Nicaragua Holidays & Vacations
Nicaragua is a land of lakes and volcanoes, moulded as much by its turbulent history as by its geology. But in spite political struggles, one constant in Nicaragua is the legendary hospitality and friendliness of its people. Most Nicas live a simple lifestyle, often working in agriculture or the informal economy, but they’re generally a happy and tolerant people who love to celebrate – and to share what they have with their friends & family. A holiday to Nicaragua offers travellers a great opportunity to get off the beaten path and discover dramatic landscapes and hidden gems. A generous serving of ‘gallo pinto’ (traditional mixture of rice and beans) for breakfast should provide you with enough fuel to make the most of all of the amazing sites Nicaragua has to offer.
It may be the largest country of Central America but it is still small enough to enable travellers to experience its rich biodiversity, authentic culture and varied landscapes – during a short holiday. It is a destination that offers something for everyone: great nature and hiking in the northern hills and nature reserves, relaxed surf hangouts and fishing villages on the Pacific coast, beautifully persevered colonial cities, world class diving in the Corn Islands – and all this in addition to what it is most famous for: huge freshwater lakes and majestic volcanoes.
For instance, the Unexplored Nicaragua Tour has been designed to capture as many of these elements as possible. The Island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua offers a great extension to this tour – a great place to relax or embark on an eleven hour hike up the majestic and beautifully shaped Concepción Volcano.
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A little more about Nicaragua
The fascinating but often violent history of conflict and revolution will form the backdrop of many visits to Nicaragua, and the devastating long-term effects of natural disaster can sadly still be felt, especially during a city tour of capital city Managua. Stories of piracy and feuding colonial cities only add to the rich and divisive history of the country, but visitors will also be able experience and enjoy more peaceful cultural expressions in the form of home-grown literature, dance, music, art and cuisine. This intriguing mix of ingredients, set against a background of diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes, makes a trip to Nicaragua truly rewarding.
Nicaragua boasts the largest fresh water lake in Central America, Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), in addition to many smaller lakes, including the economically significant Xolotlán (Lake Managua). Lake Nicaragua connects to directly to the Caribbean by way of the San Juan river, and both bull sharks and pirates have frequented the lake over the centuries. The island of Ometepe, the largest lake-bound island in the world, sums up the name often given to Nicaragua – the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes – itself being home to two impressive volcanoes: Concepción & Maderas.
Nicaragua is home to 40 or so volcanoes, 19 of which are considered active, and many of which are now the setting to some challenging hikes, relaxing strolls around volcanic craters or even sandboadring activities! Indeed – Nicaragua is also home to the only volcano sandboard adventure – where travellers have the chance to sledge or sandboard down Cerro Negro, located near the colonial city of León. There are also some impressive rivers dissecting the country – the most important of which form Nicaragua’s natural frontiers. To the north, Rio Coco, the largest river in Central America, forms the border with Honduras. To the south, the highly contentious Rio San Juan, forms a natural border with the country’s other neighbour, Costa Rica.
The country enjoys a tropical climate and is divided into three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific lowlands, the North-central highlands and the Atlantic / Caribbean lowlands. It is these distinct climatic zones that provide Nicaragua which such a diversity of flaura and fauna – allowing travellers to hike through cool mountains and well preserved cloud forests in the north, to relax on beautiful palm fringed beaches on the Pacific coast, and to explore lush rainforest in the sparsely inhabited eastern half of the country.
A brief look to the past
The devastating 1972 earthquake, that left thousands dead and Managua in ruins, helped galvanise opposition to the US-backed Somoza regime that had been in power since the 1930’s, and ultimately accelerate the downfall of the dictatorship. The Sandinista revolution finally succeeded in March 1979, after a brief but bloody civil war, but this was by no means the end of Nicaragua’s problems. By then Nicaragua had extremely high levels of poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and terrible health provision – but the next decade would sadly prove to be almost equally as divisive.
An estimated 50,000 were killed in the revolutionary struggle alone, and around 150,000 left homeless. The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) dominated politics in Nicaragua for the next decade, but their efforts at reform were drastically hampered by a new phase of conflict – this time in the form of a US backed guerrilla insurgency. The US also engaged in economic welfare, imposing a crippling trade embargo on Nicaragua in 1985.
By the time a peace deal was signed (1987) and relative normality returned to the country in the 1990’s, Nicaragua had suffered almost a century of oppressive regimes, civil war and outright dictatorships. Today Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas, but there has also been huge progress since the end of the conflict – including the reintroduction education and healthcare available to all. Ortega, the first Sandinista president, returned to power in 2006, and also won the 2011 elections. Some say that many of these achievements have taken place during a general erosion of democracy in the country, but for many at least, there is at last a sense of stability.