Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nicaragua: A Hidden Gem

Back in mid-January I decided to take a short trip with a close friend of mine.  We debated over where we should go, but we ultimately decided on Nicaragua.  I had never been to Central America and Nicaragua seemed to be the perfect choose.  It was cheap, warm, and relatively safe (compared to other countries in the region).  I really enjoyed this somewhat unexpected getaway and I'm about to tell you a little more about it.

Until I had done my research, I wasn't really thinking about Nicaragua.  It wasn't top of my list.  Quite honestly, I didn't know much about it.  We started off our trip in Managua, the capital, and what a waste that was.  There really isn't anything in the city (if you can even call it a city).  I really wish we would have left town upon arriving at the airport, but you live and you leave.  Luckily we only spent one night.

The next day we traveled south to Granada and what a lovely little town that was.  There were so many colorful building and old church.  I just couldn't get enough.  This was also where we started to get a real feel for Nicaraguan food.  It seemed really common to go into a restaurant that looked a little questionable and get some of the most amazing food you could imagine for cheap.  Nicaraguans rarely make a bad meal, in my experience, and their menus were typically expansive like the Cheesecake Factory.  You could get steak, pizza, pasta, chicken, noodles, plantains...whatever you wanted and it was all fantastic!

The view from our room with a volcano in the distance
After Granada, we went further south and got on the Ferry to Ometepe, which is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  The island was really scenic being made up of two volcanoes.  We even tried hiking up one of those volcanoes, but unfortunately, as we got closer to the top, it got too cloudy to get a good view.  One of the things I really liked about Ometepe was the place we stayed.  It was a farm that rented out these fabulous little eco-friendly guest houses.  They were not necessarily in the trees, but they made you feel like you were staying in a tree house, which seemed a bit exotic.

After Ometepe, we traveled back through Managua to go north to Leon.  This was our last stop and this country wasn't about to disappoint me there.  My favorite part of our stay in Leon was when we took a local bus about 30 minutes to the beach.  Most tourists frequent the beaches in the south, such as San Juan del Sur, but we decided to try one of the more northern beaches and it was nothing short of amazing!  I had read that it was frequented by locals.  It wasn't deserted, but there were fewer people there than I would've expected.  It was also just the perfect day for laying out in the sand.  In the middle of the day we took an intermission from sunbathing and went up to one of the restaurants that looked out on the water and had an amazing seafood lunch.  We ended the day perfectly by buying coconuts from a street vendor and drinking the coconut water on the bus ride back to Leon.  Life just couldn't get more ideal.

Where we ate lunch at the beach

All is all, I really enjoyed Nicaragua.  It seemed familiar but different from anywhere I had been before.  I also got a chance to struggle practicing my Spanish skills, which was a challenge because I have been learning German lately.  I'd have to say, if you are looking for an inexpensive tropical vacation and you aren't too picky about accommodations and transportation, go to Nicaragua.  It might surprise you.

For more information regarding traveling to Nicaragua, check out this article I found in the Economist 1843 magazine:

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