Nicaragua is no longer the well-kept secret it used to be. Once a Central American destination for only the most intrepid of souls, today it is an increasingly popular alternative for those travelers disenchanted with the high-rising condos and expat populated towns of Costa Rica and Panama.
Though I still have quite the soft spot for these ‘touristy’ destinations myself, it also comes as no surprise that Nicaragua is captivating all who visit. The country is jam-packed with beautiful attractions, historical appeal and lovely people. But that’s just the start—read on to discover these 6 reasons to love Nicaragua:
1. Colonial Charm
Get lost exploring Granada, one of Central America’s most charming colonial towns. Granada is characterized by its colorful buildings, well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, and delightful location on the banks of Lake Nicaragua. Architecture buffs will enjoy exploring the iconic butter-yellow Granada Cathedral and the wonderful collection of 16th century homes while foodies will never forget trying guapote, or rainbow bass, caught from the local Lake Nicaragua.
Granada was one of the first sizeable Spanish settlements in Nicaragua, but it’s not the only town with colonial charm. Don’t miss colonial Leon, where you’ll find Central America’s largest cathedral.
2. Adventure Activities
Whether its boarding down an active volcano, scuba diving in aquamarine waters, surfing on beautiful beaches or hiking through expansive forests, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping adventures to experience throughout Nicaragua. If you’re keen on an adventure expedition but you’re not sure where to start, Adventure-Nicaragua has a variety of packages and trips on offer. (The company’s commitment to minimal environmental impact makes them a particularly good choice.)
3. Biological Reserves and Parks
Take a trip to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor between July and December for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with Olive Ridley and endangered Leatherback turtles. Or try a trip to Miraflores in northern Nicaragua for an-off-the-beaten-track trek through cloud forests, small farms, rivers and waterfalls. Nomadic Matt claimed Miraflores to be the highlight of his entire Nicaraguan experience! The Indio Maíz Biological Reserve is another popular option, often considered to be one of the best-preserved natural reserves in Nicaragua. No matter which reserve or park you choose to explore, you’re guaranteed a memorable experience.
4. Beaches and Islands
It should come as no surprise that this Central American country offers spectacular beaches and islands on both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts. San Juan del Sur is famous for its sunsets and surfing, while Little Corn Island is often considered to be reason enough to visit Nicaragua.
If you do make the trip to Little Corn, it’s worth it to invest in a quick plane ride rather than an arduous and nauseating boat ride. While there’s a lot to love about Nicaragua, this boat ride is not one of them!
5. The ‘Land of Lakes and Volcanoes’
Nicaragua is known as the ‘land of lakes and volcanoes’ due to its 50 volcanoes, of which 7 are active, and numerous lakes throughout the country. Of particular interest is the renowned Lake Nicaragua, the only freshwater lake in the world known to have sharks. If you’ve ever had the inkling to hike an active volcano and peer into its crater, then this is the country for you.
Typically prices rise in accordance to the influx of travelers. But for the time being, Nicaragua remains a very affordable destination in Central America. Unlike Costa Rica and Panama, guided tours and activities are very inexpensive, often averaging around $20-$30 for a half-day trip. By staying in hostels or guesthouses, eating local food and taking local transportation, it’s easy to make your travel budget stretch here.
Bonus Reason to Love Nicaragua: I promised six reasons to love Nicaragua, but I couldn’t help throwing in just one more! It might sound cliché, but the people of Nicaragua are considered to be some of the friendliest in the world. Take the time to slow down and meet some of the locals on your travels through the country for a particularly memorable experience.
Have you visited Nicaragua? What did you love?