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Nicaragua In the News

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Traveling in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is the Bahamas before it went upscale. It's St. Barts without the attitude. And it's lots of Americans vacationing — even buying second homes — without the Sandinistas. Yes, Daniel Ortega is back in power, but with a new vision — perhaps a shocking one to those who remember his former regime — but not surprising to those who realize the key to saving and improving the economy of the largest country in Central America is by focusing on travel and tourism.

No Starbucks yet. No over-the-top spas. But great beaches. One of the other reasons Nicaragua is so attractive now is that it remains the least densely populated country in Central America with a population in size to its smaller neighbors. The country is bordered on the north by Honduras and on the south by Costa Rica. Its western coastline is on the Pacific Ocean, while the east side of the country is on the Caribbean Sea.

About 60,000 Americans visit Nicaragua each year, attracted by the beaches, jungles, history and culture. Although Nicaragua has been largely peaceful since the election of the first democratically-elected female president in Latin America, Violeta Chamorro, in 1990, the country still bears some scars from the decade-long civil war.

But the country is well on its way to recovery. Since Nicaragua is less developed, it's often mentioned as a cheaper alternative to its richer and more developed neighbor, Costa Rica. Ecotourism, volcano walks and nature activities are a rapidly growing sector of the tourism industry. Nicaragua has 78 nature parks that draw in visitors each year.

León Viejo, the old village of Leon, is viewed to be one of the oldest and the most well-developed historical Spanish settlements, giving it important archaeological value. Leon Viejo was abandoned in 1610 after almost 100 years of habitation when the Momotombo volcano erupted. The ruins have now been largely excavated and have been a UNESCO site since 2000.

The Island of Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes that rise out of Lake Nicaragua. Much of the island is now a nature preserve (farms cover much of the rest) with unique rainforest environments in the shadow of the volcano.

Granada is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in Nicaragua, with its nostalgic atmosphere and colonial architecture. It's also the second-oldest city founded by Europeans in the Americas, founded in 1524. Many of the town's old buildings are now being refurbished after years of neglect in the conflict-ridden 1980s and the poverty-filled 1990s. Granada also attracts visitors to its beaches on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, which is also home to a large number of freshwater bull sharks.

Wildlife attractions
Filled with all kinds of interesting animals, birds, fish, insects and plants, an animal lover will find Nicaragua a virtual paradise. Of course, not all these delightful creatures are within easy access to the public. Much of Nicaragua's wildlife live protected lives in wildlife reserves and have made their homes in rainforests, lakes, mountains and volcanoes.

Each year thousands of sea turtles make the journey from the sea to the beach, where they spend the entire night digging a nest and laying their eggs before returning to the water. The event can be fascinating to watch — as are the hatchings of these precious little creatures. Birdwatchers will rejoice in the wide variety of beautiful birds that have made their home in Nicaragua. Nicaragua has several wild cat species, including the puma, the cougar, the jaguarondi, the margay and the ocelot.

Selva Negra Coffee Estate
The organic coffee estate of Selva Negra is an eco-friendly, sustainable farm located in the Selva Negra Cloud Forest Reserve. You can explore the forest on walking trails and on horseback, tour the coffee plantation and an extensive greenhouse.

Exito Travel offers an interesting “San Juan Experience” — a boating experience that travels from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean via the San Juan River. Though no boating experience is required for the minimally-exhaustive trip, the waters will take you through the heart of the country's best-preserved rainforests and rivers. The cost for this eight-day tour is $2,469 per person, and does not include international flights.

Brendan Tours features the “Best of Nicaragua” on an eight-day tour. The tour's highlights include a few days in Granada and Managua along with plenty of visits to the Pacific shore. Prices start at $1198 per person, and include guides, transport within Nicaragua, lodging, and some meals, and do not include international flights.

For nature lovers, Tours Nicaragua has the 14-day, 13-night “Nicaragua Natural History Expedition.” This 14-day tour covers six distinct ecosystems and nine nature reserves, from cloud forests to coastal mangrove swamps. Included are plenty of boat tours and private wilderness guides to give you a truer view of Nicaragua's nature.