Volcanic landscapes, unique architecture and pristine beaches; Nicaragua has plenty to offer for all kinds of travellers.
Emerging from a long and turbulent history of revolutions, dictatorships and government coups, the country is already well on its way to becoming the next BIG thing in Central America.
Here’s the low down of must-see spots in the unique landscape of Nicaragua…
1. The Corn Islands
Located 70 kilometres off shore in the dreamy waters of the Caribbean, these islands are the place to be for that ‘no shoes, no shirt, no problem’ attitude. A pirate’s haunt in the 17th Century, the islands are now famous for their laid-back atmosphere and jaw-dropping beaches.
The larger and busier of the two, aptly named Big Corn, is where flights from the mainland touch down. It’s great for those short on time, seeking out opportunities for beach-side lounging, meeting friendly locals and gorging yourself silly on tasty seafood.
Little Corn, on the other hand, has no roads, no ATMs and only 400 people living there. The only access to the island is by boat, and if the weather is bad, you may find yourself stuck on this paradise island for longer than you anticipated (Hmmm, what a shame!) Life moves a lot slower here, but that’s precisely the point. Palm-fringed beaches, azure waters and friendly locals are the order of the day and you’ll find it pretty hard not to relax – and that’s even without the rum!
Getting fidgety on the beach (it’s a hard life)? Check out the island’s colourful coral reefs home to turtles, nurse sharks, eagle rays and plenty of brightly coloured coral to ogle at.
2. Isla Ometepe
Framed by the twin peaks of Concepción and Masaya, this jungle-clad island is like something straight out of a Jurassic Park film. With only one major road, a handful of houses and few buses and cars plying the island, Ometepe is a great place to get off the map, relax and catch the sun rise whilst throwing some yoga shapes.
If zenning out isn’t your thing explore the island via moped, freshen up at the clear springs ‘Oja de Agua’ and head up one of the mighty volcanoes. A word of warning however; climbing either one of these volcanoes is wayyyy harder than it looks. You’ll need a local guide to show you the way, sturdy footwear and plenty of snacks, water and energy reserves.
Granada is an Instagrammer’s dream and its colonial architecture is a major draw for travellers. Houses here come in every colour. Red, white, blue, yellow; you name it it’s here! Once you’ve stopped snapping, make the most of the city’s lively bars and restaurants on Calle La Libertad. With regular live music, it’s the perfect place to pull up and have a beer or two.
In terms of sights, Iglesia de la Merced’s clock tower has the best view in town. Get there for around 5pm for golden hour and a spectacular Central American sunset – #nofilter needed. Got some extra time? Hop aboard a local ‘chicken’ bus to the National Artisan Market in the nearby city of Masaya. With handmade hammocks, pottery and woodcarvings, it’s a great place to find a souvenir for Mum and Dad.
4. Masaya Volcano and Laguna de Apoyo
Not far from Masaya town lies Nicaragua’s liveliest and most active volcano, Masaya. The best time to visit is just after darkness falls, when the vivid red glow of larva is at its most flamboyant.
Still craving some volcanic magic? Head to Laguna de Apoyo, a tranquil lake set within a flooded volcanic caldera just a couple of miles from central Masaya. With such a unique setting, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere better for a scenic dip.
And if you’re feeling active, you can rent out paddleboards, rubber rings and kayaks from local hostels. I mean, let’s face it, where else on the planet can you go kayaking inside a volcano?!
5. San Juan Del Sur
Surf’s up dude! Easy going San Juan is the Pacific Coast’s surfing hub, so grab that board and test your balance on the country’s best surf breaks. There’s plenty to make use of, but a favourite of ours is Playa Maderas just up the coast. After spending the day hangin’ ten, recuperate with piña coladas and $2 tacos.
The town is also famous for its parties, some of the liveliest in Latin America, and while you’re here you can’t miss out on one of raucous ‘Sunday Funday’ events. Occurring every Sunday (well duh), this is your chance to really let loose and have a good time with locals and travellers alike. Top tip: a wristband is half price if you stay at the Naked Tiger or Pachamama hostels. And when you’re nursing that inevitable hangover, swing by The Beach House bar and restaurant for brunch. You can even sit on a swing and sip on dragon fruit juices = foodie heaven!