Granada city view © Carlos Adampol
In the past Nicaragua has swayed violently from right to left, but the momentum has long settled and left the country clear to be seen for its dramatic scenery. And yet, although the violence ended two decades ago, the country has yet to re-brand itself from the stigma of the past into the major tourist destination it might be in the future. It is only a matter of time before more tourists catch wind of what the lucky few visitors already have found: Nicaragua has an entire geographical world within its borders.
The country is positioned between Costa Rica, to the south, and Honduras to the north. It is flanked by oceans on two sides: the Atlantic Caribbean stretches along its eastern shores, and the Pacific to the west. Lago de Nicaragua, a 92-mile (148km) long freshwater and shark inhabited lake, dominates the terrain of the southwest. Networks of interlacing rivers connect it all. As though the land felt threatened by so much water, active volcanoes smoulder and ooze lava fields. Rainforest blankets much of the lowlands. The highlands shoot up into mountain peaks and are the origin of high-quality coffee beans. Incredible animals make their home in these environments: millions of sea turtles are born in the sandy western beaches; jaguars and three-toed sloths roam jungle canopies.
People of widely different languages and cultures inhabit the less populated Caribbean coast. These reggae cultures, more in tune with a Caribbean lifestyle, know how to relax and can help teach tourists to unwind too. The less placid Pacific coastline produces great waves for surfing vacations. The capital city, Managua, isn't a picturesque city but is used by travellers for its modern facilities like the airport and hospitals. Some other cities and towns are adorned with colonial architecture and these make romantic destinations, more reminiscent of the days of Spanish rule than of modern Nicaragua. However, tourist infrastructure is not yet well developed. For some this can mean unwanted difficulties, for others, a chance for unique experiences and undigested attractions.
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