Nicaragua is known for its mountains and lakes, and for offering a haven to travelers looking for nice beaches and affordable activities. This country has grown in prominence among the expat crowd and among tourists, but it still isn’t as overrun with people as many believe Costa Rica and Panama to be. This is part of Nicaragua’s charm. It’s no longer a secret, but it’s also still charming. Having said that, there’s so much to see and do that you’re not likely to cover everything in one trip…even if you have a lot of time. So, here are the top 5 must-see sights that you should be sure not to miss!
Cerro Negro Volcano
The most famous activity in Nicaragua is board surfing down this volcano. It is a famously active volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range. Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in Central America, having formed in 1850. It’s also about 500 meters high and only takes an hour to climb up…so what makes it so special? Well, the slope of the cone is very steep and tough, and there aren’t any paved pathways, making it a very arduous climb. The most well-known activity among the tourist population involves boarding down the slopes of this volcano, which is both dangerous and exhilarating for those who partake. If you aren’t interested in the climbing or boarding, at least make and effort to go and see this famous landmark.
This site is a little off the beaten path, and one of those places that makes Nicaragua special. As a country that was once known entirely as the best-kept secret, it’s good that some of its destinations are still a little unknown. The Somoto Canyon is a national monument, and one of the oldest rock formations in Central America. Its vertical walls extend about five miles around a winding path. The Comali and Tapacali Rivers join here to create the Coco River, and jutting rock formations in the valley create calm ponds. Activities in the area include walking along the polished rocks and taking small boats and even tires into the water to look around the area. Sometimes, even horseback rides are available.
This 106 sq. mile island is the largest island in Lake Nicaragua, famous by its own right due to its massive size. Ometepe Island has two volcanoes joined by a flat isthmus, forming an hourglass shape. Each volcano has its own individual features that make it vastly different from the other. The Volcan Concepcion, on the north side, is an active, lava stained volcano. Volcan Maderas, to the south, is covered in cloud forest with a central lagoon. The island is host to a history of tribes and cultures and is home to fascinating archaeological sites. Activities include climbing both volcanoes, kayaking Lake Nicaragua and the river, Rio Istian, that cuts through the isthmus of the island, and swimming in the lagoons and black beaches around the island.
Miraflor is a national park that is unique, in that it is home to three different climates – a dry forest zone, a moderate and humid forest zone, and a cloud forest zone. The reserve is made up of organic farms, promoting sustainable agriculture and nature preservation. You can hike along the forest’s paths for stunning views of waterfalls, vast farms and the area’s flora and fauna. The area is known for its rich biodiversity, and you’ll see that in the numerous bird and orchid varieties. Activities include guided tours, horseback riding and homestays with 8 participating farming communities.
Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island is one of the best-kept secrets of the Caribbean. It is located 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. It can be tough to get to, so it may be more practical to visit on your second trip, but it is worth a visit either way. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, but it is walkable anyway, and very peaceful and untouched by too much development. You can bike around and admire the island’s unspoiled beauty, visit hidden coves on the southeast of the island, and go scuba diving and snorkeling. There are hiking trails that will allow you to appreciate all of the island’s flora and fauna, and when the sun is setting, it is recommended to head to the west side of the island to get a great view of the sunset over a beachside cocktail.
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