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Traveling to Nicaragua for the First Time? Here’s a Short Guide
Have you traveled to Nicaragua? Most people haven’t because they still view the country through a 1980s lens clouded with the Sandinista revolution and American backed contra campaign. Fast forward to the 21st century and the country has gone through another revolution, but this time it involves becoming a busy tourist destination. After all, Nicaragua is the largest nation within Central America; however, it’s not that populated making it the perfect place for a vacation. Nicaragua also costs less, so you can get the most out of your vacation. Read on to learn about the things you can do and see in beautiful Nicaragua.
Top Things to Do and See in Nicaragua
Want a picture perfect postcard to mail to your family and friends back home? Visit Granada and take as many pictures as you can of this photogenic city. Start by making your way along cobblestone roads; visit the churches in the city center. Spend time in the cultural and social epicenters of Plaza de la Independencia and Parque Central. Not only are they the perfect spots to people watch, but you’ll find artists, food (eat at Kathy’s Waffle House), ice cream stands, and souvenir vendors. After you’ve finished exploring Granada, you may consider traveling to Parque Nacional Archipiélago Zapatera. It’s here that you’ll discover some of the best statues in the country along with extraordinary petroglyphs.
Try Volcano Boarding in León
Thrill seekers who are looking for something different can try volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, a working volcano located in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range. Take either a morning or afternoon tour from León. The one hour hike up to the volcano’s top will get your adrenaline pumping. Next, grab a wooden board and zoom down the side of Cerro Negro. To prove that you went volcano boarding, buy an “I went volcano boarding” t-shirt.
Meet the Alberto, the Stone Man
If you have a passion for art and want to go off the beaten path, visit Alberto Gutiérrez – happens to resemble Father Time. He’s been carving images into stone and a cliff (wall stretches about 300 feet) for 33 years. Alberto lives outside of Esteli in the Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve. It’s not easy to get to him, so you may want to hire a guide. Some of images Alberto has carved include animals: anaconda snakes, birds, deer, elephants, jaguars, and rabbits. He’s also carved cathedrals, Chistopher Columbus’s ships, a complete shrine, maps of Nicaragua, and even the Twin Towers that once stood in New York City. Alberto doesn’t use fancy tools – he uses a metal blade, stone hammer, and two pieces of rebar. You’ll find him to be warm and inviting. He doesn’t speak English. If you speak Spanish, you’ll be able to have an interesting conversation. If not, nod your head and smile. When you meet Alberto, you’ll be in awe of him and his artistry.
Visit “new” and “old” León
León was Nicaragua’s capital until 1857. It is home to the National University and the country’s intellectual capital. The graffiti and murals are reminders of the political war be the Somozas and Sandinistas. But you’ll also find many art museums and churches along with developments in gastronomy. To see the country’s colonial past, take a short trip and visit the ruins of León Viejo (UNESCO World Heritage listing), which date back to the 16th century.
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Wondering when to visit Nicaragua? Most travelers visit in the December to April (summer) versus May to November (winter) when it’s the rainy season. But this doesn’t mean you won’t have dry mornings in the winter. Before you leave for your Nicaragua vacation, see your doctor to make sure your up-to-date on vaccines. Also inquire about the ones you may need in order to travel to the country. Ask about malaria medicine and bring bug spray.
As with any foreign travel, you’ll want to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. For the latest updates on travel to Nicaragua, check the U.S. State Department’s website. Also keep in mind that countries have different ways of doing things. For example, it’s not uncommon to haggle when buying things in markets. Don’t be shy about it. You can put your negotiation skills to use or hone them.
If you’re ready to experience Nicaragua, contact your Travel Planners International travel agent today.
by Amandah T. Blackwell, Savvy-Writer