Known as the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes if you never considered Nicaragua as a vacation destination, I guarantee you will change your mind once you realize all there is to offer in this culturally rich Central American country.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Julio Flores a private guide from CAST Central America who represents Nicaragua. As a freelance guide for the past twenty years, he is a wealth of knowledge and a perfect choice to be my eyes and ears on the ground there. He loves to show people what makes his country so inviting – from the history and culture to the volcanoes, lakes, beaches and more.
Let’s take a further look at all of what Julio says makes him so enormously proud to be Nicaraguan.
Destinations: Nicaragua is 50,338 square miles and is divided into three regions – the Pacific Region, the Central Region and the Atlantic Region.
So yes – that is way cool, but you can also spot something hot not too far away in the small town of San Jacinto which is about a half an hour outside of León. Here you will come across some hot springs, but these are not for swimming! They are more like little geysers where you witness both water and mud boiling – thanks to the volcanic activity of the area! These boiling mud pools are an untouched part of Nicaragua that are a lesser-known wonder of the nature that exists here but oh so worth checking out.
Now if volcano sand boarding is not your speed – pun intended – there are plenty of other outdoor activities to take part in – such as kayaking, horseback riding and hiking. And speaking of hiking a wonderful place to trek is the Mombacho Volcano – which is unique in that it is surrounded by a cloud forest. Just 20 minutes from the oldest city in the country – Granada - it features trails where you can spot all types flora – think orchids and ferns and more – as well as wildlife – like howler monkeys, spider monkeys and white face monkeys - and insects such as butterflies. And the view from the top is a stunning one of the archipelago of small islands that surround it. And to get up close and personal to those little islands which are located on Lake Nicaragua you can kayak around them – or sit back and relax on a boat tour. Either way there is great bird watching including egrets, herons, kingfishers, osprey and more as there are over 700 species of birds in Nicaragua! Fun Fact: Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America and the second largest lake in Latin America. You can also go zip lining at the volcano where you will find yourself flying over plantations, spotting monkeys and getting fantastic views of other parts of country.
Now here is an interesting fun fact – a decade ago Nicaragua was not known for cigars – but cut to present day and Julio proudly boasts that they have some of the best cigars in the world. So good in fact that last year they received five out of the best ten cigars in the world awards! And they even host an annual cigar festival each year. Julio credits this to several factors including the fabulous climate, the fertile volcanic soil - both of which allow them to grow really premium tobacco - and now the experience of the residents who are producing the product – the industry employees over 40,000! And guess what - their main market is the United States as over 80% of their entire production goes to the US. Another great tour that you can participate in is actually centered around these very cigars. On this excursion you’ll get to view the large fields filled with the tobacco leaves and then visit the cigar factory where you will learn all about the process of making these fabulous cigars and get to watch them rolling the cigars by firsthand.
Thanks to pristine clear blue water and white sand beaches this is a great beach destination as well. And there’s a coral reef on this side making for amazing snorkeling and scuba diving. Bonus - thanks to less inhabitants and more space - do I even need to say??? - great for social distancing!
More Sightseeing and Activities: In addition to what I touched on above there are numerous opportunities to connect with the locals.
There are local cooking classes that you can join that feature all fresh ingredients coming from the small parcels where it’s grown organically – not huge farms – just small family plots. What a fabulous opportunity to learn and cook alongside the inhabitants of the country and get a feel of what it is like to live there.
Once you go outside the cities you will find that the locals live very simple– yet very happy lives. You’ll find horse carts, ox carts, people riding horses, people going from community to community carrying wood for fires and carting foods like bananas and rice and beans. And that is the beauty of Nicaragua - when you go outside of the cities you get to witness up close and personal just how the people live in the rural areas.
Per Julio - one of the most eye-opening experiences you can have in Nicaragua is visiting the island of Ometepe. Ometepe is home to two volcanoes and about 40,000 residents. As you are approaching the island via ferry you will immediately see why this is an experience like no other as you get a glimpse of the townspeople washing their clothes in the lake as cattle stand next to them drinking from it. And Julio noted that it is like going back in time 100 years when you step foot on this island.
Gastronomy: Read on to get an idea of the delicious and unique types of food you will be exposed to while visiting Nicaragua.
Culture: There are a lot of cultural experiences to be had in Nicaragua. In fact, there are 153 municipalities in the country, and each one has a celebration for the patron saint of their municipality - leading to 153 different experiences right off the bat! Although we have already touched on some culture immersions - here are so more worth noting.
Accommodations: You will need a place to lay your head while visiting the country. Here are a few Julio highlighted.
Hotel Morgan’s Rock: Located on the Pacific side of the country Hotel Morgan’s Rock is a secluded property plopped right in the middle of nature. Here you can do yoga, hike or just lay on the beach and listen to the sounds of nature – like singing birds and crashing waves. And its size is also perfect for social distancing and privacy with just 15 bungalows on the property. Sounds like the perfect wellness experience to me!
Hotel Jicaro Lodge: Jicaro – where this property is located - is actually one of the 365 islands on the archipelago on Lake Nicaragua - which means you are going to have amazing views of the Mombacho Volcano. This is another accommodation where you will be right smack dab in the middle of nature and will also have a front row view to amazing sunsets. There’s also a spa, a fabulous deck where yoga classes are held and a beautiful spot for romantic dinners. What a great atmosphere for a proposal, vow renewals or a destination wedding at sunset!
Hotel Yemaya: This fabulous, secluded property located on Little Corn Island is the perfect escape from the noisiness of the city. And since it is on the Caribbean side you will be surrounded by turquoise blue water and the white sand. Picture waking up in your room facing the ocean – sounds like paradise to me! Oh, and for my wellness peeps – what a great spot to hold a retreat - we can definitely put something together here for you! And once again - since it’s on the Caribbean side - its off the beaten path and there are fewer people.
Best Time to Visit: Per Julio anytime from December to mid-May is best time to visit Nicaragua and specifically in November, December and January you’ll find it very lush and green and also very warm. February, March, April and May it will get warmer still and also a little bit dryer but there is still plenty of bright blue sky, striking beaches and flowers in bloom. Rainy season occurs from mid-May through August - but Julio assured us that just means it rains mainly in the afternoon, maybe three days a week and only for about an hour - so there is also plenty of warmth and sunshine even in rainy season!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Nicaragua.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date entry requirements for Nicaragua click here.
That brings us to the end of our journey to Nicaragua. Surprised at how much there is to see and do here? I was and I cannot wait to visit and would love to have you join me. For more details on things to see and do, where to stay, it’s price points and more - contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!
During the shutdown of Covid19, Loulu Lima began interviewing many tourism boards, destination management companies and suppliers whom BHGH works with in the curation of your itineraries.