With Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American isthmus with occupying a 130,967 km² landmass of environmental noteworthiness. With its size being as big as the state of New York, and having suffered from political and economic crisis, Nicaragua stands undaunted with 6 million multi ethnic people. The name ‘Nicaragua’ is taken from the chief of the largest indigenous tribe ‘Nicarao’. Split up into 3 geographic regions namely, Pacific Lowlands (fertile mass between the Pacific coast and lake Managua), Central Highlands (mountainous region of rainforests and coffee plantations) and the Caribbean Lowlands (wetter than the Central highlands, and abundant with mineral resources).
With its lakes including the largest freshwater lake in Central America (Lake Nicaragua), volcanoes, and tropical climate, Nicaragua, has become a paradise for tourists. It is worth stating that tourism is the second largest industry in the country, which helped contribute an increase of 79.1% in foreign direct investment from 2007 to 2009.
With its tropical rainforest climate, the Corn Islands constitute of the Big Corn Island spanning over 10 square kilometers and the Little Corn Island measuring 2.9 square kilometers. Visitors can expect a much drier climate with frequent rainfall from the month of February till April. Rainfall is extremely heavy during the rest of the year owing to tropical low pressure. The name of the islands, coined by a group of British sailors has its own history to it. The island was once known as ‘Skeleton Island’, due to it being possessed by a ruthless tribe who practiced cannibalism. Scattered along the island’s shores are shipwrecks and treasure, belonging to the 17th century that still have survived. The Corn Islands have formed as a result of a volcanic eruption, surrounded by coral reefs. Originally, inhabited by the indigenous tribe of Kukra, the Islanders today are largely Creole people.
The Big Corn Island is naturally picturesque, but offers fewer attractions than the Little Corn Island. Brig Bay, La Loma, South End, Sally Peachie, North End are the subdivisions in the Big Corn island. The Big Corn Island has stunning and diverse beaches at the North End and Sally Peachie. South end lets you experience tranquility on its long white beaches. Being less populated and quieter, the Little Corn islands are a tourist hub. 10 miles off the Big Corn Island, the island offers the best of snorkeling, diving adventures in its bright turquoise waters. The best time for water sport lovers at the island are the months of September to October, as the region is more prone to strong winds and storms in the months of November to December. Several restaurants are available at beachfronts that serve fresh seafood, try indulging into local dishes like Coconut bread and Rondón soup. A plane from Managua, ferries from El Rama, can help you reach the islands. Ferries are constantly available back and forth between Big Corn Islands and Little Corn Islands.
Alongside Lake Nicaragua lies the nation’s tourism hub, the city of Granada. It was once the capital of the entire country. The cathedral at the central park is a popular tourist destination; horse rides are also available for small tours around the city or one can simply travel aimlessly in Granada, and admire its architecture that shows of its colonial heritage. Be sure to drop by the vibrant Central Market in the city and savor local dishes like Vigorón. Granada has a very special place in its heart for Virgin Mary, who has become the source of all kinds of traditions. Due to the holy festival of ‘Semana Santa’ beaches of Lake Nicaragua become popular among tourists. With buildings built in the mid 1500’s, narrow streets and colorful walls, Granada is often referred to as ‘The City of Doors’. One cannot leave Granada without visiting the oldest church in Central America, Museo del Convento de San Francisco (San Francisco Convent). The church is known for its ancient catacombs and its skillfully crafted statues, which belong to the periods of 800 to 1200 AD. Other major attractions also include the tower at Iglesia de La Merced that gives an opportunity to admire Granada’s skyline and Fortaleza de la Polvora, a medieval fort built in 1748.
The second largest city in Nicaragua, houses one of the first Spanish colonial cities that were built in the continent. It is also one of the most important tourist destinations in Nicaragua because of its museums, volcanoes, galleries and colonial architecture. Major attractions in this city include León Viejo, the ruins of the first city of Leon which was destroyed by Momotombo volcano in 1610. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous ‘Cordillera de Los Maribios’, houses eight volcanoes, and is situated at Leon. At the center of the volcanic chain, is the Momotombo volcano, at 4500 years old, it is younger than most volcanoes. Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano is Central America, and is also one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua with its last eruption being in 1999. Cerro Negro opens up new adventures for volcano boarding! That’s snowboarding on a volcano! Leon also is the home of two volcanic lagoons Asososca and Monte Galan.
Also known as the ‘City of Flowers’, Masaya takes its name from the active volcano that lies to the east of the town. The city is one of the smallest cities in Nicaragua, but it is also the third most populated city in the country. The most popular site in Masaya is the Masaya Volcano National Park. With 2 volcanoes and five craters, it constitutes an area of 54 km². Visitors are given information on the flora and fauna of the park; they can also peep into craters or hike from one crater to another. Several trails lead to other spectacular views around, and one of the leads to the Tzinaconostoc Cave, the home to hundreds of bats. The Apoyo lagoon, which was created due to a volcanic eruption, is another popular tourist spot with its warm waters, ideal for swimming. Built by president Zelaya in 1893, on one of the most strategic location, is the El Coyotepe fortress. Take a trip climbing its four little towers and enjoy the view of the city of Masaya, Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua.