Nicaragua. No, not that Nicaragua. Forget what you think you know, and discover a land of immense beauty and welcoming people. This Nicaragua.
This country has suffered through years of devastation; disasters both natural and manmade. It still bears the scars of civil war and poverty. Yet… the people are beautiful, proud, and hopeful. Their love of country is obvious, singing “…from a piece of heaven, Nicaragua was made”. Their collective hope, their kindness, their hearts and determination are rebuilding Nicaragua. They are committed to progress with sustainability, respecting the land which sustains them, and introducing you to the land they love.
Nature is bold and confident here. Flora is huge and glossy… with greens so abundant, they’re less shades of color than flavors you can taste. Rain does not come in a gentle shower, but a deluge, powerful yet calming, beating on the tin roof of your casita. The calls of the birds and monkeys at night introduce you to the exotic sounds of the rainforest.
You will want the window seat as you arrive, as the aerial view of Nicaragua’s many volcanoes, mountains, and lakes is breathtaking. You land in the capital city of Managua. It is sprawling, crumbled, and worse for wear from years of neglect… but signs of renovation and development are abundant.
You know you’re leaving the city behind as you observe the horses and oxen grazing along the main road, “livestock crossing” signs, and roadside stands selling plants and produce. Agriculture is Nicaragua’s main industry, and every yard seems to be cultivated for at least some farming. The drivers are accustomed to a wide variety of vehicles on the road: cars, buses, bicycles, motorbikes (carrying families of 3-4 at a time), riders on horseback, and ox-drawn carts; all sharing the road with patience and civility, passing at will with a few beeps of the horn.
About a 50 minute drive from Managua, you arrive in the colorful city of Granada. It is burgeoning with an evolving modern feel and amenities, yet retains the charm of its colonial architecture. Prepare to be enchanted by the horse drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, courtyard restaurants, and brightly colored stucco buildings all on the shore of Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua, the largest in Central America, contains almost 400 small islands formed by volcanic eruption. All accessible by boat, these islets are home to approximately 1,200 full-time residents; as well as restaurants and resorts. Among them, is the luxurious, yet eco-mindful, Jicaro.
The Jicaro Island Ecolodge is one of the Cayuga sustainable luxury hotels. The nine casitas were built with sustainability in mind, entirely of reclaimed wood. They are designed to use natural light to full advantage, with an open and airy feel, and stunning view of the lake and Mombacho volcano from each level. There is no air conditioning, and no tv… although there is wi-fi if you’re not prepared to unplug completely. This is by no means roughing it, however, as the friendly and attentive staff pampers you with kindness. Tea and coffee are set on your private deck each morning, so you can wake at your own pace. The included meals are prepared in the open air kitchen, and served in a lovely dining area overlooking the lake. The same boat that ferried you to Jicaro likely also carried the fresh, locally sourced ingredients for that day’s outstanding meals.
Spend your day relaxing in the hammock set up for your personal use each day. Read in a lounge chair after a cooling dip in the pool, cocktail in hand, of course. Kayak around the island(s) to see how many of the local and migratory birds you can identify, then treat yourself to a massage in the spa. The boat is available to take you off-island to the mainland for more active and exciting excursions, as well.
A visit to the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes” would not be complete without exploring some of the 50 volcanoes of Nicaragua. Even the dormant volcanoes are worth the trip, but the active ones are truly a once in a lifetime experience. Meet up with a local guide, eager to share his expert knowledge of the volcanoes and local flora and fauna with you. Climb Masaya at sunset, to peer into the mouth of this active volcano at molten lava below. Hike Mombacho to experience the unique vegetation and biodiversity of a cloud forest; or to the summit of Cerro Negro, enjoying breathtaking views of craters and older volcanoes nearby. Wipe away an inch of pumice to uncover the steaming black ash heated by the magma below. Reward yourself for tackling the steep climb by sandboarding the 1,500 feet down the volcano on a plywood sled.
Travel on horseback to Laguna de Apoyo National Park. This glorious nature reserve contains Nicaragua’s largest volcanic crater lake, pristine and warm. Stop for a picnic and a swim in the mineral water, touted by locals as both healing and restorative.
While there are many popular locations to visit, allow your guide to introduce you to the local culture of Nicaragua, as well. Enjoy cultural experiences where you are literally invited behind the scenes… behind a roadside restaurant where the women are preparing the day’s tortillas over open wood fires, and preparing queso using cauldrons of boiling water. Immerse yourself in the local cuisine (oh, the food!), including quesillo, pinolillo, tostones con queso, and (trust me on this one) nacatamales.
Expand your horizons. Explore the volcanoes, the islands, the culture of Nicaragua. This Nicaragua. Her people want to show you this beautiful land. Forward Momentum Travel can take you there.