Wednesday, 23 May 2018

NICARAGUA: Land Of Lakes And Volcanoes, Travel On A Chicken Bus, Meet Aggressive Taxi Drivers

Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373km² and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua - Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca.

Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua is . Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, making it the second largest city and metropolitan area in Central America.

The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in folklore, cuisine, music, and literature, particularly the latter given the literary contributions of Nicaraguan poets and writers, such as Rubén Darío.

Nicaragua is popularly known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, it is also home to the second-largest rainforest of the Americas.

The country has set a goal of 90% renewable energy by the year 2020. The biological diversity, warm tropical climate and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination.

Hot in the lowlands, cooler in highlands, with occasional rainbow features. The weather during the dry months (November-April) can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands.

Torrential downpours in the rainy season (May-October) can leave you soaked and chilly, even in the Pacific lowlands when it's cloudy, so be prepared if you're travelling during those months.

Also be prepared for cooler, cloudier weather in mountainous regions. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.

Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rise to central interior mountains. The narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes making for some majestic landscapes.

Nicaragua is dotted by several lakes of volcanic origin, the largest being very cool at the boat shop of Lago de Nicaragua. Managua, the capital, sits on the shores of the polluted Lago de Managua. The highest point is Mogoton at 2,107m

Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation.

Nicaragua has suffered from natural disasters in recent decades. Managua's downtown area was vastly damaged by an earthquake in 1972, which killed more than 10,000 people, and in 1998, Nicaragua was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch.

Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.

Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes.

In the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the Cordillera Los Maribios mountain range, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near Leon.

The lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua.

Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America and 20th largest in the world, and is home to some of the world's rare freshwater sharks, the Nicaraguan shark. The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation's population.

The eruptions of western Nicaragua's 40 volcanoes, many of which are still active, have sometimes devastated settlements but also have enriched the land with layers of fertile ash.

The geologic activity that produces volcanism also breeds powerful earthquakes. Tremors occur regularly throughout the Pacific zone, and earthquakes have nearly destroyed the capital city, Managua, more than once.

Penas Blancas, part of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazonian Rainforest in Brazil. Located northeast of the city of Jinotega in Northeastern Nicaragua.

Most of the Pacific zone is tierra caliente, the hot land of tropical Spanish America at elevations under 610 metres (2,000 ft). Temperatures remain virtually constant throughout the year, with highs ranging between 29.4 and 32.2 °C (85 and 90 °F).

After a dry season lasting from November to April, rains begin in May and continue to October, giving the Pacific lowlands 1,016 to 1,524 millimetres (40 to 60 in) of precipitation.

Good soils and a favourable climate combine to make western Nicaragua the country's economic and demographic centre.

The southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua lies within 24 kilometres (15 mi) of the Pacific Ocean.

Thus the lake and the San Juan River were often proposed in the 19th century as the longest part of a canal route across the Central American isthmus.

Canal proposals were periodically revived in the 20th and 21st centuries. Roughly a century after the opening of the Lake Nicaragua the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal remains a topic of interest.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific lowlands contains most of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial architecture and artifacts.

Cities such as Leen and Granada abound in colonial architecture; founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.

The Somoto Canyon National Monument is located in Somoto in the Madriz Department in Northern Nicaragua.

Northern Nicaragua is the most diversified region producing coffee, cattle, milk products, vegetables, wood, gold, and flowers. Its extensive forests, rivers and geography are suited for ecotourism.

The central highlands are a significantly less populated and economically developed area in the north, between Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean.

This forms the country's tierra templada, or temperate land, at elevations between 610 and 1,524 metres (2,000 and 5,000 ft), the highlands enjoy mild temperatures with daily highs of 23.9 to 26.7 °C (75 to 80 °F).

This region has a longer, wetter rainy season than the Pacific lowlands, making erosion a problem on its steep slopes.

Rugged terrain, poor soils, and low population density characterize the area as a whole, but the northwestern valleys are fertile and well settled.

The area has a cooler climate than the Pacific lowlands. About a quarter of the country's agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region.

Bird life in the forests of the central region includes resplendent quetzals, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanets.

Caribbean lowlands is a large rainforest region is irrigated by several large rivers and is sparsely populated. The area has 57% of the territory of the nation and most of its mineral resources.

It has been heavily exploited, but much natural diversity remains. The Rio Coco is the largest river in Central America; it forms the border with Honduras.

The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.

Nicaragua's Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is in the Atlantic lowlands, part of which is located in the municipality of Siuna; it protects 7,300 square kilometres (1,800,000 acres) of La Mosquitia forest – almost 7% of the country's area – making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.

The municipalities of Siuna, Rosita, and Bonanza, known as the Mining Triangle, are located in the region known as the RAAN, in the Caribbean lowlands. Bonanza still contains an active gold mine owned by HEMCO.

Siuna and Rosita do not have active mines but panning for gold is still very common in the region.

Nicaragua's tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperature and high humidity.

Around the area's principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official Spanish. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.

A great variety of birds can be observed including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of monkeys, anteaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

Guardabarranco or ravine-guard is Nicaragua's national bird.

Nicaragua is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. Nicaragua is located in the middle of the Americas and this privileged location has enabled the country to serve as host to a great biodiversity.

This factor, along with the weather and light attitudinal variations, allows the country to harbor 248 species of amphibians and reptiles, 183 species of mammals, 705 bird species, 640 fish species, and about 5,796 species of plants.

The region of great forests is located on the eastern side of the country. Rainforests are found in the Rio San Juan Department and in the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS.

This biome groups together the greatest biodiversity in the country and is largely protected by the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve in the south and the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in the north.

The Nicaraguan jungles, which represent about 2.4 million acres, are considered the lungs of Central America and comprise the second largest-sized rainforest of the Americas.

There are currently 78 protected areas in Nicaragua, covering more than 22,000 square kilometres (8,500 sq mi), or about 17% of its landmass. These include wildlife refuges and nature reserves that shelter a wide range of ecosystems.

There are more than 1,400 animal species classified thus far in Nicaragua. Some 12,000 species of plants have been classified thus far in Nicaragua, with an estimated 5,000 species not yet classified.

The bull shark is a species of shark that can survive for an extended period of time in fresh water. It can be found in Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, where it is often referred to as the Nicaragua shark.

Nicaragua has recently banned freshwater fishing of the Nicaragua shark and the sawfish in response to the declining populations of these animals

Nicaragua is among the poorest countries in the Americas. Its gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2008 was estimated at $17.37 billion USD.

Agriculture represents 17% of GDP, the highest percentage in Central America. Remittances account for over 15% of the Nicaraguan GDP. Close to one billion dollars are sent to the country by Nicaraguans living abroad.

The economy grew at a rate of about 4% in 2011.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, 48% of the population of Nicaragua live below the poverty line.

Wheras 79.9% of the population live with less than $2 per day, according to UN figures, 80% of the indigenous people who make up 5% of the population live on less than $1 per day.

According to the World Bank, Nicaragua ranked as the 123rd best economy for starting a business. Nicaragua's economy is "62.7% free with high levels of fiscal, government, labor, investment, financial, and trade freedom.

It ranks as the 61st freest economy, and 14th of 29 in the Americas.

In March 2007, Poland and Nicaragua signed an agreement to write off 30.6 million dollars which was borrowed by the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s.

Inflation reduced from 33,500% in 1988 to 9.45% in 2006, and the foreign debt was cut in half.

Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country; agriculture constitutes 60% of its total exports which annually yield approximately US $300 million.

Nearly two-thirds of the coffee crop comes from the northern part of the central highlands, in the area north and east of the town of Esteli.

Tobacco, grown in the same northern highlands region as coffee, has become an increasingly important cash crop since the 1990s, with annual exports of leaf and cigars in the neighborhood of $200 million per year.

Soil erosion and pollution from the heavy use of pesticides have become serious concerns in the cotton district. Yields and exports have both been declining since 1985.

Today most of Nicaragua's bananas are grown in the northwestern part of the country near the port of Corinto; sugarcane is also grown in the same district.

Cassava, a root crop somewhat similar to the potato, is an important food in tropical regions. Cassava is also the main ingredient in tapioca pudding. Nicaragua's agricultural sector has benefited because of the country's strong ties to Venezuela.

It is estimated that Venezuela will import approximately $200 million in agricultural goods. In the 1990s, the government initiated efforts to diversify agriculture. Some of the new export-oriented crops were peanuts, sesame, melons, and onions.

Fishing boats on the Caribbean side bring shrimp as well as lobsters into processing plants at Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Laguna de Perlas. A turtle fishery thrived on the Caribbean coast before it collapsed from overexploitation.

Mining is becoming a major industry in Nicaragua, contributing less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). Restrictions are being placed on lumbering due to increased environmental concerns about destruction of the rain forests.

But lumbering continues despite these obstacles; indeed, a single hardwood tree may be worth thousands of dollars.

During the war between the US-backed Contras and the government of the Sandinistas in the 1980s, much of the country's infrastructure was damaged or destroyed. Transportation throughout the nation is often inadequate.

For example, one cannot travel all the way by highway from Managua to the Caribbean coast. The road ends at the town of El Rama. Travelers have to transfer and make the rest of the trip by riverboat down the Río Escondido—a five-hour journey.

The Centroamerica power plant on the Tuma River in the Central highlands has been expanded, and other hydroelectric projects have been undertaken to help provide electricity to the nation's newer industries.

Nicaragua has long been considered as a possible site for a new sea-level canal that could supplement the Panama Canal.

Nicaragua's minimum wage is among the lowest in the Americas and in the world. Remittances are equivalent to roughly 15% of the country's gross domestic product.

Growth in the maquila sector slowed in the first decade of the 21st century with rising competition from Asian markets, particularly China.

Land is the traditional basis of wealth in Nicaragua, with great fortunes coming from the export of staples such as coffee, cotton, beef, and sugar. Almost all of the upper class and nearly a quarter of the middle class are substantial landowners.

A 1985 government study classified 69.4 percent of the population as poor on the basis that they were unable to satisfy one or more of their basic needs in housing, sanitary services like water, sewage, and garbage collection, education, and employment.

The defining standards for this study were very low; housing was considered substandard if it was constructed of discarded materials with dirt floors or if it was occupied by more than four persons per room.

Rural workers are dependent on agricultural wage labor, especially in coffee and cotton. Only a small fraction hold permanent jobs. Most are migrants who follow crops during the harvest period and find other work during the off-season.

The lower peasants are typically smallholders without sufficient land to sustain a family; they also join the harvest labor force. The upper peasants have sufficient resources to be economically independent.

They produce enough surplus, beyond their personal needs, to allow them to participate in the national and world markets.

The urban lower class is characterized by the informal sector of the economy. The informal sector consists of small-scale enterprises that utilize traditional technologies and operate outside the legal regime of labor protections and taxation.

Workers in the informal sector are self-employed, unsalaried family workers or employees of small-enterprises, and they are generally poor.

Nicaragua's informal sector workers include tinsmiths, mattress makers, seamstresses, bakers, shoemakers, and carpenters.

People who take in laundry and ironing or prepare food for sale in the streets; and thousands of peddlers, owners of small businesses often operating out of their own homes, and market stall operators.

Some work alone, but others labor in the small talleres or workshops/factories that are responsible for a large share of the country's industrial production.

Because informal sector earnings are generally very low, few families can subsist on one income. Like most Latin American nations Nicaragua is also characterized by a very small upper-class.

Roughly 2% of the population, that is very wealthy and wields the political and economic power in the country that is not in the hands of foreign corporations and private industries.

These families are oligarchical in nature and have ruled Nicaragua for generations and their wealth is politically and economically horizontally and vertically integrated.

Nicaragua is currently a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which is also known as ALBA. ALBA has proposed creating a new currency, the Sucre, for use among its members.

In essence, this means that the Nicaraguan cordoba will be replaced with the Sucre. Other nations that will follow a similar pattern include: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.

Nicaragua is considering construction of a canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which President Daniel Ortega has said will give Nicaragua its economic independence.

The project was scheduled to begin construction in December 2014, however the Nicaragua Canal has yet to be started.

There are about 5.6 million Nicaragüenses in Nicaragua. The majority of the population is mestizo and white.

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavours. The main language is Spanish, which is spoken by about 90% of the population.

Tourism in Nicaragua is growing at 10% to 12% annually. Tourists visit for the beauty and richness the country has to offer.

With growing eco-tourism, world class beaches, colonial cities, nightlife and reasonable prices, Nicaragua is experiencing an increasing number of tourists from around the world.

There is much to see and do in Nicaragua, and it is still a budget travel paradise.

The tourist infrastructure has kept pace with this growth and visitors will find a variety of attractions, accommodations and restaurants to fit different plans and lifestyles.

Tourists can visit varied areas across the country. The majestic colonial cities of Granada and Leon, the island of Ometepe and the Mombacho volcano for hiking and nature exploration, the mountainous coffee farm region of Jinotega and Matagalpa.

The dazzling surf beaches of the Pacific Coast, and in the the isolated and mostly undiscovered Caribbean coast and the Corn Islands both Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island which lie close offshore.

The Rio San Juan area which is the largest rain forest north of the Amazon is a rapidly expanding eco tourist destination, Its biodiversity is a magnet for nature loving tourists.

Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo at Boca de Sabalos is an important bird area and a wildlife refuge along with the Indio-Maiz national reserve.

Additionally Rio San Juan is a great place for sport fishing with world class and record breaking Tarpon fishing. Estelí is home to two popular nature reserves, Miraflor and Tisey, as well as being the center for Cigar production.

Somoto is worth a visit for the adventurous who wish to swim, inner tube, cliff jump and hike the canyon.

By 2006, tourism had become the second largest industry in Nicaragua. Previously, tourism had grown about 70% nationwide during a period of 7 years, with rates of 10%–16% annually.

The increase and growth led to the income from tourism to rise more than 300% over a period of 10 years. The growth in tourism has also positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry.

President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.

The results for Nicaragua's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010.

Every year about 60,000 U.S. citizens visit Nicaragua, primarily business people, tourists, and those visiting relatives. Some 5,300 people from the U.S. reside in Nicaragua.

The majority of tourists who visit Nicaragua are from the U.S., Central or South America, and Europe. According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR), the colonial cities of Leon and Granada are the preferred spots for tourists.

The cities of Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, El Ostional, the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, Ometepe Island, the Mombacho volcano, and the Corn Islands among other locations are the main tourist attractions.

In addition, ecotourism, sport fishing and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua.

The main attractions in Nicaragua for tourists are the beaches, the scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as Leon and Granada, ecotourism, and agritourism particularly in northern Nicaragua.
As a result of increased tourism, Nicaragua has seen its foreign direct investment increase by 79.1% from 2007 to 2009.

Nicaragua is referred to as the land of lakes and volcanoes due to the number of lagoons and lakes, and the chain of volcanoes that runs from the north to the south along the country's Pacific side.

Today, only 7 of the 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua are considered active. Many of these volcanoes offer some great possibilities for tourists with activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in crater lakes.

The Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve was created by the eruption of the Apoyo Volcano about 23,000 years ago, which left a huge 7 km-wide crater that gradually filled with water. It is surrounded by the old crater wall.

The rim of the lagoon is lined with restaurants, many of which have kayaks available. Besides exploring the forest around it, many water sports are practiced in the lagoon, most notably kayaking.

Sand skiing has become a popular attraction at the Cerro Negro volcano in Leon.

Both dormant and active volcanoes can be climbed. Some of the most visited volcanoes include the Masaya Volcano, Momotombo, Mombacho, Cosiguina and Ometepe's Maderas and Concepcion.

Ecotourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious. It focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Nicaragua's ecotourism is growing with every passing year.

It boasts a number of ecotourist tours and perfect places for adventurers. Nicaragua has three eco-regions the Pacific, Central, and Atlantic which contain volcanoes, tropical rainforests, and agricultural land.

The majority of the eco-lodges and other environmentally-focused touristic destinations are found on Ometepe Island, located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua just an hour's boat ride from Granada.

While some are foreign-owned, such as the tropical permaculture lodge at Finca El Zopilote, others are owned by local families, like the small but well-acclaimed Finca Samaria.

The capital Managua is the biggest city, with an estimated population of 1,042,641 in 2016. In 2005, over 5 million people lived in the Pacific, Central and North regions, and 700,000 in the Caribbean region.

There is a growing expatriate community, the majority of whom move for business, investment or retirement from across the world, such as from the US, Canada, Taiwan, and European countries; the majority have settled in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur.

Many Nicaraguans live abroad, particularly in Costa Rica, the United States, Spain, Canada, and other Central American countries.

Nicaragua has a population growth rate of 1.5% as of 2013. This is the result of one of the highest birth rates in the Western Hemisphere: 24.9 per 1,000 according to the United Nations for the period 2005–2010.

The death rate was 4.7 per 1,000 during the same period according to the United Nations.

The majority of the Nicaraguan population is composed of mestizos, roughly 69%.

17% of Nicaragua's population is of unmixed European stock, with the majority of them being of Spanish descent, while others are of German, Italian, English, Turkish, Danish or French ancestry.

About 9% of Nicaragua's population is black and mainly resides on the country's Caribbean or Atlantic coast. The black population is mostly composed of black English-speaking Creoles who are the descendants of escaped or shipwrecked slaves.

Many carry the name of Scottish settlers who brought slaves with them, such as Campbell, Gordon, Downs and Hodgeson. Although many Creoles supported Somoza because of his close association with the US, they rallied to the Sandinista cause in July 1979.

After only to reject the revolution soon afterwards in response to a new phase of westernization and imposition of central rule from Managua.

There is a smaller number of Garifuna, a people of mixed West African, Carib and Arawak descent. In the mid-1980s, the government divided the Zelaya Department consisting of the eastern half of the country.

This was divided into two autonomous regions and granted the black and indigenous people of this region limited self-rule within the republic.

The remaining 5% of Nicaraguans are Native Americans, the descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants.

Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region, the Nahua (Pipil-Nicarao) people were present along with other groups such as the Chorotega people and the Subtiabas, also known as Maribios or Hokan Xiu.

The central region and the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua were inhabited by indigenous peoples who were Macro-Chibchan language groups that had migrated to and from South America in ancient times, primarily what is now Colombia and Venezuela.

These groups include the present-day Matagalpas, Miskitos, Ramas, as well as Mayangnas and Ulwas who are also known as Sumos.

In the 19th century, there was a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority.

Nicaraguan Spanish has many indigenous influences and several distinguishing characteristics. For example, some Nicaraguans have a tendency to replace s with h when speaking.

Although Spanish is spoken throughout, the country has great variety: vocabulary, accents and colloquial language can vary between towns and departments.

On the Caribbean coast, indigenous languages, English-based creoles, and Spanish are spoken.

The Miskito language, spoken by the Miskito people as a first language and some other indigenous and Afro-descendants people as a second, third, or fourth language, is the most commonly spoken indigenous language.

The indigenous Misumalpan languages of Mayangna and Ulwa are spoken by the respective peoples of the same names. Many Miskito, Mayangna, and Ulwa people also speak Miskito Coast Creole, and a large majority also speak Spanish.

Fewer than three dozen of nearly 2,000 Rama people speak their Chibchan language fluently, with nearly all Ramas speaking Rama Cay Creole and the vast majority speaking Spanish.

The Garifuna people, descendants of indigenous and Afro-descendant people who came to Nicaragua from Honduras in the early twentieth century, have recently attempted to revitalize their Arawakan language.

The majority speak Miskito Coast Creole as their first language and Spanish as their second.

The Creole or Kriol people, descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the Mosquito Coast during the British colonial period and European, Chinese, Arab, and British West Indian immigrants, also speak Miskito Coast Creole as their first language and Spanish as their second.

Religion plays a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and is afforded special protections in the constitution.

Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance are promoted by the government and the constitution.

Nicaragua has no official religion. Catholic bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed.

They can be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis. In 1979, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, a priest who had embraced Liberation Theology, served in the government as foreign minister when the Sandinistas came to power.

The largest denomination, and traditionally the religion of the majority, is the Roman Catholic Church. It came to Nicaragua in the 16th century with the Spanish conquest and remained, until 1939, the established faith.

The numbers of practising Roman Catholics have been declining, while members of evangelical Protestant groups and Mormons have been rapidly growing since the 1990s.

There is a significant LDS missionary effort in Nicaragua, with two missions, and 95,768 Mormons, 1.54% of the population.

There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast in what once constituted the sparsely populated Mosquito Coast colony. It was under British influence for nearly three centuries.

Protestantism was brought to the Mosquito Coast mainly by British and German colonists in forms of Anglicanism and the Moravian Church.

Other kinds of Protestant and other Christian denominations were introduced to the rest of Nicaragua during the 19th century.

Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intercessors but not mediators between human beings and God.

Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honour patron saints, selected from the Roman Catholic calendar, with annual fiestas.

In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints, such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honoured in August with two colourful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city.

The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purisima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

During which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces.

The country's close political ties have encouraged religious ties. Buddhism has increased with a steady influx of immigration.

Relative to its overall population, Nicaragua has never experienced any large-scale immigrant waves. The number of immigrants to Nicaragua, both originating from other Latin American countries and all other countries, never surpassed 1% of its total population before 1995.

The 2005 census showed the foreign-born population at 1.2%, having risen a mere .06% in 10 years.

In the 19th century, Nicaragua experienced modest waves of immigration from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium immigrated to Nicaragua, particularly the departments in the Central and Pacific region.

Also present is a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrians, Armenians, Jewish Nicaraguans, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a population of about 30,000.

There is an East Asian community mostly consisting of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese. The Chinese Nicaraguan population is estimated at around 12,000. The Chinese arrived in the late 19th century but were unsubstantiated until the 1920s.

The Civil War forced many Nicaraguans to start lives outside of their country. Many people emigrated during the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century due to the lack of employment opportunities and poverty.

The majority of the Nicaraguan Diaspora migrated to the United States and Costa Rica. Today one in six Nicaraguans live in these two countries.

The diaspora has seen Nicaraguans settling around in smaller communities in other parts of the world, particularly Western Europe. Small communities of Nicaraguans are found in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Communities also exist in Australia and New Zealand. Canada, Brazil and Argentina host small groups of these communities. In Asia, Japan hosts a small Nicaraguan community.

Due to extreme poverty at home, many Nicaraguans are now living and working in neighboring El Salvador, a country that has the US dollar as currency.

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but also including Native American sounds and flavors.

Nicaraguan culture can further be defined in several distinct strands. The Pacific coast has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Europeans.

It was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The indigenous groups that historically inhabited the Pacific coast have largely been assimilated into the mestizo culture.

The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages.

Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, etc.

Unlike on the west coast, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean coast have maintained distinct identities, and some still speak their native languages as first languages.

Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and Spanish influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America.

The marimba of Nicaragua is played by a sitting performer holding the instrument on his knees. He is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, guitar and guitarrilla,a small guitar like a mandolin. This music is played at social functions as a sort of background music.

The marimba is made with hardwood plates placed over bamboo or metal tubes of varying lengths. It is played with two or four hammers.

The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music called Palo de Mayo which is popular throughout the country. It is especially loud and celebrated during the Palo de Mayo festival in May.

The Garifuna community, Afro-Native American is known for its popular music called Punta.

Nicaragua enjoys a variety of international influence in the music arena. Bachata, Merengue, Salsa and Cumbia have gained prominence in cultural centres such as Managua, Leon and Granada.

Cumbia dancing has grown popular with the introduction of Nicaraguan artists, including Gustavo Leyton, on Ometepe Island and in Managua.

Salsa dancing has become extremely popular in Managua's nightclubs. With various influences, the form of salsa dancing varies in Nicaragua. New York style and Cuban Salsa or Salsa Casino elements have gained popularity across the country.

Dance in Nicaragua varies depending upon the region. Rural areas tend to have a stronger focus on movement of the hips and turns. The dance style in cities focuses primarily on more sophisticated footwork in addition to movement and turns.

Combinations of styles from the Dominican Republic and the United States can be found throughout Nicaragua. Bachata dancing is popular in Nicaragua.

A considerable amount of Bachata dancing influence comes from Nicaraguans living abroad, in cities that include Miami, Los Angeles and, to a much lesser extent, New York City.

Tango has also surfaced recently in cultural cities and ballroom dance occasions.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Nicaragua. Although some professional Nicaraguan baseball teams have recently folded, the country still enjoys a strong tradition of American-style baseball.

Baseball was introduced to Nicaragua during the 19th century. In the Caribbean coast, locals from Bluefields were taught how to play baseball in 1888 by Albert Addlesberg, a retailer from the United States.

Baseball did not catch on in the Pacific coast until 1891 when a group of mostly college students from the United States formed La Sociedad de Recreo or Society of Recreation where they played various sports, baseball being the most popular.

Nicaragua has had its share of MLB players, including short stop Everth Cabrera and pitcher Vicente Padilla, but the most notable is Dennis Martínez, who was the first baseball player from Nicaragua to play in Major League Baseball.

He became the first Latin-born pitcher to throw a perfect game, and the 13th in the major league history, when he played with the Montreal Expos against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in 1991.

Boxing is the second most popular sport in Nicaragua. The country has had world champions such as Alexis Arguello and Ricardo Mayorga as well as Roman Gonzalez.

Football has gained popularity. The Dennis Martinez National Stadium has served as a venue for both baseball and football. The first ever national football-only stadium in Managua, the Nicaragua National Football Stadium, was completed in 2011.

The Regions of Nicaragua

Capital Region:

Nicaragua's most populous region, centred on the capital, Managua

Caribbean Nicaragua:

Here travel is mostly done by boat and the rich mixture of Nicaraguan, Caribbean, Miskito Indian and Garifuna cultures makes this region seem like another country.

Northern Highlands:

Visit cigar factories in Esteli or see how coffee is grown in the shade forests surrounding Jinotega and Matagalpa, in a region filled with remnants of the revolution.

Northern Pacific Coast:

At the collision point between two tectonic plates, this region has some of the highest volcanic activity on Earth and is also home to two national icons: Flor de Cana rum and poet Ruben Dario.

Rio San Juan Region:

New undiscovered eco tourist destination, Boca de Sabalos a few private natural reserve offer sport fishing, canoeing, kayak, horseback riding, hiking, birding, wildlife photo safaris. Easy border crossing to Costa Rica

An almost forgotten part of the country with its hidden treasures like the car free Solentiname Islands or El Castillo.

Southern Pacific Coast:

A narrow stretch of land bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Lago Nicaragua. Surf remote spots along the coast, party in San Juan del Sur or ride a motorbike around iconic Isla de Ometepe.

Cities in Nicaragua:

- Managua, The Capital

- Chinandega

- Granada

- Esteli

- Jinotega

- Leon

- Juigalpa

- Ocotal

- Matagalpa

- San Carlos

- El Ostional

- Ports and harbours

- Bluefields

- Corinto

- El Bluff

- Puerto Cabezas

- Puerto Sandino

- Rama

- San Juan del Sur

- San Carlos

- Boca de Sabalos

- El Castillo

- Solentiname

- San Juan Del Norte

- Masachapa

Attractive destinations:

- Poneloya

- Las Penitas

- Isla Ometepe

- Big Corn Island

- Little Corn Island

- Solentiname Islands

- Laguna de Apoyo

- Volcan Masaya

- Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo

- Somoto canyon

- Selva Negra

- El Castillo

- Pearl Lagoon

- Pearl Keys (Cayos Perlas)

- Rio San Juan

- Laguna de apoyo

- Volcan Mombacho

- Padre Ramos Nature Reserve

Citizens of the following countries/territories can enter Nicaragua without a visa: Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada.

Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holy See, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania.

Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Panama, Poland, Portugal,Romania,Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Saint Helena, Swaziland, Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu.

United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, the Vatican City (Holy See) and Venezuela.

Other tourists can obtain a Tourist Card for USD10 valid for 1 month to 3 months depending on citizenship - Canada and USA are allowed 90 days upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run.

There is also a USD32 departure tax which is included in airfares with major airlines - American, Continental, COPA and TACA definitely.

The tourist card is valid in the other CA-4 countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, although it sometimes requires a discussion with immigration officials that this accord is in effect, since they are quite compelled to sell more tourist cards.

You will fly into the international airport in Managua. Flights from the USA arrive from Houston, Dallas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, LAX, and Atlanta.

Managua is serviced by American Airlines, Delta, United, Spirit, Aeromexico, Avianca, Copa, and Nature Air.

In July 2010, Nicaragua changed its fee to enter the country from USD5 to USD10. Try to have exact change.

Tourist visas are not issued, instead tourist cards are provided and are valid for three months for US citizens as well as for people from the EU and Canada.

There will be taxis right outside, these are relatively expensive - USD15 for the 20km trip to Managua centre, or you can walk out to the road and try to flag down a regular cab.

Some taxi drivers may try to overcharge, particularly seeing a foreign face, and may start with USD20 or more, but a price around USD4-6 or 100-150 cordobas is appropriate from the airport.

You can also arrange a shuttle pickup to take you to nearby cities like Granada, a popular option for tourists who do not want to spend a night in Managua.

It is recommended to have your hotel or language school arrange a shuttle when possible. There are also private services such as Mana-Ahuac Hoy.

You can also fly into the tiny Granada airstrip from San Jose.

There are two border crossings to Costa Rica, Penas Blancas west of Lake Nicaragua and Los Chiles east of it. You have to take an USD10 boat to cross at Los Chiles.

It is actually not possible to cross into Nicaragua via Los Chiles by car. There are three major border crossings to Honduras. Las Manos is on the shortest route to Tegucigalpa, the other ones are on the Panamerican Highway north of Leon.

Foreigners have to pay USD12 to enter any land border. This applies even to those with CA-4 visas from Honduras, in spite of the national treaties. Time allotted is only the remaining time on the original CA-4 entry.

International buses are available between Managua and San Jose, Costa Rica also stopping briefly in Rivas and Granada, San Salvador, El Salvador and stopping briefly in Leon and Honduras.

Some buses will continue to Panama City or Guatemala City. The buses are relatively modern with air conditioning, and make stops for fuel and food along the way.

However, if you plan on taking this form of transportation, you should plan ahead. Buses between the major cities can fill up days ahead of departure dates.

These companies offer bus services: Transnica, Tica Bus, Nica Expreso and King Quality. Another option is to be picked up in the smaller cities along the route, ask for the local ticket office.

There are also cheap but terribly uncomfortable Chicken buses a few times a week between Managua and Guatemala City (USD20), that stop in major cities like Leon.

An alternative way to travel across the border is take a bus to/from a major city that drops you off at the border. You can then cross the border and board another bus.

This is a common strategy for travellers, especially on the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border. This method takes longer, but is much cheaper and can be done on a moment's notice.

When crossing the border from Choluteca, Honduras to Guasaule, Nicaragua don't be intimidated by the men fighting over your luggage. They will want to take you by bicycle over the border to the bus stop on the other side.

Often, if you ask for a price for the ride they will insist it's for a tip or propina. It's not until you reach the other side that they will try to pressure you into paying USD20 or more.

Negotiate with them before you agree to a ride and if they still pressure you at the end, just give them what you think is fair and walk away.

This border crossing is also your last chance to exchange your Lempiras for Cordobas and it's best to know what the exchange rate is so that you can bargain for a fair rate.

There are no passenger rail lines between Nicaragua and its neighbours.

Methods for travel in Nicaragua are extremely diverse, as are the costs. There are several international passenger airlines that service Managua, the Capital City of Nicaragua.

From there it is not uncommon that your journey in and around the local landscapes, waterways and open seas might include multiple styles of transport, depending on the individual points of travel and distance between.

These might be or else include:

- Commuter Airline the local island hoppers - 12 & 24 seaters.

- Ferry on the rivers & ocean

- High-speed Water Taxi

- Luxury-liner Tour Bus

- Express Bus a city to city national carrier

- Chicken Bus retro-fitted school bus designed to haul people and cargo

- Microbus a 15 passenger touring van

- Shuttle Bus offering neighbourhood service

- Rentals, car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, even horseback

- Taxi

- Mehindra, diesel powered 3-wheel taxi

- 3-wheel bicycle taxi

- And everyone's favourite ~ horse and buggy

Regardless of which exciting form of travel you choose, and clearly there are many, you can relax in knowing that your 'in-country' travel expenses will most likely find themselves at or near the bottom of your vacation budget.

NFA Nicaragua Flight Adventures runs private planes and helicopters from and for every corner of the country, for significantly higher prices than commercial airlines with significantly more reliability and access.

Aerial Tours can also be arranged as well as filming and surveying and remote island and jungle access.

Bus is definitely the main mode of travel in Nicaragua, and a great way to get to know the country's geography, people and even some culture such as music, snack food, dress, manners.

Most of the buses are old decommissioned yellow US school buses though often fantastically repainted and redecorated.

Commonly referred to as a Chicken Bus, expect these buses to be packed full, and your luggage, if large may be stored at the back or on the top of the bus along with bicycles and other large items.

You'd better be quick or you may be standing most of the trip or sitting on a bag of beans. Some have not replaced the original seats meant to carry 7 year olds, so you may have sore knees by the end of the trip.

People often sell snacks and drinks on the buses or through the windows before they depart or at quick stops.

Yet for all their cargo and/or sardine-packed features, most chicken buses surprisingly offer three ceiling-mounted flat screen monitors, which feature current cinematic feature films to help pass the time.

A typical fare on theses buses may vary between USD1 or less for short 30min trips to USD3-4 for longer trips.

Express Bus service is offered between all of the larger cities, which usually accounts for longer trips, some lasting three or more hours. Acquiring a seat on an express bus requires a reservation and an assigned seat.

If you're lucky, you can scramble to get a last seat just minutes before departure. It's strongly recommended, however, that you reserve and purchase your ticket at least 24 hours in advance.

That's a good thing, however, as this means no more elbowing for a seat. This also means NO overcrowding. And riding express means fewer, if any, stops en route to your final destination.

These buses also offer tinted windows with curtains, air conditioning, reclining high-back seats, and cinematic movies displayed on ceiling-mounted video monitors. A typical fare for express service is around USD6.

Another method of travelling cross country are minibuses, microbuses as they are called. These are essentially vans, holding up to 15 people but some may be larger, shuttle sized.

Minibuses have regular routes between Managua and frequently travel to relatively nearby cities like Granada, Leon, Masaya, Jinotepe and Chinandega.

Most of these leave from and return to the small roadside microbus terminal across the street from the Universidad Centoamericana and thus the buses and terminal are known as los microbuses de la UCA.

Microbuses run all day into the late afternoon/early evening depending on destination, with shorter hours on Sunday, and a definite rush hour during the week as they service nearby cities from which many people commute to Managua.

The microbuses cost a little more than the school buses and less than Express Service, but like Express they are faster, making fewer stops.

As with the school buses, expect these to be packed, arguably with even less space as drivers often pack more people than the vehicle was designed to handle. They are privately owned and therefore overcrowding means greater profits.

On the other hand, because they are privately owned transports, most drivers and driver's helpers are friendly and helpful, and will help stow and secure your luggage.

Microbuses run to the main bus terminals in Matagalpa, Leon and Chinandega, to the Parque Central and Mercado de Artesanias and then leave from another park a couple blocks from there in Masaya, and to/from a park 1 block from the Parque Central in Granada.

There is more limited microbus service to other cities out of their respective bus terminals in Managua.

Most cities in Nicaragua have one main bus terminal for long distance buses. Managua has numerous terminals, each serving a different region of the country depending upon its geographic placement in Managua.

Mercado Israel Levites, in the western part of the city, serves cities on the Pacific Coast to the north, e.g. Leon, Chinandega and all points in between.

Mercado Mayoreo on the eastern side of the city serves points east and north, like Matagalpa and Rama. Mercado Huembes in the southern part of Managua serves points south, like Rivas/San Jorge and Penas Blancas.

At the international airport there are two offices right to the right of the main terminal, these offices house the domestic airlines.

These are great if you want to get to the Atlantic Coast. Prices change but it takes 1.5 hours to get to the Corn Islands as opposed to a full day overland.

If you are trying to save time, then this is the best way to get to the Corn Islands or anywhere on the Atlantic Coast.

La Costena now flies Managua to Ometepe Island, San Carlos and San Juan del Norte twice per week and is about USD120.00 for round trip. Now it is possible to do some hopping around when traveling to the Rio San Juan area.

Boat is the only way to get to the Isla de Ometepe or to the Solentinames. Be aware that high winds and bad weather can cancel ferry trips.

That might not be such a bad thing, though, since windy/bad weather can make the Ferry trip unpleasant for those prone to seasickness, and many of the boats used to access Ometepe are old, smaller ferries and launches.

The fastest route to Ometepe leaves from San Jorge 10 minutes from Rivas and often connecting on the same Managua-Rivas bus and goes to Moyogalpa.

A much longer trip can be taken and with only a couple of trips weekly from Granada to Altagracia. There is a large modern ferry from San Jorge that makes daily trips to the new port of San Jose del Sur close to Moyogalpa.

Boat is also a cool way to get to the Corn Islands. Take a bus to Rama, which is the end of the road. This road used to be rough and hard, but it has now been newly paved and makes the trip easier.

There is a weekly ship with bunk beds to the Corn Islands, and small launches to Bluefields and El Bluff multiple times a day. Or you can get on a speedboat to Bluefields or El Bluff.

Catch the boat to the Corn Islands from there, or take a flight out of Bluefields. Also, a large cargo boat takes two days returning from the Corn Islands to Rama with an overnight in El Bluff to take on cargo.

There is now also a road from Rama to Pearl Lagoon, which can also be reached in a launch from Bluefields.

A ferry between Granada, and San Carlos passing through Ometepe, San Miguelito, and Morrito run twice per week, from Granada to San Carlos: Monday and Thursday at 14:00, San Carlos to Granada: Tuesday and Friday at 14:00.

From San Carlos you can cross the border by boat to Los Chiles, Costa Rica and also go down the San Juan River to Boca de Sabalos, El Castillo and San Juan del Norte.

The taxi drivers in Managua can be aggressive and there are loads so it is easy to find a fare that suits you. Taxis will take multiple fares if they are heading roughly in the same direction.

Taxi drivers in all the cities are generally fair and well mannered and a nice way to see local scenery. For fares within smaller cities there is a set fare per person, so no negotiating is needed.

In Managua the fare should be negotiated before getting into the taxi, and will increase depending on the number of passengers in your party, not already in the taxi or getting in later, time of day - night is significantly more expensive.

And location going to or from a nice part of Managua may cost you a little more due to lowered bargaining power.

The cheapest fare for one passenger is NIO30, but the same route if you are a party of two may be NIO45. A trip all the way across Managua during the day should not be more than about NIO90 to NIO100, if not coming from or going to the airport.

In contrast, taxi fares in other Nicaraguan cities range, possibly the best taxi bargain around, to NIO15 in Esteli, and NIO20 in Granada. Tipping is not expected though always welcomed.

You can also split the cost of taxi to get to destinations that are close to Managua by like Masaya, if you should prefer to travel with modicum of comfort.

There have been increasing incidents of taxi crime in Managua. The most typical scenario is that an additional passenger or passengers enterering the cab just a short distance from your pickup, they and the taxi driver take you in circles around town, take everything on you, and leave you in a random location typically far from where you were going.

Check that the taxi has the license number painted on the side, that the taxi sign is on the roof, the light is on inside the taxi, and that the taxi operator license is clearly visible in the front seat.

You may want to make a scene of having a friend seeing you off and writing down the license number. Care should be taken especially at night, when it may be best to have your hotel arrange a taxi.

Hitchhiking is common in more rural areas and small towns, but not recommended in Managua. Nicaraguans themselves usually only travel in the backs of trucks, not inside of a vehicle they are traveling with a group of people 3 or more.

Some drivers may ask for a little money for bringing you along, Nicaraguans see this as being cheap, but will usually pay the small amount USD1/person.

Some of the residents are known to travel on motorcycles, with multiple children and a mother on a single motorcycle in some cases. If you see such a thing on the roads, don't be surprised.

Spanish is Nicaragua's official language. Don't expect to find much English spoken outside of the larger and more expensive hotels. Creole, English, and indigenous languages are spoken along the Caribbean coast.

Nicaraguans tend to leave out the s at the end of Spanish words, usually replacing it with an h sound j in Spanish. Thus dále pues - alright then, a common term when wrapping up a conversation, becomes dále pueh.

Vos is typically used instead of tú, something that is common throughout Central America. However, tú is understood.

Guide to Festivals and Events NCX travel guide to festivals and events in Nicaragua. For anyone looking to get away from the tourist traps, it is advised to see some of the local festivals.

You will probably be the only foreigner there. The best resource out there for that is the Guide to Festivals and Events, written in English, which details over 200+ fiestas for the year.

Activities To Engage Yourself While In Nicaragua:

Highland Tours Location: From the Supermarket La Colonia 1.5 blocks north, Estelí. Thinking of visiting the Northern Highlands? Highland Tours provides transport to connect you with the North of the country as well as tours of Matagalpa, Jinotega, Esteli, Condega, Somoto.

City tours, tours of the nature reserves and adventure tours all with bilingual guides and private transportation.

San Cristobal Eco Tours - Ruido Verde Eco Tour, Chichigalpa, Chinandega. To anyone who is considering or planning a trip to Nicaragua's tallest Volcano San Cristobal.

You can contact Albor, a working cooperative that has been set up in the small town of Chichigalpa, which is about a 1 hour bus ride from Leon, and close to the San Cristobal natural reserve.

They provide guide services and logistics for the climb. All the guides on the tour who speak English and Spanish have superb knowledge of the local flora, fauna and landscape having grown up in the area.

They also love sharing the local legends and folklore stories with tourists.

Nicaragua Surf Cabin, Aseradorres, Chinandega region, a 30 min drive from Chinandega a little north of Leon. Great little rustic cabin on 2 acre plot near some awesome surfing beaches.

Two free bikes to use. Inexpensive meals organized by friendly local neighbors. Practice your Spanish. Kick back and relax in this super tranquilo setting. USD8-12 is total price for cabin.

O Parks, WildLife, and Recreation or Ostional Private WildLife Reserve, El Ostional, Nicaragua 3 km South of the Military Post.

7am - Dusk. O Parks, WildLife, and Recreation is located 33 kilometers (20 miles) South of the cruise destination port of San Juan del Sur.

It is nestled in the threatened tropical dry forests of El Ostional in Southwest Nicaragua. Designed by a retired New York City firefighter and 9/11 victim, it is claimed to be a means to have fun saving the world.

It has an extreme ecotourism theme which includes the following: the longest and fastest zipline in nicaragua, fruit tree forest, camping in trees, bicycle, walking and fitness trails.

The park is solar and wind powered, follows a Leave No Trace policy, has compost toilets, and offers fine baked goods and New York City and Nicaraguan cuisine treats to keep you charged during the day. Park entry fee USD5; Package prices vary.

Local Fiestas, Mana-Ahuac Hoy. Seeing the unique festivals is reason enough to travel to Nicaragua but few visitors get a chance to experience them.

Mana-Ahuac Hoy is a tour operator that specializes in connecting visitors to the one-of-a-kind fiestas patronales that happen nearly every day in the country.

They take people to locals only villages where few tourists go to see events like the Gueguense, Gigantona, dance of the little indians, battle of the Christians vs. the Moors, reproductions of the Passion of the Christ, Los Aguizotes.

The biggest and scariest day of the dead festival you will see, bullriding in the streets, carnival parades, greasy pig competitions, dance of the little black men and little red devils, the Cacique, La Griteria, Toro Huaco.

Chaining of Judas, Race of the masked Judases, stations of the cross by boat, the big fish parade, punta music and Garifuna festival, and much, much more.

Enjoy the Nicaraguan beaches, volcanoes and colonial towns but don't leave without experiencing some of the local fiestas.

Explore the rain forest of the Rio San Juan river - Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo, 2 km down river from Boca de Sabalos.

8:00 to 5:00. Montecristo is located 45 Kilometers down river from San Carlos, in the center of activity, 2 Km from Boca de Sabalos and 7 Km from El Castillo.

It protect over 200 acres of primary rain forest, is an eco-tourism destination designed by a retired Nicaraguan-American.

It has over 6 acre of garden, more than 6 km of trails for hiking and horseback riding, is a great place for birding and fishing, is the right place to start you canoe or kayak trips up or down river. USD20.00.

Sport fishing tarpon at Montecristo River Lodge, 2 Km donw river from Boca de Sabalos.

Mombacho Volcano, Mombacho Nature Reserve 12 kms south of Granada. Hikes, nature at it finest giant trees, monkeys, birds zip lines, a coffee finca with tours of the processing facility.

Do all or any of that in the cool lush vegetation of the forest. Ride or walk to the top to see the unique cloud forest and stunning views.

Have lunch at Las Flores cafe half way up or stay overnight on the volcano at Mombacho Lodge. All of this just 30 minutes from Granada.

Community Tourism, South slope of Mombacho Volcano, 13 kms south of Granada. Visit one of UCAs rural communities and support the locals with their tourism projects.

You can sleep in the community houses in a private room, dorm room or with a host family. Learn all about how locals live and what they grow. Go hiking, horseback riding, biking or swimming.

The communities are Nicaragua Libre, La Granadilla, Aguas Agrias and Charco Muerto. They are located at the south slope of Volcano Mombacho. 3-8$.

If entering the country from either Honduras or Costa Rica by land, get rid of those currencies as they are hard to exchange away from the border.

The national currency is called the cordoba (NIO). The official exchange rate is about 29 cordobas to one US dollar. The government deflates the currency about 5% every year to be competitive with the dollar.

Most places accept dollars but you will often get change in cordobas and businesses will give you a lower exchange rate. Make sure you have some cordobas handy when using collective buses, taxis, or other small purchases.

Nearly all banks exchange US dollars to cordobas but lines are often long, and you may have to use your credit card to get money rather than your bank card. Make sure you bring your passport when exchanging money.

All ATMs give cordobas and some can dispense dollars too. Make sure that the ATM you're using is part of the networks listed on the back of your bank card.

Though you may be able to find some ATMs that work on the Mastercard/Cirrus system, most will use only the Visa/Plus system.

If you need cordobas when the banks are closed or you can't use your ATM, street licensed money changers or cambistas can be found. Always count your money, though mistakes are rare if you use members of the cambista cooperative.

The rate of exchange can be better or worse than at the bank. However, it is rare during normal hours M-F 09:00-17:00 and Saturday to noon to get a worse rate than the banks, though near the markets you might do as bad.

Latest example January 2010 - Bank pays NIO21.90 per US dollar, cambistas offer NIO22.10.

In Managua, money changers can be found near Pizza Valentis in Los Robles, beside the Dominos Pizza near the BAC Building, and in the Artesania area of Mercado Huembes among other places.

Most modern stores, especially Texaco - Star Mart, Esso - On The Run, La Union - supermarket owned by Wal-Mart will take US currency, often at a slightly better exchange rate than banks or cambistas on the streets make sure to look for cambistas' ID badges, with change in cordobas (NIO).

Limit the bills to USD20 for best success. Cambistas have no problem with USD50 and USD100 bills. They won't accept Euros, Canadian money, or Traveller's Cheques.

To make sure you have Cordobas for taxis and buses from Augusto Sandino Airport in Managua, you can change US currency for Cordobas at a window right in the airport.

If you are going to take one thing home from Nicaragua it should be a hammock. Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best made and most comfortable ever.

The really good ones are made in Masaya, ask a taxi to take you to the fabrica de hamacas, the mercado viejo or the mercado nuevo. You will find the most variety and best prices in Masaya.

A simple one person hammock should cost under USD20. Hammocks are also sold in the Huembes market in Managua, which has the only large local goods and arts and crafts section in Managua.

Nicaragua also produces excellent, highly awarded rum called Flor de Cana. This is the most common liquor drunk in Nicaragua.

Those aged 4 go for Extra Light over Extra Dry or Etiqueta Negra and particularly 7 years (Gran Reserva) are a great buy for the money - about USD4-6/bottle.

Buy in the local stores as the prices at the duty-free airport shops are higher. Gran Reserva is the best value based on price and quality.

A trip to the artisinal towns of the Pueblos Blancos is the most rewarding way to shop for local arts and crafts. The best and easiest location for tourists to buy artisanal items is in the craft market in Masaya.

There is a similar market with the same products from a lot of the same vendors in Mercado Huembes in Managua with slightly lower prices than in the market in Masaya, but vendors and solicitors at Huembes tend to be pushier, especially if they see you`re a gringo.

Located just 10 minutes from Masaya, 30 minutes from Granada and 40 minutes from Managua, these towns are the arts and crafts centre of Nicaragua.

Catarina is home to dozens of nurseries with plants as diverse as this lush tropical country can produce, and also boasts a beautiful view over the Laguna de Apoyo the volcanic crater lake where you can enjoy the view from numerous restaurants.

San Juan del Oriente is the center of pottery production. You can find dozens of mom and pop studios and stores, meet the artisans and choose from a dazzling and creative array of vases, bowls and other ceramic items.

Some of the best shops with more original designs are a few blocks into town off the main highway. Finally, Masatepe is known for its furniture particularly wicker and wood, and with a special focus on rocking chairs, the favourite Nicaraguan chair.

Although you might not be able take any rocking chairs or ferns home with you on the plane, it definitely worth window shopping in these picturesque towns.

You can also find San Juan del Oriente pottery, Masatepe furniture and other arts and crafts in Masaya, Mercado Huembes in Managua, and in the streets of Granada, Leon and other places visited by tourists.

Remember to bargain. Although you may be a tourist, you can still bargain.

Shopping to Western standards is found mainly in Managua in shopping centers, the largest and most modern being MetroCentro near the rotonda Ruben Dario.

There are smaller and inferior malls at Plaza Inter and in Bello Horizonte at Plaza Las Americas. A new and large shopping center called Plaza Santo Domingo is located at Carretera Masaya at about Km. 6.

Shopping like the locals takes place at the mercados, or public markets. The largest and must be one of the largest in the Americas is Mercado Oriental.

This market contains everything in individual stores or stalls from food to clothes to home electronics. Mercado Oriental is one of the most dangerous locations for tourists in the city.

If you go, take only the cash you want to spend. No wallets, watches or jewelry and if you take a cell phone, take it in your pocket not visible to others. It is best to go with a local or better yet a group of locals.

Less frightening, safer and with a similar selection is Mercado Huembes. It is smaller and more open and less difficult to get trapped in a dark isolated passage.

This market has the aforementioned Masaya artisanal crafts at higher than Masaya prices.

There are a few other markets similar in nature, smaller in size, farther away from the beaten track and not worth looking for due to lack of safety and less goods at higher prices.

Nicaraguan cuisine is a mixture of Spanish food and dishes of a pre-Columbian origin.

Traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. The Pacific coast's main staple revolves around local fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast cuisine makes use of seafood and the coconut.

Gallo Pinto is a traditional dish of Nicaragua made with rice and beans.

As in many other Latin American countries, maize is a staple food and is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as the nacatamal, and indio viejo.

Maize is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as sweets and desserts. In addition to corn, rice and beans are eaten very often.
Gallo pinto, Nicaragua's national dish, is made with white rice and red beans that are cooked individually and then fried together.

The dish has several variations including the addition of coconut milk and/or grated coconut on the Caribbean coast.

Most Nicaraguans begin their day with Gallopinto. Gallopinto is most usually served with carne asada, a salad, fried cheese, plantains or maduros.

Many of Nicaragua's dishes include indigenous fruits and vegetables such as jocote, mango, papaya, tamarindo, pipian, banana, avocado, yuca, and herbs such as cilantro, oregano and achiote.

Nicaraguans have been known to eat guinea pigs, known as cuy. Tapirs, iguanas, turtle eggs, armadillos and boas are also sometimes eaten, but because of extinction threats to these wild creatures, there are efforts to curb this custom.

Food is very cheap. A plate of food from the street will cost 75-100 cordobas. A typical sit down dinner will consist of meat, rice, beans, salad and some fried plantains, costing under 120 Cordobas.

Street side, buffet-style restaurants/stalls called fritanga are very common, quality varies quite a bit. A lot of the food is fried in oil vegetable or lard.

It is possible to eat vegetarian: the most common dish is gallo pinto or beans and rice, and most places serve cheese fried or fresh, fried plantains and cabbage salad.

There are a few vegetable dishes such as guiso de papas, pipian o ayote a buttery creamy stew of potato, zucchini or squash; guacamole nica made with hard-boiled eggs, breaded pipian (zucchini), and various fried fritters of potatoes, cheese and other vegetables.

If you like meat, grilled chicken and beef is delicious, the beef is usually good quality but often cooked tough; also try the nacatamales, a traditional Sunday food, that is essentially a large tamal made with pork or chicken and other seasonings.

Indio Viejo is a corn meal or masa based dished made with either shredded chicken or beef and flavoured with mint. The typical condiment is chilero a cured onion and chile mixture of varying spiciness depending on the cook.

Nicaraguan food is not known for being spicy, though either chilero or hot sauce is almost always available.

Nicaraguan typical diet includes rice, small red beans, and either fish or meat. Nicaraguans pride themselves for their famous gallo pinto that is a well-balanced mix of rice and beans and is usually served during breakfast.

Plantains are a big part of the Nicaraguan diet. You will find it prepared in a variety of forms: fried (subdivided into maduros/sweet, tajadas/long thin fried chips, and tostones/smashed and twice fried), baked, boiled, with cream or cheese, as chips for a dip, smashed into a "toston".

Green bananas and guineo bananas are also boiled and eaten as side dishes.

Nicaraguan tortillas are made from corn flour and are thick, almost resembling a pita. One common dish is quesillo: a string of mozzarella-type cheese with pickled onion, a watery sour cream, and a little salt all wrapped in a thick tortilla.

It can be found on street corners or in the baskets of women who walk around shouting Quesiiiiiillo. The most famous quesillos come from the side of the highway between Managua and Leon in Nagarote.

They also serve a local drink, tiste and La Paz Centro. The best selection of cheeses, from quesillo to cuajada, is in Chontales.

A typical dish found for sale in the street as well as in restaurants is Vigoron, consisting of pork grind, yuca and cabbage salad, chilis can be added to taste.

Fritangas mid to large street side food vendors and grills that usually have seats and are found in most residental neighborhoods typically sell grilled chicken, beef and pork and fried foods.

They also commonly sell tacos and enchiladas that can be delicious but have very little in common with their 2nd cousins once removed in Mexico.

Tacos are made with either chicken or beef rolled up in a tortilla and deep fried, served with cabbage salad, cream, sometimes ketchup or a homemade tomato sauce, and chile on the side.

They are a little like a Mexican taquito/taco dorado. Enchiladas don't have anything enchiloso about them and not spicy.

They are a tortilla filled with a beef and rice mixture, folded in half to enclose the mixture, covered in deep fry batter and then yes, deep fried. They are served similarly to tacos.

One alternative to the fried offering in the typical menu is carne en baho. This is a combination of beef, yucca, sweet potato, potato and other ingredients steamed in plantain leaves for several hours.
One typical dessert is Tres Leches which is a soft spongy cake that combines three varieties of milk condensed, evaporated and fresh for a sweet concoction.

If you travel to Chinandega, ask the locals who sell Tonqua It is a great fruit that is candied in sugar and is only available in Chinandega. Most Nicaraguans outside of Chinandega do not know what Tonqua is.

Tonqua is a Chinese word for a fruit, because tonqua is a plant that Chinese immigrants introduced to the Chinandega area.

Rum is the liquor of choice, though you will find some whisky and vodka as well. The local brand of Rum is Flor de Cana and is available in several varieties.

Light, Extra Dry, Black Label, Gran Reserva aged 7 years, Centenario aged 12 years and a new top-of-the line 18 year old aged rum. There is also a cheaper rum called Ron Plata.

Local beers include Victoria, Tona, Premium, and Brahva. Victoria is the best quality of these, similar in flavour to mainstream European lagers, while the others have much lighter bodies with substantially less flavour, and are more like mainstream US lagers.

A new beer is Victoria Frost which is similarly light.

In the non-alcoholic arena you will find the usual soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. Some local drinks include pinolillo' and cacao are delicious drinks from cocoa beans.

Corn and milk and usually some cinnamon, a thick cacao based drink, Milca', and Rojita, a red soda that tastes similar to Inca Cola or Red Pop, if you're from Texas or the southern United States.

Nicaraguans drink a huge variety of natural fruit juices and beverages, jugos naturales which are usually pure juices, and refrescos naturales which are fresh fruit juices mixed with water and sugar.

Popular are tamarind, cantelope, watermellon, hibiscus flower or flor de jamaica, limeade, orange, grapefruit, dragon fruit, star fruit usually mixed with orange, mango, papaya, pineapple, and countless others.

Luiquados or shakes of fruit and milk or water are also popular, most common are banana, mango or papaya with milk.

Also common and very traditional are corn and grain based drinks like tiste, chicha both corn, cebada (barley) and linaza (flaxseed). Most fresh drinks are around NIO10-20.

As in other parts of Central America, avoid juices made with water if you are not conditioned to untreated water, unless at a restaurant that uses purified water.

Accommodations can generally be had quite cheaply throughout Nicaragua. Options range from simple hammocks (USD2-3), to dorm rooms in hostels (USD5-9), to private double-bed or matrimonial rooms (USD10-35, depending on presence of TV, A/C, and private bathroom).

You will find more expensive hotel accommodations in some cities, as well as more intimate and exclusive B&B's where advance screening/reservation, payment and/or deposit may be required.

While Barrio Martha Quezada has typically been a budget destination for visitors to Managua due to its many inexpensive hotel options, it has become increasingly dangerous, especially for tourists, with robberies occurring in broad daylight.

Unless you need to be in this area to catch an early morning bus from a nearby terminal, it is advisable to avoid Martha Quezada, particularly since it is far from what is termed the new center of Managua.

The area near the Tica Bus station has a reputation for being dangerous as well, and tourists may be well advised to take a cab directly to and from the station, even if the walk is short.

Backpackers Inn near MetroCentro 5 min by taxi from the UCA microbuses, Hotel San Luis in Colonia Centroamerica 5 min by taxi from Mercado Huembes bus terminal are good budget options in safe neighborhoods.

As are numerous hotels of various prices in neighborhoods around the new center near Metrocentro and Caraterra Masaya i.e. Altamira, Los Robles, Reparto San Juan.

Look for pensiones or huespedes or hospedajes as these are the cheapest sleeps costing under USD5. They are usually family owned and you'll be hanging out with mostly locals.

Make sure you know when they lock their doors if you are going out at night. Hotels have more amenities but are more expensive.

There are some backpacker hostels in Granada, San Juan del Sur, Isla Ometepe, Masaya, Managua, and Leon; otherwise, it's pensiones all the way.

Spanish schools and courses are available in most cities, especially Granada. Look for specific listings in local guides, or just inquire when you're there.

Schools offer homestay as an option. Living with a spanish family helps to use your Spanish and you learn the culture as a bonus. The courses are usually 20 hours per week.

Employment opportunities for foreigners is limited. You are not permitted to work with a simple tourist visa.

One job of particular interest to foreigners is teaching. If you are a native English speaker and speak Spanish as well and have a bachelor's degree, you may be able to teach at a Nicaraguan university.

Again, you will need to arrange for the proper work permits. Instructors earn about USD500 a month.

Foreigners also enjoy volunteering. In Nicaragua, there are various opportunities for community service. Most of the organizations in Nicaragua can be used in obtaining community service hours for any organization or any college/university requirement.

Look into organizations like the Fabretto Foundation. Abundance Farm, a small family-run farm in Carazo, accepts volunteers but screens them through email prior to arrival.

It is a taste of the real Nicaragua and not for the faint at heart. To get an even greater overview of the opportunities available in Nicaragua you can also have a look at an online comparison platform for volunteering such as Volunteer World.

The official story is Nicaragua has made considerable strides in terms of providing police presence and order throughout the country.

Crime is supposed to be relatively low, though in reality there are some very bad neighborhoods. In the north, starting in 2008, reports of low-level gang violence began coming in from Honduras and El Salvador.

The National Nicaraguan Police have been successful in apprehending gang members and reducing organized crime.

Do not travel alone at night. Pay for a taxi to avoid being assaulted in dimly lit areas. Tourists are advised to remain alert at all times in Managua.

Although gang activity is not generally considered a major problem in Nicaragua, opportunistic attacks and murders do happen even in broad daylight, particularly in Rivas and Managua, caution should be exercised.

Tourists are advised to travel in groups or with someone trusted who understands the local area and not just Spanish.

There are local organizations that offer translator or guide services. One of them is Viva Spanish School Managua.

Sexual harassment of women of both tourists and locals can be best described as constant, even by Latin American standards, and it is particularly pronounced if traveling as a single woman or group of women.

Men and boys of all ages will make kissing noises and whistle or shout rude sexual comments. Ignoring the comments and walking on is sufficient. In the unlikely event you are followed, go into the nearest large shop or hotel.

Travellers should be advised that there is hysteria in the country regarding child pornography, and recently there was a series of arrests and detainments of Western expats in Granada for suspected pornography, news sites claim they were framed.

It is also advised that tourists refrain from using foreign currency in local transactions. It is best to have the local currency instead of having to convert with individuals on streets or non-tourist areas.

Banks in Nicaragua require identification for any currency conversion transactions. Use ATMs that dispense the local currency. When using ATMs, follow precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

Buses can be extremely crowded and tight in terms of space. An overhead rack tends to be provided for the storage of bags and other items, but tourists are recommended to keep their bags at hand, in their sight, at all times and maybe to put a lock on your bag.

Collective taxis are also risky as organized crime has flourished in this transportation sector because of fixed passengers.

In other words, drivers already know who they pick up and thus can mug the one extra passenger. This crime, however, is not common. When riding taxis, tourists are strongly recommended to close their windows.

Although extensive de-mining operations have been conducted to clear rural areas of northern Nicaragua of landmines left from the civil war in the 1980s.

Visitors venturing off the main roads in these areas are cautioned that there is still the possibility of encountering landmines.

You will need a little bit of money to go over international borders. Nicaragua charges a border toll of USD10-13 depending on the administrative tax.

This is on top of a CA-4 visa that's good for crossing the borders between Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Under the treaty establishing that visa, the border guards are not supposed to check people with such a visa, but they do so anyhow and charge tolls, which they claim are border crossing visa fees.

There are also illegitimate theft of foreigners belongings and detentions at immigration borders. They also charge a US$3 exit tax to leave the country by land borders—fortunately, not the same US$42 as in airport departures.

According to the US State Department's Consular Sheet for Nicaragua, the tap water in Managua is safe to drink, but bottled water with chlorine is always the best choice.

The water in Esteli is especially good as it comes from deep wells. Bottled water is readily available, with a gallon at a supermarket around an American dollar.

Given its tropical latitude, there are plenty of bugs/insects flying about. Be sure to wear bug repellent containing DEET particularly if you head to more remote areas such as Isla Ometepe, San Juan river region, or the Caribbean Coast.

Dengue fever is present in some areas and comes from a type of mosquito that flies mostly between dusk and dawn.

Malaria is not of serious concern unless you are heading to the Caribbean coast or along the Rio San Juan. You may be advised by a doctor to get Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations before heading to Nicaragua.

Even though there is a public health system and many public hospitals, these are terrible options for tourists apart from the gravest emergency and even then only until a private hospital can send an ambulance.

There are several private hospitals, in order of quality from best to worst are Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas at Carretera Masaya Km 10, Hospital Bautista, Hospital Militar near Plaza Inter and a few others.

Despite promoting medical tourism, these hospitals rarely have English speakers on staff for dealing with tourists.

If you insist or someone with you does, you may get an English speaking employee. It is still best to have some Spanish or attend with someone bilingual.

If you have a problem and Cruz Roja are called the Nicaraguan Red Cross ambulance service and you have money or insurance have them take you to one of the private hospitals in the order mentioned.

They will probably ask you anyway, but specify the private hospital or call the hospital for their ambulance.

Private hospitals are much less expensive than in the United States: a private room with private nurse in 2009 at Metropolitano was USD119 per day. An MRI of the knee in 2010 was USD300.

Emergency surgery in 2008 in Bautista including surgeon, anesthesia, operating and recovery rooms and supplies was USD1,200 with the private room under USD100 after that.
Granada is a Nicaraguan city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. It’s home to multiple Spanish colonial landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions.

The city’s main plaza, Central Park, is dominated by the colorful, neoclassical facade of the Cathedral of Granada, originally dating to 1583.

The Centro Cultural Convento San Francisco nearby is famed for its displays of pre-Columbian statues.

From the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced, a baroque church that was first built in 1534, visitors can admire the city, lake and the nearby 1,400m-high Mombacho Volcano.

Built by the Spanish in 1748, Fortaleza de la Polvora is a former fortress turned military museum that also provides panoramic views.

Beyond Granada, Las Isletas is a roughly 350-island archipelago popular with kayakers and bird-watchers.

To the south lies the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve, which offers hiking trails around the volcano’s rim, as well as canopy tours.

Granada is the most popular expat location in Nicaragua. This beautifully refurbished colonial town delights the eyes with its colorful buildings, interesting markets with items and produce you've never seen before, old ornate churches that hint at the past opulence of the city, and more.

Take a boat ride to the 365 isletas for a relaxing day or have dinner on famous La Calzada street and enjoy unplanned evening entertainment right in the streets. Art schools, theater, and many celebrations make this city exciting.

You can buy an old colonial home that needs restoring for under $200,000.

These are magnificent properties designed with many rooms that branch off a central courtyard where you can build your pool and surround it with lush gardens.

Leon has always been Granada's rival, with both cities previously vying for the title of capital of the country until Managua was selected instead. Leon and Granada are still rivals, but now for tourists instead of politics.

Leon is the University town of Nicaragua, where thousands of young people arrive each year to further their studies.

With students, come coffee houses, healthy food eateries and fascinating intellectual discussions. You can find a furnished apartment for $350 a month here and a colonial house to refurbish for under $150,000.

The cost of living in all of these cities is relatively the same. A couple can live in Nicaragua for about $1,500 a month, which includes everything. A single person and more and more are coming, can expect to pay less.

Of course, if you want your comfort foods from home, your budget will go up, as it will if you buy a car to maintain.

Everything is relative and it's up to you to choose your method of working, playing, and controlling your finances, but you can live here very economically.
Managua, on the south shore of Lake Managua, is the capital city of Nicaragua.

Its cathedral, a shell since a 1972 earthquake, is on the Plaza of the Revolution.

Nearby is the tomb of Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca. The 1935 National Palace of Culture houses the National Museum.

Hilltop Parque Historico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa is known for its crater lake and huge statue of revolutionary Augusto Sandino.

In the lakeside Acahualinca neighborhood, the Huellas de Acahualinca are fossilized tracks of people and animals from 6,000 years ago, preserved in volcanic mud.

A museum contains other relics found during excavations of the site. Southeast of town, Masaya Volcano National Park offers views of the active volcano crater.

Close by, Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve is home to forest trails and wildlife, including howler monkeys.

The reserve encompasses the waterfalls El Brujo, with waters that seem to disappear underground, and Chocoyero, drawing flocks of green Pacific parakeets.
Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca or Granada is a freshwater lake in Nicaragua.

Of tectonic origin and with an area of 8,264 km², it is the largest lake in Central America, the 19th largest lake in the world and the 9th largest in the Americas, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca.

With an elevation of 32.7 metres above sea level, the lake reaches a depth of 26 metres. It is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua.

The lake drains to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River, historically making the lakeside city of Granada, Nicaragua, an Atlantic port although Granada is closer to the Pacific Ocean geographically.

The Pacific is near enough to be seen from the mountains of Ometepe. The lake has a history of Caribbean pirates who assaulted Granada on three occasions.

Before construction of the Panama Canal, a stagecoach line owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company connected the lake with the Pacific across the low hills of the narrow Isthmus of Rivas.

Plans were made to take advantage of this route to build an interoceanic canal, the Nicaragua Canal, but the Panama Canal was built instead.

Mombacho Volcano, nature reserve, hiking, and forest.

Mombacho is a stratovolcano in Nicaragua, near the city of Granada. It is 1344 metres high. The Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua. Mombacho is not an extinct.

Zapatera - Volcano and nature

Zapatera is a shield volcano located in the southern part of Nicaragua. It forms the island of Isla Zapatera in the Lake Nicaragua. Isla Zapatera constitutes one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua


Waterhole - Natural volcanic spring swimming hole

Wooded site with a natural swimming hole of volcanic-origin water amid native plants & wildlife.

Iglesia La Merced - Baroque church with climbable bell tower

Visitors to this 1534 church can climb a spiral staircase to the bell tower for panoramic views.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Nature reserve, caiman, wildlife, and river

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge has an area of 437.5 km² and is located south of Lake Nicaragua and west of the San Juan River in Nicaragua.

Los Guatuzos is a protected area consisting of tropical

Mombacho Volcano National Preserve, Trails, wildlife & an inactive volcano. A dormant volcano anchors this wildlife-rich nature preserve, which has hiking trails & a museum.

Mombacho is a stratovolcano in Nicaragua, near the city of Granada. It is 1344 metres high.

The Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua.

Mombacho is not an extinct volcano but the last eruption occurred in 1570.

Nicaragua Canal, Canal and lake. The Nicaraguan Canal, formally the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project was a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Scientists were

San Francisco Convent, Museum with history & cultural exhibits

Historical monastery-turned-museum with Nicaraguan history & cultural exhibits, including artifacts.

San Juan del Sur is often called - the party town on the beach, but it has also been finding its way as an art town. Fledgling art organizations crop up and work together and separately to provide a new art scene for this tiny three-square-block city.

The prices are higher here than other parts of Nicaragua like anywhere else in the world with a stunning beach but still not bad. For budget-minded people, expect to pay $400 a month and up for a furnished one-bedroom apartment.

If you are interested in buying, three brand-new condo complexes offer you modern living, some with ocean views and all between $145,000 and $200,000. There are also townhouses and smaller condos available for around $110,000.

For big-city living, you might consider Managua. Like most big cities, population here is about 2.6 million, it has its attractions and detractions.

Here you will find the best hospitals and clinics, supermarkets like back home, upscale home decoration and clothing stores, theater, major concerts, nightclubs, and more.

Of course, you will also get more noise, car pollution, traffic, and rushing around, just like in any other city. Rents in good family neighborhoods go for between $400 and $700 a month for a two- or three-bedroom home.

Purchase prices start at $100,000 and can go up basically as high as you want.

Go to Matagalpa if you want a breath of fresh air. Situated on the side of a lush green mountain, this city has a temperate climate and is a nature lover's paradise.

A real middle-class city, Matagalpa has disability ramps on all streets, bans smoking in many places, has many alternative medicine pharmacies, and also has a lower cost of living than the other cities in Nicaragua.

Rents can be as low as $250 a month for a one-bedroom, furnished apartment and you can still find detached family homes in the city center for less than $100,000 and up to $300,000 for something that would cost substantially more in the States.


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