Thinking about a trip to Nicaragua? Our Travel Consultant Jimmy Murillo shares his expert tips on what to know before you go, along with some hidden gems that only the locals know about:
When it comes to destinations of unspoiled beauty, the list unfortunately continues to get shorter and shorter. Many countries are now capitalizing on their natural beauty; developing resorts and setting up Snap Spots for tourists looking to add photos to their camera roll. With this development, culture and customs usually fall by the wayside to accommodate a resort-style experience. If however, you are looking for an authentic experience, a chance to encounter a different culture and disconnect from your 9-to-5, try Nicaragua on for size. With so many different layers to this complex country, it makes the perfect destination for every type of traveller out there!
For the Beach Lover:
Beautiful San Juan del Sur is waiting for you! This beautiful coastal town is only a 2 hour drive from Managua and easily accessible by bus. While the city itself boasts amazing nightlife and world-class accommodations (See: Mukul Resort), the word has been out on this pretty-as-a-picture paradise since the 2010 season of Survivor. For a stunning surfing experience and a beach that’s not as crowded, try Astillero Beach or Playa Colorado.
Expert Tip: Never settle for a beach close to the city, there will be a lot more boat/ foot traffic. Instead a 30 minute travel northbound/ southbound will do the trick.
For the Historian:
So you’ve heard of the beautiful churches of Granada have you? Well, you haven’t seen anything yet! The city of León/ The ruins of León have a striking historical beauty. Bold colours and wondrous colonial architecture make León stand out from its historical rival Granada. With such an interesting history – Old León being abandoned after a series of earthquakes in 1610 and being excavated in 1950 – it’s no wonder The ruins of León were recently declared a UNESCO World heritage site. The Iglesia de la Recolección – built in 1786 – is an absolute must see on your visit to Nuevo (New) León, as it is one of the best preserved churches in Nicaragua.
Expert Tip: Although there is a lot to see in León, most of it can be seen in a short amount of time. Day excursions from Managua are available. A guided tour will save you time and money and will also get you back to your centrally located hotel in Managua. Combine with a tour of Granada for optimal historic experience – I recommend the Convento y Museo San Francisco in Granada, absolutely stunning!
For the Adventurer:
Have you ever wanted to take a step back in time, to a time before humans? Have you ever wanted to see wildlife up close and experience nature to its fullest? The island of Ometepe is your answer. Right in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, exists an island so beautiful that even Mark Twain took pen to paper to describe its beauty, in his 1940’s book Travels with Mr. Brown:
“Out of the midst of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua spring two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds. They look so isolated from the world and its turmoil – so tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose. What a home one might make among their shady forests, their sunny slopes, their breezy dells, after he had grown weary of the toil, anxiety and unrest of the bustling, driving world.”
Of course the two pyramids he’s referencing are the two large volcanoes on Ometepe, Concepción and Maderas. Due to the presence of the volcanoes on the island and the volcanic activity in that area, Ometepe is considered to be one of Nicaragua’s most fruitful regions. To get the best views of Ometepe why not try an aerial view while zip-lining in the Playa Santo Domingo area. Another popular attraction, can be found scattered around the island. An array of different Petroglyphs and precolonial pottery can be found on your hikes around Ometepe island.
Although the population of Ometepe Island is quite small, there are many places where lodging is available. Eco-tourists rejoice! The Totoco Eco-Lodge is open year round and is close to different attractions and cafés.
Expert Tip: Visit Punta Jesus Maria in Ometepe. This little strip of land is in a more isolated part of the island, if you want a romantic backdrop for a dinner with your significant other, this is the place! You can watch the tide make it disappear in the evening or watch it reappear in the morning.
For the Coffee lover:
Matagalpa holds a very special place in my heart, not only my mother’s place of birth, but also one of the main arteries of Coffee export in Nicaragua. Coffee grows here as natural as Oranges in Florida and many of the coffee farmers in Matagalpa export Fair Trade product! One excursion I would highly recommend is the coffee tasting tour at the La Hammonia Farm, who grow and distribute Selva Negra Estate Coffee.
Expert Tip: Should you find yourself in Matagalpa, stay at the Selva Negra Eco-Lodge – also known for it’s history as a coffee estate – and visit the Cathedral de San Pedro de Matagalpa, right in the middle of downtown Matagalpa, the beautiful Cathedral built in 1897 is the third largest cathedral in Nicaragua.
Bonus Destination: The Corn Islands
The corn islands are a group of islands off the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. In 1914 the Nicaraguan government leased the islands to the US for 99 years and they were returned to Nicaragua in 2013. As a result, many of the people on the island speak English which works out in our favour as they have some of the best diving/ snorkeling in all of Nicaragua! Travel here soon before word gets out!
Nicaragua has been making a huge come back since its days as a politically unstable nation and now boasts some of the most breathtaking attractions, but Nicaragua stands today at a crossroads, between being #1 in eco-tourism or expand like it’s Central American siblings. For all of you wonderful travellers I would see this country soon before its charm is lost forever.
Want to experience this incredible destination for yourself? Contact Jimmy Murillo who is an International Travel Consultant at our Bloor West Village location in Toronto, by calling 1-866-388-4298 or connecting with him online.