua's "sea season". The climate in the Atlantic Coast has been said to have the highest temperature and humidity. The temperature in this region corresponds to that in tropical jungles and ranges above 89° F.
The gastronomy of Nicaragua is very rich and varied. Meat -whether roast, stewed or marinated with aromatic herbs- and vegetables are the principal ingredients of the majority of tempting Nicaraguan dishesSome of the most popular culinary specialties include "Nacatamal", a delicious combination of meat and corn paste; "Vigorón", a blend of yucca with pork and salad; and "Vaho", a tasty dish containing plantains, yucca and meat. You can try these dishes and other examples of national and international cuisine at various restaurants in the region.
Nicaragua has its own currency: the córdoba. The US dollar is also virtually everywhere accepted. Often prices are based on dollars but quoted in córdobas. If you pay in dollars, you will receive your change in córdobas.1 USD = 26,74 Cordobas (February 2015)
Nicaragua, which name is derived from the chief of the area's leading Indian tribe at the time of the Spanish Conquest, was settled by the Spanish in 1522. The country won independence in 1838. For the next century, Nicaragua's politics were dominated by the competition for power between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
Over 90% of Nicaragua's population is members of Christian denominations. Approximately 73% of Nicaraguans follow the Roman Catholic religion. The popularity of the religion in Nicaragua is clearly seen in yearly festivals held throughout Nicaragua in honor of the patron saints as well as several other religious celebrations. The great influence of religion in the lives of Nicaraguans is often evident in their speech as they utter phrases like “if it is God's will”.
The country has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavours. Nicaragua has historically been an important source of poetry in the Hispanic world, with internationally renowned contributors, the best known being Rubén Darío. Nicaraguan culture can further be defined in several distinct strands. The west of the country was colonized by Spain and its people are predominantly Mestizo or European in composition. The eastern half of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British colonies, such as Jamaica, Belize, The Cayman Islands, etc. Although recent immigration by mestizos has largely influenced younger generations and an increasing number of people are either bilingual at home or speak Spanish only. There is a relatively large population of people of mixed African descent, as well as a smaller Garifuna population.
Modern Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America. Pop music includes Cuban, Brazilian, Mexican and Panamanian performers, as well as stars from Europe and the United States.The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music that is especially loud and celebrated during the May Palo de Mayo festival. The Garifuna community exists in Nicaragua and is known for its popular music called Punta. Another popular musical genre in Nicaragua is the Chicheros, often consisting of trumpet and trombone or other brass instruments, with additional musicians playing various percussions.
Nicaragua is full of animals of all kinds. The rainforests, lakes, mountains and volcanoes of Nicaragua are home to a large variety of animals, birds, and sea life. Lake Nicaragua and the River San Juan are home to the only known fresh water sharks in the world. They are bull sharks that came from the Caribbean up the River San Juan and slowly adjusted to the freshwater. On the Pacific coast, a refuge has been set aside for the thousands of sea turtles that come out of the ocean at night to lay there eggs on the sandy beaches. The guardabarranco is the national bird of Nicaragua. It is red and yellow with green tail feathers. It eats bugs, small lizards, and fruit. Green parrots, known as chocoyos live within the crater of Masaya volcano, nesting on rocky ledges, surrounded by sulfur dioxide gas. Other colorful birds in Nicaragua are macaws, parrots, and toucans. It is common to see people selling parrots on the roadside, or having them as pets in their homes.The jaguar is the largest wild cat that lives in Nicaragua. Some others are the puma, cougar, jaguarondi, margay, and ocelot