A Visitor’s Guide To Nicaragua
As the largest country in Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, while the interior of the country is known for beautiful lakes and volcanoes. The country itself was named after Nicarao, the chief of a local tribe of native Indians when the Spanish colonial powers arrived in the region. For much of the twentieth century Nicaragua was under the rule of the Somoza family, who led a hereditary military dictatorship, but the country is now developing into a democracy. Nicaragua is also particularly notable for visitors because around a fifth of the country’s territory is protected because of its natural beauty.
While Nicaragua does have lower levels of violent crime than in neighboring Central American countries, the US State Department does warn visitors to the country to be cautious. Visitors are also warned that the seas around the country can have strong currents, and that the volcanoes within the country can be dangerous during periods of seismic activity.
Top Sights To See In Nicaragua
Little Corn Island – Located on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, this island was once a British colony, but is now famous for being an excellent destination for scuba diving and fishing, and with no roads it offers a truly relaxing and interesting getaway.
Managua – The attractive capital of Nicaragua is the largest city in the country, and includes historic buildings such as the ruins of the old Catedral de Managua which was damaged in an earthquake in 1972, while the Palacio Nacional is a wonderful museum looking at the history of the country.
Isla De Ometepe – This stunning island rises from the waters of Lago de Nicaragua, and offers a quiet and peaceful destination with a few villages around the island, and is a great place for mountain biking, hiking and kayaking.
Leon Cathedral – This enduring cathedral is a beautiful eighteenth century building that has proved to be remarkably resilient in surviving earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and is also famous as it has a network of tunnels beneath the city leading to other important churches.
Solentiname Islands – This small archipelago of islands on Lago de Nicaragua are an interesting and remote destination, with a wildlife reserve celebrating the biodiversity on the islands, as well as having a series of archaeological sites where petroglyphs were found depicting people and animals.
Ruins Of Leon Viejo – Twenty miles east of the modern city of Leon lies the ruin of Leon Viejo, a city founded in 1524, which was abandoned in the seventeenth century due to seismic activity, leaving a ruined city to be rediscovered in the 1960s which is a wonderful site to visit.
Volcan Masaya National Park – This area is an interesting place to visit with guided tours available near the Masaya Volcano, and also offers the chance to see an underground tunnel created by lava flows where a colony of bats live, and the chance to see the glowing lava in the crater.
Granada – This vibrant colonial town has some of the best surviving examples of colonial architecture in Nicaragua, and has a series of churches from the eighteenth century, while the Fuerte La Polvora is a fort with attractive views back over the city from the tower.
Matagalpa – This town offers a great insight into native Indian culture and life in the Nicaraguan highlands, while visitors can enjoy some excellent trekking up two nearby mountains, as well as the chance to take a tour of the small chocolate factory in the town where tasting the produce is vital.
Laguna de Aroyo – This lovely lake is home to a nature reserve with a wide range of animals including two species of monkeys, and is a great place to enjoy hiking, kayaking and scuba diving in the lake.
Where To Stay In Nicaragua
Camino Real Managua Hotel – Centered around an outdoor pool and bar area, this luxury hotel provides well furnished welcoming rooms and access to a casino, tennis courts, steam room and sauna.
Hotel Hex – This bright red hotel building is certainly distinctive, and offers smart and clean accommodation at a good price within easy reach of the city center, with a swimming pool, gym and wireless internet access.
Los Patios Hotel Granada – This smart and modern hotel offers well designed and furnished rooms that are within easy reach of the shore of Lake Nicaragua, and benefits from a swimming pool, spa and fitness center.
Hotel Los Chilamates – Located near the center of this attractive town, this hotel provides guests with clean and simply decorated rooms at a good price with flat screen televisions and wireless internet, along with a lovely swimming pool area.
San Juan Del Sur
Hotel Alcazar – This stylish modern hotel has comfortable and spacious rooms that are tastefully decorated, with an outdoor pool, and is located in a great location just a short walk from the beach.
Hotel Azul Pitahaya – An attractive hotel that is near the vibrant center of the town, guests are provided with comfortable and modern rooms at a good price, with fast wireless internet and televisions in each room.
Finca Hotel El Chipote – Located in a pleasant part of the north coast of the island, this hotel has simple and spacious rooms that enjoy access to a balcony with stunning views over the lake and a convenient on site restaurant.
Hotel Ecologico Tierra Blanca – This lovely hotel on the north west coast of the island offers an idyllic location that is truly peaceful, with simply decorated rooms within easy reach of the lake at a very good price.
The cuisine that is on offer in modern Nicaragua combines influences from Criollo and Spanish cuisines along with the historical dishes of pre-Columbian origin. The national dish in Nicaragua is gallo pinto, which is a blend of rice and beans that is cooked together for breakfast, and can sometimes be used as a stuffing for an empanada for those who like their breakfast to go. Another popular dish that is usually prepared on weekends is nacatamal, which is a dough dish stuffed with pork, potatoes, rice and vegetables, and then wrapped in plantain leaves before being steamed for several hours. Visitors to the country should also look for vigoron, which is a lovely meal of traditional chicharron pork rinds, cabbage salad and boiled yuca, with the chili in the salad providing a spicy kick.
Currency And Visa
The local currency in Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan Cordoba, and those looking to exchange US Dollars will usually receive around 25 Cordobas per dollar. It is also worth noting that while many retailers may accept US Dollars, you will usually receive your change in Cordobas. Visitors to Nicaragua do not need to arrange a visa in order to visit the country unless staying for over three months, but it is required to purchase a tourist card for $10