My family, friends, coworkers, wife, and those random people I sort of know on Facebook, asked the same exact question that you’re about to ask: “Why would anyone want to visit Nicaragua?”
Here are the basic reasons to visit:
- It’s cheap.
- It has active volcanoes, and beaches.
- It isn’t too touristy.
- It has beautiful architecture.
- They speak Spanish there.
Here’s a run down of my travels there:
Managua – The capital is known as being run down and dangerous, so it was recommended that I give a taxi driver 10 dollars to show me around the major tourist areas. Seeing Augusto Sandino’s grave was nice. Seeing a capital city in decrepit shape also kept things interesting.
Granada – A lovely old city with a church that eerily displays bullet holes from the Sandanista Revolution. Take a relaxing boat tour of the Isletas del Nicaragua. Resisting the con-artists in the street who hawked a tour of these diverse and sometimes elaborately developed islands, I went to the shore and negotiated a fair price with some local speed boat owners. This city has a classic Spanish feel to it and has many great restaurants for any budget.
Ometepe Island – It’s a gorgeous island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua made up of two dormant volcanoes. If you go, make time for a guided tour to the top of either volcano. The views are spectacular. I went the touristy gringo route and also made time for the hot springs.
Masaya – Sleepy artisan town. A great place to pick up a handmade hammock or other cloth items. A desire for an authentic Nicaraguan mask led me to some guy’s garage, where he personally painted one as I waited.
Volcan Masaya – An active volcano that was at one point believed to be the entrance to hell. Take the SUV ride to the summit, and borrow a gas mask. As you’re surrounded by sulfuric fumes, soak up the fact that there’s no way this would be allowed in the United States.
Corn Islands – Accessible only by a flight from Managua or a ferry from Bluefields, these two English speaking islands in the Caribbean are everything someone trying to escape the overdeveloped islands of the Caribbean could ask for. Once arriving in Big Corn Island, take the panga (a large speed boat) to Little Corn Island. It’s smaller with nice restaurants, and no cars allowed. Go fishing, scuba diving, or snorkeling.
Leon – Leon is culture. Explore the museums. Examine the murals depicting the country’s turbulent past, and read the works of Ruben Dario after visiting the museum dedicated to this modernist poet.
San Juan del Sur – San Juan del Sur is a small, yet vibrant city, without the drunks and crowds that places like Cancun have. It has beautiful beaches, high quality surfing classes, and some great bars. Also, be sure (if it’s that time of year), to take a trip to watch sea turtles laying eggs. It’s one of the greatest things I ever saw.
Some basics before going to Nicaragua:
Yes, you do have to speak Spanish.
Tourists anywhere are targets for robbery, so be street smart.
Use the local currency whenever you can.
The public transportation is extensive, but very no-frills, so relax and enjoy a trip on your old yellow school bus.