Nicaragua things to see and do

Tourist offices

Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR)

Hotel Crowne Plaza, 1 cuadra al sur, 1 cuadra al oeste, Managua, Nicaragua
Tel: 254 5191.
www.visit-nicaragua.com

Things to see and do

Corn Islands

Big Corn and Little Corn are two isolated Caribbean atolls that were once a haven for pirates. Now Little Corn in particular is a pocket-sized paradise that ticks all the boxes – turquoise waters, palm-fringed white-sand beaches, stunning coral reefs and a relaxed vibe.

Domitila Private Wildlife Reserve

Close to Granada, this Domitila Wildlife Reserve (www.domitila.org) is one of the last remaining areas of dry tropical forest on the Pacific coast. It’s home to over 200 howler monkeys and numerous species of birds, butterflies and insects. Hike the trails or stay the night in a rustic cabin.

Estelí

The country’s third biggest city has a friendly, small-town feel with walls still covered in revolutionary murals. Nearby, Miraflor Natural Reserve (www.ucamiraflor.com) offers hiking, riding and birdwatching through dry and cloud forest. Accommodation is in basic cabins, or stay with a family to get a real taste of rural life.

Granada

This picture-perfect colonial city makes the ideal base for exploring. Stroll around its cobbled streets and visit its ancient churches, kayak around its tiny islands, dine in its upmarket restaurants and, if you have time to fit in around excursions, try some Spanish lessons at a non-profit school or look at volunteering opportunities.

Indio Maíz Biological Reserve

For the ultimate jungle adventure, explore the dense forest of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which has more species of birds, trees and insects than the continent of Europe. Go with an indigenous Rama Indian guide and, if you’re lucky, you might spot an elusive jaguar.

Jinotega

Known as the ‘City of Mists’ for its wisps of high-altitude cloud, the birthplace of the revolution is now a peaceful city known for its cool climate, stunning valleys, pine forests and granite peaks. It makes a good base for exploring the surrounding coffee farms and nature reserves, lakes and rivers.

León

Colonial León is the former capital with the lively, lived-in feel of a university city. Home to the largest cathedral in Central America, colourful, socio-political murals grace the walls and it’s a hotbed for Nicaragua’s twin passions, politics and poetry. Try surfing down nearby Cerro Negro, the country’s youngest volcano.

Managua

Most visitors bypass Managua, the sprawling and frankly ugly capital, but if you’re stopping over it’s worth visiting the National Museum, listening to a concert in the Rubén Darío National Theatre (www.tnrubendario.gob.ni) or catching a baseball game, the country’s favourite sport, at the Dennis Martinez National Stadium.

Masaya

There are two reasons to visit Masaya. Shop til you drop at the famous handicraft market where you can meet the skilled artisans and learn about the region’s fascinating folklore at the small museum. And head to Masaya Volcanic National Park, where you can hike around the ash-covered landscape and peer into a still-smoking crater.

Matagalpa

Wake up and smell the coffee in this temperate town in the northern highlands. Nearby, Finca Esperanza Verde (www.fincaesperanzaverde.com) – an eco-lodge, nature reserve and organic coffee farm set in tranquil cloud forest – runs a reforestation programme and all tourism income is ploughed back into community projects.

Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve

Mombacho’s imposing cone can be seen from Granada and it’s the perfect place to discover the flora and fauna of the cloud forest, including beautiful orchids in season. Climb the volcano for spectacular panoramic views or zip-line over it for a thrilling adrenaline rush.

Ometepe Island

Rising out of Lake Nicaragua, the friendly inhabitants of this idyllic twin-coned volcanic island survive on fishing and farming. Stay in one of its small eco-lodges; climb steep Concepción or the easier muddier Maderas; search for petroglyphs; cycle around the island or simply lounge on the lakeshore beaches.

Rivas

The department of Rivas is home to surf- and party-central San Juan del Sur, as well as some of Nicaragua’s most stunning – and often deserted – beaches, including El Coco, Marsella and Ocotal. The beach at La Flor Wildlife Reserve is where thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come to lay their eggs.

San Juan del Sur

This laidback beach town is full of bars and restaurants and you can stay in a beachfront B&B or splash out at an upmarket hotel. It’s long been a surfers haunt – Maderas and Remanso beaches are a short drive away, and you can take boats to other popular surf spots.

San Juan River

Once an important transit route between the oceans, the river now forms the watery border with Costa Rica. Winding through remote towns and flanked by wildlife-filled forest, it still has an intrepid feel. Explore the fortress town of El Castillo or take a boat all the way to the Caribbean coast.

Solentiname Archipelago

Set in a remote corner of Lake Nicaragua, this archipelago is made up of 36 tropical islands and islets. San Fernando, Mancarrón, La Venada and Mancarroncita are the largest, home to a community of primitivist artists and Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, a maze of forest and waterways that teems with wildlife.

Somoto Canyon

This geological wonder – one of the oldest rock formations in Central America – only became known to the outside world in December 2004. Hike along its rocky trails to scenic viewpoints, take a boat tour, try rubber tubing along its crystal-clear water, or rappel down its vertical walls.

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