Nicaragua lies north of Costa Rica and south of Honduras, in Central America. This beautiful country is undoubtedly Central America's ‘jewel in the crown', and ready to gain world popularity for its beauty, character and people. Lonely Planet has predicted that Nicaragua will reach the top 15 destinations in the world for Adventure Tourism in 2015.
The civil unrest of the 70s and 80s has passed and Nicaragua has become the safest country to visit in the region. Long gone are the camouflaged guerrillas of a country torn apart by civil unrest - today you will find a warm and sincere welcome from everyone.
Nicaragua really has it all:
- Stunning Spanish colonial cities
- Deserted beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts
- Forested mountainous terrain
- Extensive freshwater lakes
- Lush fertile soil that brings to life just about every crop imaginable
- A wealth of activities to challenge the most daring adventurers
This unpretentious country is no longer the preserve of backpackers or gap-year adventurers. Tourism is developing for all, with eco-lodges, sophisticated boutiques and hostels cropping up across the country.
Nicaragua is one of the world's most geologically active countries in the world. This stunning land of volcanoes, many of which are still active, is the newest country of the Americas in geological terms. Although visitors do travel to the Caribbean coast, the majority of tourists are drawn to the north and the Pacific Basin, an area of volcano crater lakes, two great freshwater lakes, Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua, and a backbone of volcanoes that run from the extreme northwest to the Island of Ometepe, in Lake Nicaragua.
Visitors from the UK generally arrive by air into Managua, the capital, a sprawling city that has grown from the shores of Lake Managua. A fleeting glance at Managua will suffice before heading off on a special interest tour or on an independent itinerary.
Once in Nicaragua, there are so many activities to choose from. The country is awash with options for adventure travellers, many not for the faint hearted. For the less adventurous, there are special interest packages that have been developed by local tour operators. Activities range from bird watching, fishing, cycling, diving and snorkelling. For those who are looking for an adrenalin rush, there's lava boarding on the Cerro Negro, volcano trekking, canopy tours with zip lines, which offer a fast flying adrenalin packed means of accessing beautiful and remote areas, and many other volcano adventures – the choice is yours.
Not to be missed:
Leon and Leon Viejo
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Leon Viejo, the old capital which lies south of the rebuilt city, was destroyed by the forces of nature. The rebuilt Leon of today is the heartbeat of Nicaragua, the spiritual home of Nicaragua's greatest poets and thinkers and was the hot bed of Sandinista activity in the 60s and 70s.
Leon is a beautiful Colonial City, the seat of the country's best University and a gateway to the delights of the nearby beaches of the pacific. The city is home to Central America's largest cathedral which you can climb to the roof and soak up the extraordinary 360 degree views. It is a joy to walk Leon's historic streets by day and relax in a casual bar by night, soaking up its unique atmosphere. There is much to see close to Leon, including a rum distillery, wonderful scenery including the Cerro Negro where you will be astonished to see the newest sport of Volcano Boarding!
Granada is another colonial gem and a favourite with tourists, attracting short stay trippers from Costa Rica as well as the many who wish to sample the delights of this romantic city. It is more ‘up front' than Leon and more sophisticated in terms of its touristic appeal. The great choice of excellent hotels and fine restaurants complement the city's many attractions. Life here revolves around in the Parque Central, home to the city's cathedral and a perfect place to stroll and people watch.
The city is build close to the shores of Lake Nicaragua so the chain of islands – Las Isletas are easily accessible and allow a wonderful opportunity to view some of the country's varied birdlife and spider monkeys.
Overlooking the city and providing yet more opportunities for adventure is the mountain Mombacho, its cloud forest almost always hidden by mist. The mountain has 5 craters, three of which are forested and one part of a nature trail. The slopes are fertile and home to coffee plantations and ranches so activities range from hair raising canopy tours with zip-lines, shorter trails and of course coffee tours.
En route to Granada from Managua, be sure to stop off at Masaya to stroll through the country's most famous market and if time permits, drop into the famous pottery town of San Juan de Oriente.
Ometepe Island rises majestically from Lake Nicaragua and comprises two volcanoes, Conception, which is active and Maderas which is extinct. The island is intriguing and a paradise of flora and fauna, and home to a large howler monkey population, parrots, magpies and jays. Moyogalpa is the port of entry and gateway to some memorable activities and sights.
San Juan Del Sur
A coastal paradise that, although growing in popularity, retains its fishing village like appeal. I loved the fact that this was a working port with boats anchored offshore in its pretty bay, overlooked by a huge statue of Christ. There are lots of glorious beaches both north and south of the bay to explore, and you can see nearby wildlife refuge projects at work and nesting grounds for sea turtles. The beaches around San Juan del Sur are also world renowned for surfing.
Visit as soon as you can and beat the crowds that will inevitably follow
You can travel to Nicaragua with The Holiday Place, an award winning Independent Tour Operator. For more information call 020 7644 1755 and speak to a specialist.
Once in Nicaragua, you will be taken care of by Mundo Ventura, a reputable local operator, with excellent guides and transfer services. For more information go to www.mundoventura.travel or be sure to ask for your specific interests when calling The Holiday Place.