Nicaragua, the country in Central America that lies in the shadow of Costa Rica, offers at least as beautiful sights as its neighbor – only hardly anyone knows it.
1- Colonial churches of Granada
Granada is the third largest city in Nicaragua and, next to León, the most beautiful. One of the first Spanish settlements in the area, it was founded in 1524 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. Many of the buildings from the colonial period have been preserved and lovingly restored to this day, making the old town a wonderful sight from the past. Particularly impressive are the beautiful churches, which are in Granada felt on every corner, especially the Cathedral, the Iglesia de la Merced and the convent of San Francisco. The location directly on Lake Nicaragua adds a beautiful, natural ambience to the nostalgic atmosphere.
2- Beautiful İsla de Ometepe
The breathtakingly beautiful island of Ometepe consists of two volcanoes, Concepción (active) and Maderas (inactive), which give it the shape of a figure eight. They are also the two main sights of Ometepe, you can climb both within a day. In the extinct Maderas there is even a small lagoon. On the way up, be on the lookout for the howler monkeys that roam the area. While the vegetation on the path to the Maderas crater changes from tropical jungle to dense, humid cloud forest, the upper levels of Concepción, which erupted for the last time in 2010, are mainly screen.
Besides the volcanoes, however, there is much more to see: Ometepe has beautiful, dark sand beaches, as well as white, Caribbean-like beaches on the isthmus between the two mountains that invite you to take a walk. On the fincas you can relax and enjoy homegrown coffee. And the nature of the island is just fundamentally wonderful.
3- Picturesque colonial city of león
León impresses with beautifully colonial architecture, beaten at most by Granada in Nicaragua. The cathedral Basílica de la Asunción, however, is truly the largest and oldest of its kind in all of Central America. In addition to the city’s other churches and museums, old León (“León Vieja”) is a wonderful place to visit, about 30 kilometers from new León (“León Nueva”). León Vieja, like Granada, was founded in 1524 by the conquistador Córdoba, but was destroyed some time later by an eruption of the nearby volcano Momotombo, so it was rebuilt in a new location near the indigenous settlement of Subtiaba.
4- Volcanoes Cerro Negro, Telica and San Cristobal
In addition to the Momotombo just mentioned, other volcanoes in Nicaragua are well worth seeing due to various idiosyncrasies. Cerro Negro, for example, has black slopes, as the name suggests, where you can do the popular volcano boarding, a related sport to sandboarding or snowboarding. On Telica Volcano, on the other hand, the sunsets are particularly outstanding, which is why you should climb it late in the afternoon. The most difficult volcano to climb is also the highest: San Cristóbal has forced many amateur climbers to turn back.
5- Tropical rainforest of Miraflores
In the area around Estelí in northern Nicaragua is the Miraflores National Park (not to be confused with the district of the same name in Lima, Peru). Here you can spend one or more days hiking through the jungle without encountering many other tourists. You almost feel like you have the whole rainforest to yourself. The hikes lead over small rivers and past waterfalls, now and then you touch small farms, which are the only traces of civilization in the region. Simply idyllic!
6- Caribbean Corn Islands
Far away from the crowds are the Islas del Maíz, also called Corn Islands. While on Big Corn Island most resorts and restaurants can be found, which is why everything is a bit more expensive there, the budget accommodations for backpackers are rather on the smaller island of Little Corn. The reasons to come here are obvious: beautiful sandy beaches, which invite you to read and sunbathe, and crystal clear water, which makes the hearts of snorkelers and divers beat faster, are the main arguments for a visit to the islets, which are about 70 kilometers away from the mainland of Nicaragua. They can be reached either by plane via Managua and Bluefields or by ferry via El Rama on the Escondido River.
7- Small nature paradise of Laguna de Apoyo
The small lagoon between Masaya and Granada is a little paradise a bit away from the huge Lake Nicaragua. You can relax here on one of the black beaches, hike around the lagoon, kayak, bird watch and even dive or paraglide.
8- Backpacker paradise of San Juan del Sur
The village of San Juan del Sur on the country’s Pacific coast is the perfect place to surf, swim and party. The backpacker’s mecca of Nicaragua offers budget-minded travelers cheap hostels, bars and clubs, so you can spend your nights out. During the day, it is best to linger on one of the many beaches with warm seawater and enjoy life. Also worth seeing is the second largest Jesus statue in the world after the Cristo Redentor in Río de Janeiro.
9- Idyllic archipiélago Las Isletas
Located off the lakeshore of Granada, these 350+ small islands were formed by an eruption of the Mombacho River thousands of years ago. Since then, a thriving wilderness has developed, especially birds and plants feel right at home here so close to the water. On some of the islands there are restaurants, hotels or vacation homes, so a shore excursion by boat through the channels is also worthwhile.
10- Handicraft markets in Masaya
Masaya is a cultural and handicraft center in the country, perhaps that is why two interesting handicraft markets have developed. One is created more for the tourists, which is why you experience slightly higher prices and not as much authenticity there, the other is more for the Nicaraguans. Once a week, local musicians play and ballet dancers dance at the Mercado de Artesanias, but this is not to be missed.