There’s plenty to keep the adventurous traveller occupied. So why then don’t more people visit?
Because for many years, the images of revolution, guerrillas, gunfire of warring rebel groups known as contras, were the only things we ever saw of Nicaragua, a memory which has endured, despite coming to an end in the late 90s. But for those that do visit, they will discover a country that is actually among the safest in Central America.
The capital, Managua, may be a little too frantic for many, but the elegant town of Leon offers a fascinating look at the country’s history.
The picture perfect colonial cobbled streets of Granada will also appeal to most, as will the splattering of islets, known as Las Isletas, that lie within nearby Lago de Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. In the centre of its watery serenity is Ometepe Island, where you’ll find the vast cone of Volcan Concepcion.
After all, this is known as the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes. With many more to discover, and so much more besides, this is fast becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations around.
Places to Visit in Nicaragua
- San Juan del Sur
- Corn Islands
Unique Things to See and Do in Nicaragua
- Hike the volcanoes of Ometepe Island on Lago de Nicaragua
- Island hop the tropical Corn Islands
- Explore the national park of Miraflores near Esteli
- Surf the waves of the Pacific Coast
- Discover the colonial history of Nicaragua in Granada and Leon
Tapping into the Nicaraguan Beat
If you want to get a real feel for Nicaragua, then its music and dance traditions are a great place to start. Greatly influenced by the country’s history, music and dance fuse Spanish instruments and styles with those of the Indigenous population.
Its national instrument, the marimba, is made of wood or metal with sound created when its keys are struck with mallets. Although this instrument is also found in other Central American countries, here it is played by a seated performer who holds the instrument on his knees. It’s most popular in the central and western departments of the country, where it is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, a guitar and a guitarrilla.
Over on the Atlantic coast, music has more of an Afro-Caribbean feel with energetic rhythms which are best experienced during the Palo de Mayo Festival which takes place in Bluefield.
Music in Nicaragua is often used to accompany dramatic performances, the majority of which take place during town festivals. Common themes that are portrayed during these are drawn from the colonial era with ‘El Gigante’ dramatizing the conflict of the natives with the Spanish conquistadors and ‘El Gueguense’ which is a mockery of the Spaniards. In fact, the latter play has been declared an important representation of Nicaraguan folklore by UNESCO which in 2005 called it a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
Getting Around Nicaragua
Renting a car can be the best way of getting around, particularly if beach hopping is your flavour. But bear in mind that road signs can be less than reliable and lighting at night is a little lacking.
If you prefer someone else to take the wheel then super cheap intercity buses can usually be caught at the local market (proper terminals are pretty rare). Or you can hire a taxi for some long-distance journeys – be sure to agree the fare at the start.
Did you know…?
The name “Nicaragua” was coined by Spanish colonists based on the name “Nicarao”, chief of the most populous indigenous tribe.
Did you ALSO know…?
The Sandinista overthrowing of Anastasio Somoza in 1979 ended the family’s 42-year dictatorship. Nicaragua then came under the control of a junta. The subsequent civil war between the Sandinista regime and the US-funded rebels, known as contras, raged for eight years before coming to an end in 1988.
Best time of year to travel to Nicaragua
The dry season which runs from November through to May offers the best conditions for visiting Nicaragua, although temperatures during this time can be extremely hot, particularly in April and May.
The rainy season falls between June and the end of October. This can make it harder to get around the country, as many of the roads are not properly surfaced.
Ready to plan your visit to Nicaragua? Check out these popular guides and trips.