Traveling in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is a small country with a colorful culture that is reflected in its unique history. Going back to its roots, the Nicaraguan people can be seen as being derived from three major groups of people, these cultures are the Spanish, the British and its indigenous people. Today, the country experiences the benefits of diversity through its wisdom.
Geographically, Nicaragua is anything but typical. Its landscapes are as visually rich as its intriguing and troubled history. Its volcanoes and numerous bodies of water have served as backdrops for important poetical movements such as Modernism. It is a land that overflows with natural lushness and splendor, you can travel from one ocean to the other by sticking to its waterways. The two major events that have marked the Nicaraguan society are Sandino´s fight against the United Stated in the early Twentieth century and the Sandinist Revolution against the dictator Somoza in the 1970´s.
130,668 km2 / 50,451 sq mi
5,675,356 (July 2007)
Nicaragua is mostly an unexplored territory, however, there are cities where you can delve into the country´s past and lush scenery.
- Managua (capital; approx. pop. 927,087)
- León (approx. pop. 184,041)
- Granada (approx. pop. 117,569)
- Matagalpa (approx. pop. 480,000)
- Masaya (approx. pop. 139,701)
Some great photos of Nicaragua.
Although the city is the largest in the country, it isn´t the city itself which draws in tourism but its grand surroundings. This is because of the turbulent relationship that this capital has had with earthquakes. Nature enthusiasts can choose from numerous points of interest such as the volcanoes and the lakes such as Lake Xolotlan.
Parque Historico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa What marks this popular attraction in people´s minds is the Sandino´s somber silhouette, however, this is also a great place to go to if you´d like to delve into some Nicaraguan history. This historic park used to be the Casa Presidencial and was home to Sandino and his men until they were executed in the year 1934. Here, you can also visit what used to be one of the most well-known prisons in the country. In the end, this is really the home of a revolutionary memorial and pays homage to those who fought hard. It is not too surprising to see why, once you´re there in person, taking in all the wonderful landscapes and lakeside views.
Huellas de Acahualinca JMiners were the first to come across these fossilized tracks way back in 1874. They record the paths of animals as well as people, when they passed through the muddy shores 6,000 years ago. You can learn all about it by partaking in a complimentary tour. Since its discovery it has become a small treasure trove of research for archeologists who have unearthed ceramics and artifacts. And if you like this sort of thing, you can also pay a visit to the on-site museum which features human bones, including skulls, and different ceramics and tracks that have been found.
Plaza de la Revolucion Just over a century old, this plaza was inaugurated by a national hero, General Jose Santos Zetaya, who famously fought against American powers. As such the plaza has seen, and continues to see, numerous demonstrations, national events and protests. The plaza features a palace built by President Juan Bautista Sacasa which is home to the National Museum, National Library and National Archives. It’s the idyllic destination for history buffs who can examine authentic pre-Columbian artifacts as well as moving murals made by national artists.
Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve This reserve serves as the perfect opportunity to become seriously acquainted with the nature that makes Nicaragua wonderful. An expert guide can inform you about the variety of ecosystems in place and help you identify the different wildlife, including monkeys, lizards and colorful birds. A popular activity is to zip line above the rainforest while you become surrounded by nature´s voices and images. Bring your camera, as you can capture some awesomely grand panoramic moments. The dormant volcano is definitely worthy of photography as it offers views of Lake Nicaragua and Granada.
Acahualinca Museum This neighborhood is a place of contrast as it is one of the oldest yet most interesting places in Managua. Tourists visit regularly as the barrio center features a modest community center which houses pre-Columbian artifacts that have been discovered in the surrounding areas. After the museum you can actually go on a short hike to see fossilized footprints with your own eyes.
Laguna de Tiscapa What was once a very popular place for Nicaraguans to visit, the Laguna de Tiscapa is situated in a very interesting place, the crater of old Volcano Tiscapa. It is also located right between New and Old Managua and has a grand canopy line that starts from the top of the volcano.
Lake Managua´s Malecon If you ask locals where to take a date, they may very well suggest this small promenade that has local restaurants facing the shores of the lake. It´s a relaxing place to take a date after a long day of sight-seeing.
Hotel Casa Naranja Despite being a small hotel, this lodging is sure to leave an impression. It maintains a charming colonial theme that is perfect for settling down after a long day of walking and touring. In the mornings, you will be pleased to find that you are at a prime starting point for getting to know the city. As a matter of fact, you will be strongly encouraged to wander about as it is in a very safe and centralized position. Every morning you can also start out by partaking in a varied breakfast and perhaps a dip in the pool.
Hotel La Pyramide Hotel La Pyramide is the kind of hotel you´d appreciate seeing after a long day of tourism. While it is small, it is very well kept and maintains a relaxing and welcoming disposition. The owner is very hands on and is more than willing to help you make your trip special. It´s conveniently located and aspires to make each patron´s stay as comfortable as possible.
Hotel Boutique Villa Maya When many people think “vacation,” they think of a place like this hotel. It is vibrant, very tastefully decorated and puts the visitors first. You can also count on great views of adjoining natural splendor that may be admired from an inviting swimming pool. When you look out of a window you are inspired to make your vacation count! In terms of location, it is quite conveniently situated from numerous businesses and you can walk to numerous places without much difficulty. If you need any help, you can ask the devoted staff for any assistance or direction and they´ll be happy to assist.
Hilton Princess Managua As many can attest, the Hilton chain is very reliable and offers quality lodging. The accommodations are always kept clean and offer comfortable set ups. This hotel is also very convenient as it boasts a buffet breakfast as well as a centric location.
Doña Pilar If you want to go where the locals go, you can´t go wrong with this old neighborhood grill. Many people keep coming back for the juicy and succulent barbecue chicken dishes that include enchiladas and tacos. With fresh vegetables as well, it´s Nicaraguan all the way.
Marea Alta Translated as High Tide, this restaurant has plenty of choices to satisfy seafood lovers of all kinds. It´s a local favorite, in part because it’s nestled in the heart of the bar district and is the perfect stopover between drinks. So enjoy a fish dish or a good old hamburger, because everything here is delicious.
Intermezzo del Bosque This is a special place to go for dinner, and not just because of its quality grilled dishes, but because of its location. The restaurant overlooks the city and the lake from a forested hillside that affords beautiful dinner views. It´s a great place to mark a particularly fruitful day as it boasts lovely modern dinning design as well as live music. Food items are beautifully presented and range from seafood bathed in pasta to grilled meats. This is the type of place you´d like to unwind in and perhaps drink or eat the night away.
Don Candido Located in Managua´s Metrocentro, in a residential neighborhood, Don Candido is a quality steakhouse that appears as though it belongs in New York City. Its decor is tranquil and pleasing with bare brick walls and leather seating. Most of the place is earth toned and it offers guests an appealingly elegant atmosphere, complete with Nicaraguan Art. Any hunger can be overcome here and you can choose from 25 different cuts of beef, including the world famous T-bone steak. You can also choose from an appetizing variety of starters such as a sausage platter with roasted vegetables.
Santa Lucia Culinary Institute Santa Lucia Culinary Institute is a quality restaurant that is directed by a Nicaraguan celebrity chef and doubles as a school for the culinary arts. But it’s so much more than just a restaurant. There´s also a grill house, cafe, cocktail bar and in-house bakery. You can dine in an open dining area that is charming, yet relaxed in its demeanor. This leads to its aesthetic pleasantness with a combination of both modern and classic Nicaraguan styles. This helps keep things fresh and visually engrossing. Food options are quite varied, and include local as well as international dishes. Many popular dishes are mostly comprised of sea food dishes. There´s plenty to choose from.
Managua tours and day trips This is a great place to start if you´d like to partake in the most famous attractions that Managua has to offer. Even something as simple as finding a place to eat can become a precious dining experience with the right references. For fun, you can book a cruise, inquire about upcoming night time activities, or just hop on a bus to tour around. The possibilities are quite extensive and you owe it to yourself and fellow travelers to be aware of your travel options.
Intur People who like the adventure part of vacationing can choose from a number of excursion opportunities. Everything from volcano country to safaris that allow you to capture the wildlife intimately. Experienced hikers, however, should head out to the remote Marena Central Office. There you can inquire about the best trails and natural wonders to discover.
You can step back in time with a visit to Leon where you can walk along architecture that has stood for centuries since the city was founded in the 1500´s. It certainly has a unique history as it was founded after a volcano erupted in the area in the early 17th century. Its buildings look like they came out of a book and show different designs to inspect in person, especially in the area known as León Viejo which is now a national monument.
Poneloya and Las Penitas Beaches You can experience the same relaxation as a spa when you go out to the beach towns near León that can make a trip truly unforgettable.
Hot Springs of San Jacinto It´s a no brainer for many tourists who are just a short drive away in Leon to check out the bubbling mud pits of San Jacinto. Their healing powers are widely known and are nestled in a beautiful backdrop that will surely ease your worries.
León Viejo A place like Leon Viejo can leave you speechless, and it is no wonder that it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can imagine all kinds of excavations going on that help to shed light on the nature and lifestyles of old inhabitants.
Cerro Negro Volcano You´ll find more people at this volcano than any other in the area as it offers plentiful panoramic views of the Asososco Lake.
La Perla Hotel This isn´t your average hotel, and it has this intention to serve its patrons well and with plenty of visual and physical comfort. It has style, and it is quite attractive due to its centralized position in the city. Every morning, you can awake to a prepared breakfast and contemplate interesting places nearby that you would like to visit.
Hotel El Convento Hotel El Convento makes you think about old times, perhaps even magical ones. Being an old convent is a great feature that can leave you pondering about how life used to be. As you walk through the maze of lush vegetation you can think about how best to seize the day. An appetite can be no problem at all if you decide to dine in the restaurant. Breakfast is included and can make a morning something peaceful to enjoy before a day of sightseeing.
Hotel La Perla What sets this hotel apart is its large appearance. In fact it’s a colonial mansion that has been worked on throughout the years. Its American owners take special care of the property and have set it up in a very pleasing manner. All different kinds of travelers are sure to feel accommodated as the room sizes and dynamics are quite open to selection.
Hotel Los Balcones de León If you want something charming, you can choose something like this hotel which has a Colonial theme. Colonial touches carry across and include a courtyard that is great for beholding a beautiful morning before a big and tiring day. It is distinguished by its wooden staircase and a social and spacious communal balcony.
Mediterraneo Don´t come here if you want a quiet night. Mediterraneo´s colors and constant humming music are just a hint of what´s in store. After all it is a fairly large property where you can walk around at your own pace. Art works distributed throughout are sure to stimulate your appetite for a pasta dish or tapas. There´s even a long wine list.
Restaurante La Perla Quality is basically synonymous with this restaurant that is both elegant and delicious. A date here is sure to be enjoyable as there are so many different types of dishes, including pate and smoked salmon.
Volcano Mombacho Just a short drive from the city of Granada and with a high point of 1,400 meters, Volcano Mombacho is the perfect destination for photogenic hikes and tours of rainforest. It´s also a must to visit Lake Cocibolca which is close to numerous islets.
Parque Central Many people end up spending most of a day in the Parque Central as it has so much you can see just by walking. Wonderfully preserved colonial buildings make a summer day truly beautiful and you can examine them between trips to stores with clothes and arts and crafts. Or you can just simply sit down at a cafe to read up on the history of the city.
The Isletas of Granada The Isletas are very numerous, numbering in the hundreds and are a geological product of the seismic activity in the region. This is partly the reason why you can encounter all kinds of wildlife while going with a tour guide.
Volcan Masaya In terms of grandeur, Masaya has them beat in size. This is the first and largest national park in Nicaragua and hosts many visitors interested in checking out the crater which can be described historically in a nearby museum.
Hotel Casa San Francisco Those travelers who like to pay attention to detail while they are at their hotel, will find plenty to gaze a while staying at this quality hotel with a very pleasing ambiance.
Granada Home Rental For long term stays, the finest and first apartment complex in Granada can do no wrong. With a selection of useful amenities, an observation deck and a large swimming pool, you can look forward to coming home.
Casa Cubana Many travelers come to this hotel because of its convenient location, but there´s much more to Casa Cubana. It has been impressively restored from an older look that makes it the perfect intimate getaway right in the heart of the city.
Casa del Consulado Hotel Although this hotel only has 6 luxury rooms, it makes sure that they are well equipped. You can bask in the comfort of a private pool, a giant TV screen and even a spa.
Hotel La Pergota If you like your stays in hotel to be special you may find this one to be just the ticket. The original colonial house was built in the 19th century and has been carefully restored to glorify the architectural sensibilities of the region. Its location is also quite great as it is only a minute´s walk from Central Park as well as the lake.
The Garden Cafe The Garden Café is a great place if you´d like to have a good time, and not pay a fortune to have it. Here you can find live music and indulge in savory, filling meals.
Bistro Estrada Elegance within a relaxed setting can be found here and you can look forward to a broad selection of flavors and desserts.
Kathy’s Waffle House After a long night of drinking and seeing what nightlife in Granada has to offer you can awake to delicious and freshly prepared American staples at this waffle house.
Kiosco Modesta When checking out this place during the week, you will find a number of people eager to dine here. It is not too hard to see why when you take a gander at the menu which offers all kinds of tasty choices. From cabbage salad to pork chops, you are sure to enjoy your experience.
El Camelio If you want to steer away from central American cuisine you can´t go wrong with El Camello where you can savor exquisite Middle Eastern dishes such as lamb stew and fallafel.
Anyone who likes extreme sports is sure to like this town at the foot of one of Nicaraguas mountain ranges. Many people come here to hike and take in the gorgeous wilderness that preserved nature can afford.
Castillo Cacao A sweet tooth is the best thing to have when seeing for yourself the many delights of organic chocolate, especially through cooking workshops that are featured. Everything here is made with fresh cacao beans and smells quite pleasing.
Casa Cuna de Carlos Fonseca It will help to read into the history of Nicaragua, and particularly its revolution, to try to capture properly the significance of this small adobe building where the martyr Carlos Fonseca was born.
Hacienda El Quezal If you love admiring nature at its most majestic or quite simply beautiful, then you are sure to find the sweeping hills filled with tall trees at this hacienda satisfactory. There´s all kinds of colorful vegetation that adjoins this 170-hectare coffee farm.
Cerro Apante Natural Reserve Spending time outdoors isn´t just for those who can hike for hours, and the most popular trail in Malagalpa can prove it. Twenty minutes of walking is all it takes to head into this reserve. There are more challenging options as well, the more you put into it, the more rewarding the experience.
Finca Esperanza Verde Finca Esperanza Verde is a farm that serves the country as a model for mindful tourism as well as sustainable agricultural methods. The property itself is a great opportunity to just stroll and walk around. You may stumble into a waterfall or the butterfly farm. A great learning experience in the green sense, you can see how a farm can be run efficiently while basking in the lush green ambience of rainforest abound.
Hotel Lomas de San Tomás To treat yourself, and other as well, you shouldn´t avoid checking out this hilltop hotel. It looks inviting as it has a somewhat colonial style that serves as a convenient theme. Brick arches, a C-shaped gallery, a central courtyard and great views that are ideal for picture taking, this hotel is all about relaxation and having plenty of comfort space.
Selva Negra Mountain Resort A special vacation awaits you at this large resort which is sure to appeal to travelers of all sorts. Younger people are sure to enjoy walking around a farm or going on a horseback tour. A back dropped mountain sets the mood for nature and exploration and you can head out on your own small journey.
El Pullazo If you want to dine like the Nicaraguans do, El Pullazo is a good way to go. At this restaurant you can find authentic dishes that utilize authentic ingredients. This is also a great place if you are quite hungry as a very varied buffet is prepared daily.
La Vita e Bella Sometimes when you are traveling you miss your favorite foods. If your favorite food is Italian, La Vita has you covered.
El Disparate de Potter This isn´t your average restaurant, but you can surely find a Nicarguan dish to tempt you. In addition to offering fine regional cuisine, there are also beautiful countryside views.
Hotel San Tomas A lot of people keep coming back to this hotel for the setting. Not only does it feature gorgeous natural views, but it maintains a tasteful and spacious atmosphere that tired travelers are sure to find welcoming.
In the minds of many Nicaraguan people, Masaya is synonymous with shopping, and this is because there is just so much of it. It´s also a very tourist friendly town and is known for having great, almost wild parties that young folks can´t get enough of. Masaya is a great place to get to know intimately on foot. You can stroll through the lovely waterfront promenade and old fort. The Masaya Volcano is known as an exciting place to visit and has a number of villages around it that offer different hand-worked pieces of art.
Coyotepe Fort You may get an odd feeling as you tour around Coyotepe Fort, and that wouldn´t be too surprising considering it hasn´t had the nicest experiences here. Political prisoners used to be held here and it has a close connection to the bloody revolution.
Volcán Masaya National Park One really great thing about this immense, volcano-filled park, is that you don´t have to be an outdoorsman to head out and enjoy it. There is a very efficient and extensive system of trails that add up to 20 kilometers. You can start at the visitor´s center and then go on to make your way through lava pits and a lake.
Museo y Galería de Héroes y Mártires To truly understand Nicaragua as it is today, you have to understand the revolution. That´s one of the purposes of this small museum where you can learn about the strategic importance of Masaya and how it really helped the rebels right up to their victory.
Hotel Ivani´s In a way, this hotel has all you could expect while on vacation. A great staff that offer´s timely service, a conveniently centralized location and even its own restaurant with authentic Nicaraguan dishes.
Hotel Madera´s Inn This hotel may be somewhat simple, but therein lies its attraction. Originally a modern house, it has been transformed into a hotel that prides itself in offering great customer service and an unwound atmosphere.
La Cazuela de Don Nacho La Cazuela de Don Nacho is a great place to go to in order to delve into the culture. Feel the rhythms of Nicaraguan music and partake in delicious food items the way the locals do.
La Jarochit To get a taste of Mexico, come here and order the very popular tortilla soup or filling chimichangas.
La Rhonda Masaya has a lively nightlife, and you can get a real feel for this while you´re having a drink at what´s considered by many to be the most popular bar in the city.
El Bucanero Here you can enjoy the view as much as the friendly social environment that has been cultivated for visitors to enjoy.
Considering how hard it is to find pristine coastline, this place, located on the Atlantic Ocean, is sure to catch the attention of many vacation goers. It features great spots for snorkeling and there’s a good chance you will catch your own fish.
Río San Juan
Río San Juan is a place where you can find historical significance as pirates traveled here looking for treasure. San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua create exuberant vegetation that will impress all kinds of travelers.
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of this island is that it is on a lake. It has two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas. Both are home to nature reserves and Maderas Volcano even has mysterious clouds that are always present.
Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge
Animal enthusiasts in particular will appreciate a trip to Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge. It has monkeys, crocodiles and an impressive array of birds which will fascinated even those not interested in bird watching. It comprises numerous small lakes and rivers which contribute to create magnificent wetlands.
Immaculada Conception Castle
Originally built by the Spanish, this castle was key to protecting the villages as pirates attacked the coast. Its historic significance lies in the fact that the British seeking to take over the cities of León and Granada were defeated here. The best way to know more about this historical event is to visit the museum housed in this 17th century castle.
This archipelago is home to some of the most traditional artisans in the country. The landscape is inspiring and visitors should travel to Manacarrón to get immersed in its lush flora. One of the most popular islands is San Fernado where visitors can get a taste of the history of the region at the museum.
Greytown, The Lost City
This area has an interesting history. Way back in the mid-19th century it earned a reputation as a passageway for those who were after Californian gold. There was even an effort at one point to make a canal that connected the two oceans. It failed but the remains of that attempt can still be seen.
The Indio Maíz Biological Reserve
If you walk a guided tour here you can learn about the jaguars and pumas and many other species of animals that have made this reserve their home for millions of years. Birdwatchers will be happy to know that the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve is the home to an unprecedented number of birds.
Nicaragua Travel Links
Here are some links that we've found useful in planning our travels in Nicaragua.