Nicaragua, aptly nicknamed the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” offers vacationers a glimpse into the heart and history of Central America.
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Bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, Nicaragua, like most of Central America, lies between both the deep blue Pacific Ocean and sparkling Caribbean Sea. This splendid region boasts dozens of rivers and volcanoes, historic colonial cities, world-class surfing, friendly inhabitants and expansive Lake Nicaragua, which contains more than three hundred islands.
Spain colonized the western portion of the country, while the British once laid claim to the east. Today, this democratic nation is known as a land of poets and artists. Faith also plays a vital role in the lives of most Nicaraguans, evidenced by a wide range of religious celebrations throughout the year. Nicaragua comes alive with music, dance and folkloric events called Fiestas Patronales and each town’s regional revelries. Semana Santa (Easter week) is an especially festive occasion throughout the entire country.
What To Do
Tour Nicaragua’s renowned coffee route in the north. Discover the region’s wilder side as you drive, bike, hike or horseback ride through lush vegetation and diverse wildlife.
Explore the southern route along the 120-mile San Juan River, with its unique 17th century Fortress of El Castillo.
Go sport fishing on the San Juan River. Scuba and snorkel in clear turquoise waters along the country’s balmy eastern shores. View the remains of an early attempt to build an inter-ocean canal, long before the Panama Canal.
Discover California Gold Rush history in Greytown along the enchanting Caribbean coast. Here, gold seekers once sailed on Clipper ships from New York to Greytown, then to San Francisco, in search of gold in California’s Sierras.
What To See
Visit the José Coronel Urtecho Cultural Center, dedicated to one of the country’s renowned poets, inside a Spanish colonial fortress on the San Juan River.
Shop for art and woodwork in the picturesque Solentiname Archipelago, where islands such as Mancarrón, Mancarroncito, La Venada, and San Fernando have been named after their native artisans.
View hundreds of species of native orchids as you hike through the impressive Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve near Granada and lovely freshwater Lake Cocibolca, also called Lake Nicaragua or Granada.
Nicaraguan artisans craft sustainable goods such as pottery from the county’s rich volcanic clay. Purchase local pottery, intricately woven baskets and leather goods, as well as some of the world’s best hand-rolled cigars and rum, called Flor de Caña. The colorful colonial city of Granada provides a vibrant atmosphere for shopping. The Oriental Market and Roberto Huembes Market in the capital city of Managua are also unique shopping destinations.
The nightlife in Nicaragua varies greatly from city to city. The Centro Turistico area and La Calzada Avenue near the shores of Lake Nicaragua in Granada offer some lively options. You’ll find dance clubs and casinos in the resort town of Montelimar. Puerto Cabezas is also lively, especially during weekends and holiday seasons. Enjoy a night of theatre at the Fine Arts Palace in Managua or nearby La Loma.
Nicaragua with Kids
Take a canopy tour, from 10 to 100 feet high, through some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world. Snorkel amid schools of colorful sea creatures living amidst spectacular reefs in the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean. Go bird watching to see some of Nicaragua’s more than 700 delightful species of birds. Visit the Spanish colonial town of Granada, with its captivating red-tiled roofs and brightly painted buildings. Explore the oldest church in Central America, Iglesia San Francisco, along with La Catédral de Granada and Guadalupe Church. Discover some of the curious-looking geckos and iguanas that call this country home.
Off the Beaten Path
Experience 360-degree views of splendid countryside before sandboarding, mountain biking or skiing down Nicaragua’s 1,300-foot Cerro Negro volcano, one of the youngest in the country. Surf the waves along the splendid 37-mile stretch of beaches of San Juan del Sur on Nicaragua’s renowned southwest coast.
Food and Drink
Nicaraguan food, with its delightful Spanish, Creole and indigenous influences, offers some spicy twists on traditional Central American cuisine. Their rich Indio Viejo combines beef with onion, sweet chili, garlic, salt, tortillas, hierbabuena (spearmint) and sour orange with a hearty helping of history. Typical treats include crunchy, jungle-grown tostones (fried plantains), and creamy tres leches cake, a delicious sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. Wash it all down with some tasty pinolillo, a chocolate-flavored corn flour drink.