You can see all of Nicaragua’s colonial treasures as you travel in Nicaragua
There is a wealth of amazing sites and activities awaiting those who come to travel in Nicaragua. This Latin American gem, which is slightly smaller than the state of New York, is the largest of the Central American republics and boasts a wonderfully diverse landscape dotted with volcanoes and freshwater lakes. Nicaragua is flanked on its sides by the warm, blue Caribbean waters to the east and the striking Atlantic-made cliffs to the west.
In all honesty, we couldn’t bring you all the tourism wonders of this country in these pages…so we’ll leave that to a guidebook. Instead, we’ll give you a quick snapshot of the places we think you should see:
Our Favorite Quiet, Lakeside Retreat to Visit When You Travel in Nicaragua
If you’re near Lake Apoyo–about 50 minutes from Managua–don’t miss Norome Resort, the beautiful hotel and restaurant tucked in along the shore at the water’s edge between the towns of Masaya and Granada. Built up on the hillside that rises from the lake, Norome offers accommodation in large villas, each with a water view. You can wander down to the dock and swim, canoe, or kayak. Or head uphill with a guide on the trails to watch for monkeys and birds. Prices start from $48 per night. The owner, Eduardo Latorre, will arrange for someone to pick you up from the airport if you need a ride. Contact Norome, tel. (505)886-7123; fax (505)552-2552; website: http://www.noromevillas.com/
The Best All-inclusive Tourism Resort in Central America
The Pacific coast beach of Pochomil is the beach closest to Managua and home to Montelimar, one of the largest tourist resort complexes in Central America with more than two miles of private Pacific beach. Stay here for a relaxing, all-inclusive resort experience…for as little as $100 a night. If you’re investigating property along this coast, this is a great place to take a few days at the end of your trip simply to relax. If you’re concentrating your search close to San Juan del Sur, however, you’re probably best off staying in town there, or you’ll lose lots of time going back and forth. Montelimar Resort, tel. (505)269-6769; fax (505)269-7669.
Exploring Nicaragua’s Intellectual Capital: León
León, the capital of the country for 200 years before Managua was designated, once served as the country’s political, military, cultural, and religious center. It is said that the only reason that Managua was made the capital was because of its location: between the very liberal León and the very conservative Granada. León is still the intellectual capital of the country today, and its municipal library has good collections. The metropolitan cathedral here is considered the most significant colonial structure in all of Central America; many prominent Nicaraguans, including Ruben Dario, are buried inside its walls. Old León was destroyed by an earthquake in 1609 and is being excavated today.
Twelve miles from León is the best beach resort of the region: Poneloya, where the well-stocked streams are popular among fishermen. El Velero, a sandy beach with developed facilities, and beautiful, undeveloped El Transito are both within easy driving distance from León. One place to stay is Hotel Los Balcones, located right in downtown León and 15 minutes away from beautiful beaches; tel. (505)311-0250; fax (505)311-0233; e-mail: email@example.com.
Tourism in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands: Rivers, Lakes, Caves, and Waterfalls
The provinces of Jinotega and Matagalpa in the highlands of central Nicaragua offer lush rainforests…and bird life, ferns, and orchids thrive here. More than 3,000 feet above sea level, this is the coolest part of the country, and its rivers and lakes offer excellent fishing. The northern town of Esteli, surrounded by hills and plateaus, is home to painted stones and archeological relics from pre-Columbian times, as well as a huge cave and waterfall. In Matagalpa, stay at Selva Negra Mountain Resort and Coffee Plantation–”the Black Forest of Nicaragua.” Rates start at $30 per person at the hotel. Bungalow, chalet, and hotel options are also available. The restaurant menu features both Nicaraguan and German fare. Generous buffets are offered from $10. Contact the hotel at tel. (505)772-3883; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lush Island Accommodation
Volcano Concepcíon overlooks Ometepe
Look on any map of Nicaragua, and you’ll immediately notice Lake Nicaragua. This freshwater lake–8,264 square kilometers large–is home to many species of saltwater fish. The largest island in the lake, Ometepe, has a population of 35,000 and two volcanoes. Zapatera Island is a protected national park where you’ll find ancient Indian royal tombs, a stone sacrificial altar, and stone stairs. On Lake Nicaragua at Granada are many small islands. On one of them is the Nicarao Lake Resort on La Ceiba Island; tel. (505)228-1316 or 1317; fax (505)222-2706. The accommodations here–there are just a few rooms–are comfortable, and the tiny island is beautifully landscaped. If you want to get a sense for what you might do with one of these little islands, stay here for a night or two. The place was built by a local businessman recently back from Miami, and his family also has a restaurant on the adjacent El Morro Island. You won’t find fresher fish elsewhere.
The Best Way to Travel in Granada
Granada, the first city founded in the country (1524), is still a thriving port on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. In the shade of the Mombacho Volcano, its colonial buildings and Baroque churches blend with the Renaissance style of the central plaza. The 18th-century fortress of San Pablo on the island opposite Granada was built to protect the city from pirates. The best way to explore Granada is by horse-drawn carriage. One evening in Granada, we asked one of the carriage drivers to give us a tour of the city. For two hours, his team of horses pulled us from sight to sight. We saw the old fort outside town (built in 1754 and restored in 1996), where we were able to climb to the top of one of the lookouts for a grand view of the city behind us. We saw the development along the lake. Playgrounds and picnic areas, bike trails and kiosks line one long stretch that serves as the local beach. Dozens of people were swimming as we trod by. The driver waited for us as we stopped to inquire at houses with se vende signs on their doors. Our customized tour cost just $25.
Linger in San Juan del Sur
For a taste of Pacific coast living, head south to the beach town of San Juan del Sur. This little community, long a vacation retreat for Nicaraguans, sits on a long, lovely beach set in a protected cove. The town cannot boast the grand colonial structures you find in Granada, but the many small wooden homes and shops that line the main street next to the beach hold their own charm. It’s a laidback town where a handful of expatriates live and work. You can buy just about anything you might need or want–from ice cream to soap to shoes. Simply wander up and down a few streets, and you’ll invariably find what you’re looking for. While you’re here, stay at the Hotel Casablanca. It’s right on the main street in the center of town, facing the beach. You can spend a whole evening relaxing on the open porch listening to the sound of the waves on shore. There is invariably a nice breeze and few bugs. The six rooms are clean and well tended, with cable TV and private baths. Rooms cost $35 a night for a single and $40 a night for a double. You can eat a full breakfast at the hotel. Contact Hotel Casablanca, tel. (505)458-2135; e-mail: email@example.com
The Best Months of the Year for Traveling in Nicaragua
The rainy season in Nicaragua is May through October. In November, there is often a little bit of rain, and then from December through April it’s dry. November, December, and January are the coolest months, and then the temperature goes up in February, March, and April.
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