At the moment, in Nicaragua, it is unsettled in the political field, where people take to the streets to protest against the government policy of President Ortega. Not so long ago, just before these protests, everything was still pais and vree and I was traveling alone in Nicaragua…
Nicaragua (often abbreviated to Nica) is located in Central America and is costa rica's lesser-known sister. Where most people know Costa Rica well, I have had to explain where Nicaragua lies. So middle America! Nicaragua has a rich colonial past, which you see in the country's big cities. This translates into beautiful imposing and colourful buildings and beautiful large squares decorated with fountains, flower boxes etc. in cities like Granada and Leon. This is also directly where it stands out from Costa Rica; in Costa Rica you will not find these colonial cities.
In Nicaragua, mainly Spanish is spoken and here and some English there. I really only speak a poco de Espanol myself, but I have well saved. People are very helpful and friendly and are not too bad to make clear what they mean with hands and feet.
Because As a woman I travel alone, I always pay close attention to the security of a country. Prior to my trip I had already read that Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America. Only Managua, the capital, has a number of places where you'd better just go. Now there is in Managua not much to see, so I would travel around here with a big bow. However, flights to Nicaragua land at the airport in Managua. I had therefore arranged a hostel in Granada (large city right next to Managua) and had arranged with the owner of the hostel that I would be picked up by a driver. Very nice when you are met by someone after such a long journey with a sign with your name on it!
Granada is also a fine city to make your journey through Nicaragua to begin. The atmosphere is friendly and you can do the centre fine explore per foot. It's great to spend a day strolling around the city. Iglesia Merced you can climb and from there you have a beautiful view over the city and the surroundingarea. It is also nice to take a look at the market granada.
I had to get used to breakfast in Nicaragua at first. In many hostels you get 'Gallo pinto', i.e. beans with rice. Sometimes supplemented with egg, a sandwich or some fruit and of course… Coffee! After all, Nicaragua is the land of the coffee plantations!
Near Granada is Massaya. In Massaya you can see an active volcano. You're on top of this volcano and you literally see the lava bubbling downstairs! So bizarre and at the same time hugely impressive! Make sure you do this at night, then you have the best view of the lava. Although several tour operators try to spread you a tour to the volcano, you can see it yourself. From Granada you can take a 'chicken bus' to Massaya. In Massaya you can just arrange a taxi (make sure you are with more people, that saves in costs!) and lets you drop off at the volcano. Because of the toxic fumes, you can only be on top of the volcano for 15 minutes. Then a whistle sounds, you get back in the taxi and the next group is the next group's turn.
Laguna de Apoyo is also a nice place, near Granada, to to visit. Take a fresh dip in this giant crater lake is particularly nice when it is very hot!
What's special is that in Nicaragua you almost always share a taxi. The taxi driver often determines whether you can go, based on the destination of his other passengers (the destinations are nearby). So if there are already people in a taxi, this is no reason not to keep them standing! I used to sit on my backpack and daypack crammed on to the passenger seat. Purely because the driver thought I could still come. Small pieces with the taxi are pretty cheap. This means that the locals often do not have a car themselves, but go by taxi to the supermarket for example for the 'weekend shopping'. A very special sensation all those taxis at the entrance to the supermarket!
Many locals travel the distances between the different cities not by taxi, but by the 'chicken bus'. These are old American school buses, painted in all kinds of variegated colors. Often these buses are equipped with extra lighting and there is hard music on it inside. In some cases, it's like being in a moving disco. From reggaeton to 70s and 80s; all types of music pass by! The buses are loaded as full as possible, with all the larger items transported on the roof. That means that you are often piled up on a too small chair (after all, the bus is designed for American schoolchildren) with too many people. If you can already sit; it also happens that all the seats are occupied and so you have to stand… literally like chickens in a bus!
Another beautiful city that is well worth visiting is Leon. Leon is the former capital of Nicaragua. It is also one of the warmest places in the country. It is therefore advisable to get up early If you want to see some of the city. Leon is known for the fine nightlife. In the city centre you have plenty of nice restaurants, bars and clubs. And very fine, in the evening the worst heat is pulled away, although the ar always does stay warm!
Leon is also known for the volcano boarding. You can climb a volcano with various organizations and then slide from here on a wooden board. Definitely do it! Are you a real adrenaline junkie, check out my other blog about Nicaragua for more 'thrillseeking adventures'! And do you want to escape the heat of the city? Then you sit with the chicken bus on the beach of Las Penitas for a dip in the sea or to be able to surf.
I liked to end my journey through Nicaragua in San Juan del Sur. San Juan del Sur is a smaller town on the coast in southern Nicaragua. There are many surfers who go here, but even without surfing you can enjoy the laid-back vibe here! You can just lie on the beach, climb the mountain on which the Statue of Jesus stands or horse back along the beach. The town is also known for its 'Sunday funday'. Every Sunday there is a pool party spread over three locations. For a fixed amount, you will be transported between these locations. The participants on the Sunday funday can be seen in their shirts, a wristband, but especially their huge hangover on the 'day after'! 😉
Have you become curious about Nicaragua? Definitely going as the turmoil has gone down again! Keep the Ministry's website for this state department. This includes the travel advice for a.o. Nicaragua mentioned.