For a country that is bursting with history, colour, volcanic landscapes, beaches, mountains, cities, jungle, villages and much more, there are considerably fewer backpackers who yearn to visit Nicaragua than you may imagine. Whether it is for a week’s vacation, a backpacking stint in Latin America or volunteer tourism, Nicaragua is a must. With approximately 37 Cordoba to the British pound, the travelling lifestyle offers a lot for little outlay.
Here are 5 reasons Nicaragua should be on your gap year bucket list.
1. Sandboarding on Cerro Negro Volcano
Nicaragua has a very impressive natural landscape, and is home to 19 volcanoes, of which seven are active. Cerro Negro, translating into Black Hill, situated in the north of the country, stands 728 metres tall, just outside the colonial city of Leon. Beautifully tranquil, while boasting an essence of fierceness, Cerro Negro is one of the very few active volcanoes that are safe enough to get close enough to slide down on a sand board. Nicaragua is the only country in the world where you can sand board down an active volcano.
The exhilarating act of gliding down this volcano was first discovered by a French traveller who decided to mountain bike down, reaching a speed of 101 MPH on his first attempt. Cerro Negro is now open to the public for sand boarding, both in the morning and in the afternoon, through various travel agencies. The golden shadow of the landscape at sunset and the excitement of the ride is definitely something that should be written in your travel journal when you visit Nicaragua.
2. Ometepe Island
The name Ometepe means ‘two hills’ in the native Nahuatl language. Ometepe Island sits in the Lake that the Spanish conquerors called the fresh water sea due to its sheer size. With its two majestic volcanoes, relaxing beaches, natural biodiversity and cultural background, Ometepe Island should not be missed. Ometepe Island used to be one of Nicaragua’s best kept secrets but now is one of its main attractions for both national and international tourists. There is no surprise why.
The island mostly makes its living by fishing and agricultural production, much like many countries in Central America. If you like relaxing in a natural paradise then Ometepe island is your place.
The oldest colonial city in Nicaragua, Granada is a gem. With its location on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, its colourful colonial buildings, a lively and friendly atmosphere, a cosmopolitan crowd and its astonishing historic churches, Granada is a wonderful place to spend a few days. Located in the Pacific region of Nicaragua, Granada has many museums and art galleries and is a perfect starting place to explore the country. If only to walk the streets, to muse over the historic colonialism, meet some new people or spend some alone time, Granada is the perfect destination that boasts peace, yet isn’t too shy to party. If you love colour, people, quaint restaurants and tea houses, local market and tropical warm weather, Granada is your destination.
Leon is the second largest city in Nicaragua, after its Capital, Managua. Quite like Granada, Leon is a colourful colonial city with an interesting history. Founded by the Spanish conquerors, Leon was originally named Leon Santiago de los Caballeros. Being Granada’s all time rival, Leon has a lot to live up to and it does a good job. In its detoxifying daily heat, Leon hosts enchanting buildings of Spanish colonial architecture, museums, art galleries and a beautiful courtyard central square. Leon not only has manmade attractions but also natural fascination with its eight volcanoes that surround the region. With two of them being Cerro Negro and Mombacho, probably the most impressive views in the whole of Nicaragua, Leon is an admirable region of the country.
5. La Laguna de Apoyo
La Laguna de Apoyo (the lake of support) is a crater lake full of colour and sparkle just outside of Granada. Kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, soaking up the sun, wining, dining and relaxing are the main activities to do at the lake. With its clean, blue, fresh water there is nothing more calming than a day at La Laguna de Apoyo, watching the sun go down with a cold beer or cocktail to enjoy the finer things in life. Costing $6 US for a day’s entrance you can’t go wrong. It even has a budget dormitory for those who can’t tear themselves away. Enjoying life and relaxation is the number one priority at La Laguna de Apoyo.
Nicaragua is a great place where your quest for nature, history, colour, fun, fascination and awe all roll into one seamless activity of inspirational exploration. When you step foot in Central America, remember not to miss out on this fantastic country.