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About Nicaragua Travel Assistant Photos and Videos

Nicaragua is called the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes. With 84 nature reserves that cover over 21,000 square kilometers, Nicaragua boasts the largest expanse of rain forest north of the Amazon basin, offering a wealth of outdoor nature areas to explore. Like its neighboring county Costa Rica, Nicaragua attracts many tourists that are health-conscious, outdoor recreation enthusiasts interested in popular adventure sports, such as kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, canopy tours, surfing and that want to enjoy these activities knowing that they are not contributing to a destruction of the natural resources. However, they differ in that Nicaragua is less developed, so one can expect to find areas that have been impacted minimally. Less crowds, lines and tourists results in a more realistic view of Nicaraguan culture. It's also worth noting that Nicaragua has less contamination, deforestation and crime than its Costa Rican counterpart.

Granada
Rising above the shores of Lake Nicaragua, also known as Lago Cocibolca, the tenth largest lake in the world, Granada is one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities in the New World. A lively commercial and cultural center, Granada was frequently raided in its early years by Caribbean pirates. In the 1850s the city was briefly occupied by William Walker, the United States adventurer who declared himself dictator of Nicaragua.

Today, Granada is on its way to being a major international destination, considered Nicaragua's crown jewel of tourism. It is the country's third-largest city, but it retains a colonial atmosphere with a tranquil historical center that takes travelers back in time. Fresco vendors roll carts down cobblestone streets, families drag rocking chairs out to watch the sunset, and young boys shine shoes and knock mangos out of the trees in the central plaza.

The cool lake breezes, lovely colonial style architecture, and vistas of the towering Mombacho volcano make strolling through Granada a scenic delight. Located one hour south of Managua, Nicaragua's capital city, Granada provides access to many of the cultural and natural wonders of the country. The Masaya National Volcanic Park, with its smoking craters, stunning views and scenic views, is 30 minutes away. Catch an hour ferry at San Jorge to Ometepe, a large island with a nature preserve, extensive hiking trails, and numerous petroglyphs and archaeological sites. The Archipelago of Solentiname, a paradise of islands in the southern part of Lake Nicaragua, is home to a world-renowned artists colony, which was also an important center of resistance to the Somoza dictatorship. The Pacific beaches to the west, pristine rainforests to the east, and the Costa Rican border to the south are all within easy reach.

Mombacho Volcano Reserve

Visit the biological station and visitor's center at the top of the fascinating Mombacho Volcano. Here you can talk with trained biologists to learn about this unique natural area, or take a guided hike on one of the interpretive trails, watch wildlife, or just relax in the cool cloud enshrined forest.

 

Mombacho Canopy Tours

Located on the side of volano Mombacho are various canopy tours available. This enchanting tropical cloud forest provides fascinating views of Granada, Lake Cocibolca, Las Isletas, Zapatera Island, Volcán Concepción and Maderas on Ometepe.

 

Pueblos Blancos

Extreme Forest Park w/visit to Savegre WaterfallsThe groups of 'pueblos' that make up "the white towns" provide the tourist with an opportunity to learn about the Pre-Columbian roots found in Nicaragua. During the visit to one town in particular, San Juan del Oriente, participants will have a hands on ceramics presentation and learn how families are still using the same techniques as their ancestors did many years ago.

 

Laguna de Apoyo/Apoyo Lagoon

Nicaragua’s cleanest, bluest, and deepest swimming hole is this 48-square-kilometer body of water trapped inside the crater of the Apoyo Volcano. The deepest measured point (200 meters) is the lowest point in all of Central America. The Monkey Hut Hostel is located right on the water and has kayaks, inner tubes, hammocks, grills, a beautiful property and a floating dock to swim out to and rest on.

 

Masaya Volcano National Park

Nicaragua's first national park, just north of Masaya, is predominantly a volcanic landscape; its active craters being the main attraction. An endemic species of green parakeets nest in the crater walls, producing one of many unique ecological experiences the park has to offer.

There are numerous trails around the park that offer spectacular views. A 15-30 minute hike up to the left of the craters for terrific views towards the lake and Mombacho. You can drive or hike through a moonscape of barren lava fields to the edge of the fuming 2000-foot wide crater of Masaya Volcano, making it the most accessible active volcano in Central America.

 

San Juan del Sur

This sleepy little beach town can come alive on weekends and for special events, like the first International Youth Surf Competition. Enjoy amazing sunsets, a quiet little bay to swim, and amazing seafood. From town, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get to some of the best surf beaches on the Pacific coast.

   
 

Ometepe Island

Home of two volcanoes, Madera and Concepción, you'll find rare orchids and flowers, exotic wildlife, like the endemic Mombacho salamander and the white-faced and howler monkeys. There are more than 175 species of birds, 6 kilometers of trails with interpretation provided and a biological station with lodging.

 

Charco Verde on Ometepe Island

This hostel is a leader in sustainability practices on the island with an organic farm and recycling programs. It sits on a quiet beach next to a lagoon surrounded by a forest.

   

Leon

Boasting Latin America's largest cathedral, Leon was the capital of Nicaragua before Managua. It has a similar comfortable feel to it like Granada, but with a university in town, it feels a lot busier during the day. The architecture is similar to Granada with beautiful tiled roofed homes and various cathedrals in town. Leon is also home to Ruben Dario, the leading modernist poet of his time, and once can visit him home and a museum dedicated to him in town.

   

Frequently Asked Questions

But first, an excellent article on Nicaraguan history, politics, and public image as well as a comparison to its neighbor to the south, Costa Rica.

Is it safe to travel in Nicaragua?
There are inherent risks with traveling anywhere. If we thought Nicaragua were not safe, we would not be traveling there. This is where choosing the right travel company is key. The perception in the United States is a result of politics, media and a lack of information. Many people remember the US involvement in Nicaragua as well as the economic sanctions against them. A popular belief is that since Nicaragua had a civil war in the 1980s that it must still be dangerous. This is simply not the case. Our number one priority at Travel to Learn is the safety of our participants. We take all precautions to ensure that all of our programs are safe and that we have emergency procedures in place.

What is the weather like?
poastWe travel to Nicaragua during our summer months of June and July, which is their winter and it’s hot, humid and rainy. It can be 85F with 70-80% humidity. We also travel in December and January when it's their summer and it's typically still hot but not as humid. Many times mornings are nice and the rains come in the afternoon but the best bet is to always carry rain gear because you never know! That's half the fun of traveling!

What is the food like?
poastA basic Nicaraguan dish includes meat, rice, beans, and a salad. There are plenty of Nicaragua dishes which may remind you of other Latin American food but for the most part there is very little food that you have never seen. We like to eat at a variety of restaurants to give everyone a sampling of authentic Nica dishes. Fruits and fresh fruit juices as well as seafood are quite abundant. One can typically find vegetarian dishes but be open-minded about your food choices and you will do just fine.

Is it safe to drink the water?
poastMost municipal water sources are filtered. However, as is common when traveling, we may not be accustomed to the bacteria in the local water and so drinking it may result in digestive issues. Typically this may last a couple of days and does not require any medication. It is best to always ask if water is filtered before ordering even a drink with ice. As Travel to Learn is a company dedicated to ethical use of natural resources, we cannot recommend buying water bottles, but this is an option. Some travelers bring their own water filters and fill up their own containers so as not to put more plastic bottles in landfills or oceans.

Related Links
Become familiar with the history of Nicaragua.
Article: Nicaraguan Safety: Is Nicaragua's Negative Image Justified?
Article: The Rediscovery of Nicaragua

Isn't that Sandinista guy back in power?
Yes, Daniel Ortega was elected President of Nicaragua in November of 2006. If elections are any indication of a country's stability, then according to the seemingly uneventful election, Nicaragua is in fact, quite stable. Jimmy Carter was present throughout the elections representing the Carter Center election observation team. The Nicaraguan Ethics and Transparency observation team gave its blessing reporting a margin of error of about 1.7%. The European Union observation mission reported a "normal" election process. The OAS (Organization of American States) were "satisfied" with the results and reported that 70% of the Nicaraguans eligible to vote did so.
Reports and interviews say Daniel Ortega is looking to move the country forward.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/world/americas/president-daniel-ortega-poised-to-win-third-term-in-nicaragua.html

Where is Nicaragua?
Nicaragua is in Central America, north of Costa Rica and south of Honduras.

How long does it take to get there?
From Phoenix it usually takes a total of 6 hours on a plane with a stop in either Houston, Atlanta, or Miami. From the capital city of Managua, it's an hour drive to Granada, where we will spend the majority of our trip.

 

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 All photographs copyright of Carlos Bill and ©Travel To Learn LLC