Top Tourist Attractions in Nicaragua

GranadaGranada, located 46 kilometres (28.5 miles) south of Managua, sits on the shores of the magnificent Lake Nicaragua in the shadow of the imposing Mombacho volcano.Dating back to 1524, founded by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, it is considered the longest continually inhabited city on mainland Central America.Today, Granada is the most visited city in Nicaragua, and a key place to stay on any trip to the country, drawing locals and travelers alike, with its wonderful colonial and neo-classical architecture, colorful cobbled streets and laid-back, easy-going atmosphere.All the colonial attractions are within walking distance. Either strolling the streets or relaxing in the main square, this is a wonderful place to watch the locals throng around food stalls, sitting in rocking chairs discussing politics and work, with ever-present soothing traditional music playing in the background; or you can take a historical ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the city.Leon & Northern NicaraguaThe very traditional city of León is located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northwest of Managua and was, for many years, the main political, military, cultural, intellectual, and religious center of Nicaragua.The existing city was founded in 1610, after it moved from its original site, now known as León Viejo, located 32 kilometers (20 miles) away, following a violent earthquake and eruption from Momotombo volcano.The Spanish influence of its colonial heritage is still visible in its narrow streets, red-tiled buildings, and monuments. The Metropolitan Cathedral is considered by many to be the most impressive colonial monument in all Central America, due to its grand construction, arches, altars, and collection of statuettes, that reveal the development of religious art from the mid-1700s.Its oil paintings of sacred images are famous, and under one of its arches, the remains of some of the most influential men, governors, and historians of Nicaragua lie buried. The remains of the notable Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío, prince of the Castilian language, lies buried at the foot of the statue of Saint Paul.One of the most fascinating attractions of the department of León is the volcanoes. The so-called Maribios Range cuts through the department, and this chain of volcanoes gives León a unique image. Surrounding the city, you will see some of the most active volcanic peaks in Nicaragua. The city very much rivals Granada to the south, but for the visitor, it is a completely different experience, as it lacks the wealth and grandeur of Granada.It is packed with history, is attractive in its own way, and has a very 'real' local feel to it that makes for a fascinating contrasting addition to a trip to Nicaragua. Please note, churches in León are usually closed to the public on Sundays, except for Mass, and museums are closed on Mondays.ManaguaThe name of the Nicaraguan capital means "Where there is an extension of water" in Nahuatl. Its roots date back to prehistoric times, when primitive men roamed the area. Evidence of this is preserved in the footprints of Acahualinca, which have been carbon-dated to more than 10,000 years ago.In 1811, the town of Managua was elevated to "royal village" status by the king of Spain, and became the official capital in 1852. Since then, the city has had a turbulent history. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, and ravaged by fire five years later, the city was rebuilt as a modern, commercial center, only to be decimated by another earthquake in 1972. The city then suffered severe damage during the Sandanista Revolution of 1978, and the subsequent damage caused by the wrath of the USA during the following Contra War.In 1998, many of the lakeside areas were flooded, as a result of Hurricane Mitch. In its current incarnation, the Nicaraguan capital consists of a vast conurbation, whose identity is buried under a low-rise sprawl. For most travelers, Managua is a springboard for the rest of the country, but it does house a few points of interest: some museums, crumbling churches, and reportedly the world's oldest human footprints. Please note everything in Managua pretty much closes on Sundays.Masaya National Volcano ParkLying between Managua and Granada, Masaya Volcano National Park is a fascinating place to visit, en route between the two cities, or as a day trip from either one. The main attraction is the huge Santiago crater, which has formed between the Nindiri and Masaya volcanoes.Throughout the 1900s, there were frequent eruptions until, in 1985, the craters collapsed; even now sulfurous gases still bellow forth, and you can hear the lava thundering past below ground. Surrounding the national park are some fascinating little market and craft towns worth exploring.Ometepe IslandRising proudly from the waters of Lake Nicaragua (the world's largest freshwater lake), Ometepe Island is made up of two magnificent volcanic cones, and is a more than impressive sight as you gaze across to its shores.Consisting of 106.5 square miles of unspoiled forest, frequented by monkeys, armadillo, opossum, and deer - on a clear day, the views are simply spectacular.Reached by boat from the port town of San Jorge, an hour south of Granada, the lake crossing can be choppy, but is a well worthwhile and wonderful trip. The word Ometepe developed from the original Aztec’s name for the island, OmeTepelth, which means two hills. These days it has a population of 35,000, but the remnants of this ancient civilization can be seen in petroglyphs around the island.If you fancy a challenge, it is possible to climb Maderas volcano; if you’d prefer a less strenuous activity, horseback riding and walking are a great way to explore the area. Alternatively, relaxing for a couple of days on the surprisingly beautiful soft-sand beaches is a great option. The people of Ometepe are said to be the kindest in Nicaragua, mainly because the civil wars never reached the island.San Juan del SurThe horseshoe-shaped bay of San Juan del Sur is now one of Nicaragua's main tourist destinations, along with the colonial city of Granada. Despite its popularity, it hasn’t lost any of its charm and retains its identity as a small, sleepy fishing village.San Juan del Sur is set on a crescent-shaped bay flanked by steep, rocky headlands covered in thick forest. Its main activity is fishing and numerous small local restaurants set on the beach serve excellent fresh local seafood.Although the town's beach isn't the tropical idyll you may be expecting, overlooked by the new development projects in the area, there are plenty of pristine, empty beaches to explore further afield. El Coco, Chococente, El Astillero and La Flor are some of the most beautiful and the coastline here is among the most picturesque in Central America.Solentiname IslandsThis idyllic archipelago in the southern part of Lake Nicaragua is made up of four large islands covered in luxuriant tropical vegetation and a scattering of small uninhabited islets which are a haven for birdlife.The islands are well known for the small, tightly knit community of talented artisans whose skill and talent is passed down through the generations. The beauty of the islands is captivating and it is also a wonderful place to relax in peace and quiet if you really want to get away from it all and don't mind simple accommodation.The Corn IslandsIsolated off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast are two small islands ringed by palm trees and white sand beaches: the Corn Islands.Undeveloped, peaceful, incredibly laid-back and English speaking, here the Caribbean casts its lilt on Nicaragua’s own culture.There is little in the way of hotels and infrastructure, but pristine beaches and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean reward intrepid travelers.

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Top Tourist Attractions in Nicaragua
Location: Nicaragua
Language: English
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Granada


Granada, located 46 kilometres (28.5 miles) south of Managua, sits on the shores of the magnificent Lake Nicaragua in the shadow of the imposing Mombacho volcano.

Dating back to 1524, founded by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, it is considered the longest continually inhabited city on mainland Central America.

Today, Granada is the most visited city in Nicaragua, and a key place to stay on any trip to the country, drawing locals and travelers alike, with its wonderful colonial and neo-classical architecture, colorful cobbled streets and laid-back, easy-going atmosphere.

All the colonial attractions are within walking distance. Either strolling the streets or relaxing in the main square, this is a wonderful place to watch the locals throng around food stalls, sitting in rocking chairs discussing politics and work, with ever-present soothing traditional music playing in the background; or you can take a historical ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the city.




Leon & Northern Nicaragua


The very traditional city of León is located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northwest of Managua and was, for many years, the main political, military, cultural, intellectual, and religious center of Nicaragua.

The existing city was founded in 1610, after it moved from its original site, now known as León Viejo, located 32 kilometers (20 miles) away, following a violent earthquake and eruption from Momotombo volcano.

The Spanish influence of its colonial heritage is still visible in its narrow streets, red-tiled buildings, and monuments. The Metropolitan Cathedral is considered by many to be the most impressive colonial monument in all Central America, due to its grand construction, arches, altars, and collection of statuettes, that reveal the development of religious art from the mid-1700s.

Its oil paintings of sacred images are famous, and under one of its arches, the remains of some of the most influential men, governors, and historians of Nicaragua lie buried. The remains of the notable Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío, prince of the Castilian language, lies buried at the foot of the statue of Saint Paul.

One of the most fascinating attractions of the department of León is the volcanoes. The so-called Maribios Range cuts through the department, and this chain of volcanoes gives León a unique image. Surrounding the city, you will see some of the most active volcanic peaks in Nicaragua. The city very much rivals Granada to the south, but for the visitor, it is a completely different experience, as it lacks the wealth and grandeur of Granada.

It is packed with history, is attractive in its own way, and has a very 'real' local feel to it that makes for a fascinating contrasting addition to a trip to Nicaragua. Please note, churches in León are usually closed to the public on Sundays, except for Mass, and museums are closed on Mondays.



Managua



The name of the Nicaraguan capital means "Where there is an extension of water" in Nahuatl. Its roots date back to prehistoric times, when primitive men roamed the area. Evidence of this is preserved in the footprints of Acahualinca, which have been carbon-dated to more than 10,000 years ago.

In 1811, the town of Managua was elevated to "royal village" status by the king of Spain, and became the official capital in 1852. Since then, the city has had a turbulent history. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, and ravaged by fire five years later, the city was rebuilt as a modern, commercial center, only to be decimated by another earthquake in 1972. The city then suffered severe damage during the Sandanista Revolution of 1978, and the subsequent damage caused by the wrath of the USA during the following Contra War.

In 1998, many of the lakeside areas were flooded, as a result of Hurricane Mitch. In its current incarnation, the Nicaraguan capital consists of a vast conurbation, whose identity is buried under a low-rise sprawl. For most travelers, Managua is a springboard for the rest of the country, but it does house a few points of interest: some museums, crumbling churches, and reportedly the world's oldest human footprints. Please note everything in Managua pretty much closes on Sundays.



Masaya National Volcano Park



Lying between Managua and Granada, Masaya Volcano National Park is a fascinating place to visit, en route between the two cities, or as a day trip from either one. The main attraction is the huge Santiago crater, which has formed between the Nindiri and Masaya volcanoes.

Throughout the 1900s, there were frequent eruptions until, in 1985, the craters collapsed; even now sulfurous gases still bellow forth, and you can hear the lava thundering past below ground. Surrounding the national park are some fascinating little market and craft towns worth exploring.



Ometepe Island



Rising proudly from the waters of Lake Nicaragua (the world's largest freshwater lake), Ometepe Island is made up of two magnificent volcanic cones, and is a more than impressive sight as you gaze across to its shores.

Consisting of 106.5 square miles of unspoiled forest, frequented by monkeys, armadillo, opossum, and deer - on a clear day, the views are simply spectacular.

Reached by boat from the port town of San Jorge, an hour south of Granada, the lake crossing can be choppy, but is a well worthwhile and wonderful trip. The word Ometepe developed from the original Aztec’s name for the island, OmeTepelth, which means two hills. These days it has a population of 35,000, but the remnants of this ancient civilization can be seen in petroglyphs around the island.

If you fancy a challenge, it is possible to climb Maderas volcano; if you’d prefer a less strenuous activity, horseback riding and walking are a great way to explore the area. Alternatively, relaxing for a couple of days on the surprisingly beautiful soft-sand beaches is a great option. The people of Ometepe are said to be the kindest in Nicaragua, mainly because the civil wars never reached the island.


San Juan del Sur



The horseshoe-shaped bay of San Juan del Sur is now one of Nicaragua's main tourist destinations, along with the colonial city of Granada. Despite its popularity, it hasn’t lost any of its charm and retains its identity as a small, sleepy fishing village.

San Juan del Sur is set on a crescent-shaped bay flanked by steep, rocky headlands covered in thick forest. Its main activity is fishing and numerous small local restaurants set on the beach serve excellent fresh local seafood.

Although the town's beach isn't the tropical idyll you may be expecting, overlooked by the new development projects in the area, there are plenty of pristine, empty beaches to explore further afield. El Coco, Chococente, El Astillero and La Flor are some of the most beautiful and the coastline here is among the most picturesque in Central America.



Solentiname Islands



This idyllic archipelago in the southern part of Lake Nicaragua is made up of four large islands covered in luxuriant tropical vegetation and a scattering of small uninhabited islets which are a haven for birdlife.

The islands are well known for the small, tightly knit community of talented artisans whose skill and talent is passed down through the generations. The beauty of the islands is captivating and it is also a wonderful place to relax in peace and quiet if you really want to get away from it all and don't mind simple accommodation.



The Corn Islands



Isolated off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast are two small islands ringed by palm trees and white sand beaches: the Corn Islands.

Undeveloped, peaceful, incredibly laid-back and English speaking, here the Caribbean casts its lilt on Nicaragua’s own culture.

There is little in the way of hotels and infrastructure, but pristine beaches and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean reward intrepid travelers.


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