Dubbed the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, Nicaragua offers so much to the curious traveller, from the beautiful and historic city of Grenada, the superb yet remote surfing opportunities along the Southern Pacific Coast and the chance to hike the mighty San Cristóbal Volcano.
Challenge yourself with a Volcano climb (or five!)
The best place to test your climbing mettle is amongst the lush and active Maribios Volcano Chain, which comprises the biggest volcano of them all; San Cristóbal. Within the chain are the five volcanoes of San Cristóbal (1745 meters), Momotombo (1258 m), Telica (1060 meters), Pilas (983 meters) and Cerro Negro (450 m). Hire a local guide and get climbing amongst the breathtaking and serene landscape of crater lakes and hit springs. The Northern Pacific Coast is one of the most volcanic areas on earth which may account for the fact that the famous Flor de Caña rum is produced here!
Explore the cultural capital of Granada
Grenada rivals Leon in the cultural stakes, although Grenada is actually the oldest colonial city within Nicaragua. This rich tapestry of history has left behind a wealth of Spanish Colonial beauty with exquisite architecture and traditional culture on display at every turn. There are 6 notable churches within Grenada and the Iglesia de Mercid dates back to 1539 and is possibly
the most beautiful. Climb the bell tower for stunning panoramic views. And for respite from the city’s humidity, head to one of Grenada’s 354 tropical islets – after all there’s one for each day of the year!
Tackle the Mombacho Volcano
When all the culture of Grenada gets too much, stretch your legs in the beautifully lush Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve just 10km outside of the city. Here Mombacho rises to 1344 metres and features a mystical cloud forest. There are 4 cloud forest craters and 3 different walking trails; El Cafetal Trail (easy), El Cráter Trail (medium grade) and El Puma Trail (challenging). Throughout the reserve there are superb bird spotting opportunities as well as the change to spot white face and howler monkeys, deer and various reptiles including the endemic Mombacho salamander.
Soak up more colonial history in Leon
Named after Leon in Spain, this city in Nicaragua has almost as much colonial heritage as Grenada, yet receives a lot less visitors. So if quaint churches, historic squares and handsome architecture are your thing, then Leon is your city! Leon’s claim to fame is that it’s home to the only 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nicaragua; the 16th century Ruins of León Viejo and León Cathedral. Ecclesiastical enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that there are 13 key churches in Leon including the impressive León Cathedral, which is the biggest cathedral within Central America. Completed between 1747 and the early 19th century, the highly decorative cathedral perfectly encapsulates the Spanish Gothic architecture of the period. The Iglesia San Juan Bautista de Subtiava is possibly the oldest church in the city and features an ornate
wooden altar. See the European and Latin American art masters’ works on display at the Fundacion Ortiz Museum, absorb the art exhibits at the Centro de Arte Museum and learn of the Nicaraguan history at the interesting Museum of Legends and Traditions.
Dip your toe into Managua
The central Capital Region is the most populated is home to the capital city of Nicaragua; Managua. The second most populated city in Central America, Managua is also dubbed the ‘Venice of central America’ as its built upon a series of canals. Although Managua has a much more functional purpose, there are pockets of heritage and culture if you look closely, although many of the buildings were seriously damaged in the severe 1972 earthquake. Browse the Palacio Nacional Museum, aka The National Palace of Culture which details the heritage of the Nahuatl people and their stone sculptures that date back 2,500 years. Explore the ruins of the once statuesque Catedral de Managua and for your own opinion of the modern New Cathedral which was built in 1993 with 63 domes.
Get back to nature on the Isla de Ometepe
Nestled within the inland Lake Nicaragua lies the picturesque Isla de Ometepe which offers the opportunity to really get back to nature. The highlights of Ometepe have to be the two volcanoes that look over the island, one which gently blows plumes of ash over the vicinity. Located in the Southern Pacific Coastal region, this narrow piece of land is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Lago Nicaragua. Travellers come here to explore on horseback, surf the remote spots and hike both Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas. There is also a cooling waterfall that reaches 35meters on the southern side of Maderas. Travel by motorbike or cycle to make the most of your time here.
Explore remote Nicaragua
The far south-eastern region of Nicaragua is the Rio San Juan Region which is truly off the beaten tourist trail. The most undeveloped part of the country attracts only adventurous backpackers. Take a canoe or kayak journey along the Sabalos River. Try fishing or exploring vehicle-free El Castillo and the Solentiname Islands.