As Vibrant as Ever, Nicaragua Welcomes Travellers
Out from the shadows of political unrest, Nicaragua shines once again as a vibrant destination that beckons travellers looking for natural wonders, challenging adventures, and well-preserved cultural gems.
With Christmas and New Year’s holidays just around the corner, a visit to Nicaragua opens a festive window for you to enjoy “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes” both for its incredible active-travel possibilities and its enthusiastic style of celebrating.
We can tell you more in person if you’re attending the World Travel Market show in London Nov. 4-6. Here are a few examples of getaways in Nicaragua:
Book a Caribbean Island Retreat for Your Family
One very tempting choice is a year-end getaway for the whole family to exclusive Calala Island, a private, 4-hectare (9.5-acre) retreat hidden in an undiscovered part of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Calala Island features four thatch-roof villas with lavish appointments, a stunning pool overlooking the sea, and a restaurant serving Michelin star-quality meals.
Whether your family is the “adventure-seeking” type, the “chill-out” type, or the “party-loving” type, the resort will cater activities that please everyone, ensuring that you and your family celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in your own unique way. To reach the island, Calala provides a scenic, 90-minute boat trip or helicopter service from Bluefields on the south coast. Developed in harmony with its natural surroundings, Calala accommodates no more than 10 guests, assuring tranquility and privacy.
Immerse in Nature Along Nicaragua’s Amazon
Nestled on a vastly different waterfront, the rustic Guacimo Lodge overlooks the untamed Río San Juan, which is often compared to the Amazon for its towering canopy that supports 600 species of birdlife and 200 species of mammals. With free-standing bungalows, a spacious family house, yoga deck, and pool, the ecolodge blends perfectly into its forested surroundings just 200 metres (650 feet) from the Costa Rican border.
From Guacimo, you can explore the town of El Castillo, take nature treks in the nearby Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, book a boat tour of the islands and islets of the Solentiname Archipelago, and check out the San Carlos area. Possibly the best spot to see Nicaragua’s wildlife, the Guacimo Lodge is a great base for adventurous travellers looking to explore one of Nicaragua’s least-known and little-visited regions. Greet the holidays with birdsong and the playful shouts from howler monkeys! To reach Granada, hop a boat for an unforgettable river cruise that takes you across Lake Nicaragua, an adventure of its own.
Explore Colonial Granada and a Sea of Volcanic Islands
Overlooking massive Lake Nicaragua, historic Granada charms visitors with its cobblestone streets, lovingly restored colonial-era churches and buildings, galleries, shops, museums, and cafés. Granada’s robust restaurant scene delights the taste buds with everything from international fusion to local fare. In the busy central square, you’ll find the commanding dome of Granada’s cathedral, where a climb up the bell tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding volcanoes and lake. Our walking tour also takes you to a few little-known spots to give you a more complete orientation.
From the nearby Marina Cocibolca, climb into a boat for a pleasant, 15-minute ride to the rustic-chic Jicaro Island Ecolodge for a full immersion into the incredible Las Isletas archipelago. Formed eons ago by an eruption of Mombacho Volcano, the 365 islands rising from the lake surface serve as the playgrounds of hundreds of bird and wildlife species.
Owned by a British expatriate, the luxurious nature resort offers nine casitas, each raised above ground like a tree house. All have amazing views of the lake and towering Mombacho (1,344 metres / 4,409 feet) on the horizon. Relax in the privacy and comfort of your casita, or join other guests around the pool, restaurant, or wellness centre.
For Sun & Surfing, Hit the South Pacific Beaches
If you fancy a beach getaway between Christmas and New Year’s, the southern Pacific coast is your spot. Less-visited beach towns, such as Las Peñitas, Popoyo, Santana, and Playa Gigante, plus the better-known San Juan del Sur, all welcome you for surfing, sunning, and various degrees of partying along the Pacific Coast.
Standing out amongst beach lodgings is Morgan’s Rock, a luxurious, off-the-beaten path resort that’s located in a 1,620-hectare (4,000-acre) expanse of Nicaraguan jungle. Offering 15 bungalows and three two-bedroom villas with private pool, Morgan’s Rock features a private sandy beach, frequented by nesting sea turtles. A variety of wildlife, including monkeys, deer, reptiles, and numerous bird species, thrive in the surrounding forested land and reserve.
Perfect for a family holiday, the hacienda provides a number of nature tours exploring its various ecosystems. Be sure to take the short hike from the beach up to a hillside lookout for an incredible sunset over the Pacific.
Celebrate With Unique Food and Drinks
Throughout Nicaragua’s cities and towns, Christmas (“La Navidad”) celebrations begin a week before Dec. 25, with midnight Christmas Eve being a noisy celebration featuring fireworks and rolls of ear-popping firecrackers.
A week later, New Year’s Eve is also a festive evening with traditions that include a special dinner at midnight and “burning the old year away” by setting fire to a specially built item that’s burned at midnight. Fireworks and firecrackers noisily welcome the New Year at the stroke of midnight.
Don’t be shy when it comes to Nicaraguan cuisine, especially during the holidays. Iconic dishes, such as gallo pinto (rice and beans) and the national drink macuá (white rum with guava, orange and lemon juice), are a must. Sip a beer-like chicha, a purple-pink concoction made from ground corn and served in a plastic bag with a straw. Snack on a quesillo (cheese rolled into a tortilla and covered in cream and onions) or rosquillas (Nicaraguan-style doughnuts). For something more filling, try vigorón (fried pork rinds, cabbage salad, and boiled yucca). Get an in-depth and tasty immersion into Nicaraguan rum at the Flor de Caña distillery in Chichigalpa near Léon, and our guide will introduce you to a friendly family for a Nacatamal cooking lesson in their home.
Charge Your Adrenaline with Volcanic Adventures
Add some fire to your Nicaragua experience with a visit to Masaya Volcano, which rises a modest 635 metres (2,083 feet), and look into the crater for a mesmerizing sight of a boiling lava. To amp up the display, visit at sunset, when parakeets return to their nests within the crater walls and bats take wing from their volcanic hideouts. The red-orange lava glows with stunning brightness as the night unfolds.
From Masaya, Nicaragua’s shortest volcano, hike or drive over to the tallest and one of the most active volcanoes in the country, San Cristobal. Located in Chinandega, San Cristobal (1,745 metres /5,725 feet) has been erupting since the 16th century and makes for a challenging, day-long climb.
And there’s nothing quite like a sandboarding adventure at Central America’s youngest volcano, Cerro Negro. After a 45- to 60-minute climb to its wind-whipped summit (726 metres / 2,400 feet), revel in the view that reaches to the Pacific Ocean (weather permitting). Then cross over to the mountain’s western face, look out over a lifeless, black moonscape of small, loose stones, and take the ride of your life as you zoom down the steep slope on a simple, sled-like board!
Nicaragua Hosts our Guide Awards Program
Viaventure, Central America’s premier tour operator, recently chose Nicaragua for our annual Guide Awards program to honour 10 guides who rated as the “best guide” based on feedback from our guests.
Our honorees, directors, staff, and guests were thoroughly impressed with what they found in Nicaragua, including reliable, hassle-free transportation with seamless transfers; clean, comfortable lodging; inviting restaurants with outstanding cuisine; and colourful, cultural charm.
At every stop, hospitality staff were welcoming and professional, proud of their community and country. We felt safe and secure along the way, using nothing more than the common-sense precautions every that traveller should follow regardless of the destination.
With pristine beaches, 19 active volcanoes, hidden jungle eco-lodges, and oceanfront retreats, Nicaragua is open for business, proudly welcoming you with open arms and wide smiles.