April 21, 2020
- Official Name: The Republic of Nicaragua
- Population: Around 6 million
- Main Language: Spanish
- Capital: Managua
- Government Unitary Republic
Fun Fact: Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America
As it is always important for the traveler to know where they are on the map, let’s take a look at where Nicaragua is located. From Nicaragua, if a traveler were to head northwest, they would reach the border of Honduras. By heading east, he or she would reach the Caribbean sea. A southern journey would place the traveler at the border of Costa Rica. And, by moving southwest, the traveler would eventually reach the Pacific Ocean.
The Nicaraguan economy is largely dependent on agriculture. In fact, agriculture makes up about 60% of its total exports which are estimated at around $300 million (US). Nicaraguan exports include; coffee, tobacco, cigars, bananas, sugarcane, and cassava root. The Nicaraguan currency is called a cordoba. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is about 34.39 Nicaraguan Córdobas for one US Dollar. Of note, a traveler can make their purchases there in American dollars. They just have to pay attention to the pricing signs to see how much a price is in a particular currency. You might want to do the math to make sure you aren’t paying more in dollars 😉.
Some Places to Visit in Nicaragua
- San Juan del Sur
- Lake Nicaragua
- Corn Islands
- Apoyo Lagoon
- Gulf of Fonseca
Depending on the political climate you may or may not decide to take a trip to Nicaragua. My recommendation would be that you make sure you do your homework before you make your decision. Also, be sure you are using recent and current information. Things can change quickly and you don’t want any surprises. Here’s a bit more detailed information about the above locations should you decide to go. In this post, we’ll cover 10 excellent destinations to visit in Nicaragua. This is by no means an exhaustive list!
Managua is the capital and largest city of Nicaragua. It was founded as a pre-Columbian fishing town and, in 1819, it was incorporated and named “Leal Villa de Santiago de Managua” (Loyal Villa of Santiago de Managua). Managua is situated on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua. The population is estimated at around 1 million and was declared the capital in 1852.
With an estimated population of around 125,000, Granada is Nicaragua’s sixth most populous city. It is also, historically, one of the country’s most important cities both economically and politically. Of possible interest t the traveler is the fact that it has a thriving Indigenous population. The city is also known as La Gran Sultana (The Great Sultana), which reflects Granada’s Moorish and Andalusian appearance.
Ometepe is an island that rises out of Lake Nicaragua. A pretty neat fact is that it was formed by two volcanoes beneath the lake. The name literally comes from from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), together meaning “two mountains”. At a size of about 107 square miles, it’s the largest island in the lake and currently estimates an influx of around 60,000 travelers each year. Reportedly, the best time of the year to visit is between mid-November and mid-May.
San Juan del Sur
On the coast of the pacific ocean, the adventurous traveler will find San Juan del Sur sitting beside a crescent-shaped bay. It is located around 87 miles south of Managua. You’ll find some serious surfers here along with vacationing local families and foreign tourists. The population of the town is around 16,000. Fishing, shipping, and tourism provide for the bulk of the local economy. A statue of the Christ of Mercy sitting above the town on the northern end of the bay is distinguishing feature of the town.
Fun Fact: Multiple episodes of the TV show “Survivor” where filmed on-site near this town.
The second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua, Leon rests along the Chiquito River. It’s a sizeable city with a population of a little over 200,000. Located some 56 miles northwest of Managua, Leon is about 11 miles from the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Interested travelers will enjoy the fact that Leon is the political and intellectual center of Nicaragua.
Fun Fact: Leon has been home to many of Nicaragua’s most noteworthy poets including Rubén Darío, Alfonso Cortés and Salomón de la Selva.
Lake Nicaragua (Lago de Nicaragua) is a vast freshwater lake in Nicaragua. In fact, it has an area of over 3,000 square miles making it the largest lake in Central America! It’s just a little bit smaller than Lake Titicaca. With a depth of 85 feet) Lake Nicaragua drains into the Caribbean Sea by way of the San Juan River. You can see the Pacific Ocean from the Ometepe Island mountains on the lake.
Two islands, known as the Corn Islands lie around 43 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The English name is officially used. They consist of the Big Corn Island (Isla Grande del Maíz) which has an area of around 4 miles and Little Corn Island (Isla Pequeña del Maíz) which has an area of a little over 1 square mile. Travelers may be interested in visiting Lookout Point, situated on the northern part of the little island.
Situated approximately 9 miles west of Granada and around 20 miles southeast of Managua, is a city called Masaya. An interesting feature of Masaya that there is an active volcano (Masaya Volcano) just to the west of it. The population is estimated at about 140,000 (2005), making it Nicaragua’s third most populous city. Masaya is also known as the City of Flowers. Positioned adjacent to the central bus station, visitors will find the main market. You’ll be able to find most anything that you need there in the main market.
Estelí is officially known as the Villa de San Antonio de Pavia de Estelí (Villa of San Antonio de Pavia de Estelí). Esteli is the third largest city in Nicaragua (but not in population) and has a population of around 119,000. It can be found on the Pan-American Highway around 93 miles north of Managua. Forested mountains of pines, oaks, and walnuts, and plateaus surround the city. Notable, Esteli became a refuge for Cuban cigar makers after the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
The Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is located between Masaya and Granada in Nicaragua. Having been declared a nature reserve in 1991, the reserve is managed by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) and is one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua. Lake Apoyo is popular among tourists with various attractions. Available activities include; swimming, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, birdwatching, paragliding, boating, and nature. Be aware, there are strict laws limiting human activity in the reserve.
Would you visit Nicaragua?
To me, Nicaragua looks like an interesting place to visit. I think that it would make for an exciting and memorable experience. As I mentioned earlier, the political situation would be a concern for me so I’d be sure to check that out thoroughly before planning my trip. I’d love to know your thoughts and even experiences regarding Nicaragua. Let me know in the comment section below!