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Exploring Beautiful and Historical Nicaragua
My trip to #Nicaragua just wasn't long enough, this country has so much to offer! Whether you're into #culture, #history, #nature or #foodandrink, Nicaragua will delight you. I spent some time in #Leon and #Granada, and came away wanting more!
Nicaragua was my first destination in Central America (other than a quick hop over the US-Mexico border in my early 20s). I fell in love. Not only was Nicaragua extremely affordable, the people were enchanting and friendly, and the entire country had a very relaxed and comfortable feel. Nicaragua has something to offer everyone: history, nature, adventure, and beaches.
León, the country’s second largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, doesn’t get a lot of publicity. I am so glad I went. León was founded in 1524 by the Spanish and is one of two historic capitols of the country. It’s considered the intellectual center of the country and is also a revolutionary town with an electric vibe.
a revolutionary town with an electric vibe
Justifiably famous as a city of dozens of churches, another must-do stop is the Museum of Revolution. It has the feel of a Nicaraguan VFW where revolutionary veterans hang out in the courtyard talking and sharing stories. For a nominal entrance fee a revolutionary veteran will take you around the museum and share their personal insights. My guide didn’t speak English and my Spanish wasn’t up to the job, but no translator was really necessary. His passion and energy were contagious and with a few recognizable words, pictures and hand gestures it was one of my favorite stops in my two week trip to Central America.
While in Leon we stayed at Hotel Flor De Sarta. I would definitely stay there again. It is a small boutique hotel run by French Expats. It is within walking distance to Leon’s center with a friendly and helpful staff. But my favorite part was the courtyard garden where I would get up early with a book and enjoy a cup of tea in the cool of the day.
Granada is a great place to stay for a couple of days and take day trips. It is amazing how different Granada feels from Leon. I can’t do it justice in words, you just have to go and see for yourself. Granada is more beautiful and more touristy than Leon and is a great city to walk, explore museums, and lounge in cafes. You can spend a day on Lake Nicaragua watching the wildlife, take a night tour of Volcano Masaya (I recommend a tour rather than on your own so you can see the lava tunnels), and visit the markets in Masaya.
Masaya Volcano and Local Tour
Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro
If you speak Spanish, or want to speak Spanish, think of Nicaragua as a place to combine your vacation with Spanish immersion lessons. There are endless opportunities to practice and expand your vocabulary, and it will significantly enhance your experience.
Granada is a great city to walk, explore museums, and lounge in cafes.
While in Granada we stayed at Miss Margrit’s Guest House. I thought our charming place in Leon would be hard to beat, but Miss Margrit’s did it. Also a small boutique hotel this place has a much younger feel. But our room was spacious with a wonderful balcony that overlooked the courtyard. The hotel had a pool which we returned to in the heat of the afternoon to cool off, hang out, and have a drink before going out to dinner. The staff was wonderful and the breakfast was amazing. I still have a hankering for the lime pancakes!
our room was spacious with a wonderful balcony
Like all my travels, I wish there had been enough time and money to do more on my first trip to Nicaragua. I have bad knees, so I unfortunately I couldn’t go volcano surfing. (Yes, it’s a real thing!) Also, I didn’t have time to get to the East Coast and see the Bluefields, or to explore the jungles and villages in the North. But that’s okay, it means I already have a starting place for next time. Next time I think I’ll fly into Managua and immediately catch an early morning domestic flight east to see Caribbean Coast, then head North to explore the highlands on my way to El Salvador and Honduras.
I don’t recommend renting a car in Nicaragua and I would stay away from cabs. We used Tierra Tours both from the airport to Leon and then on to Granada. They were a reasonably priced reliable transfer for our group who was not up for a long adventurous local bus ride.
Before any trip, I recommend learning a little bit about the location through the lens of a book or movie. I read Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle by Thomas Walker while there. I highly recommend it. It provides the history of Nicaragua in the context of its relationship with the United States. The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War by Gioconda Belli also gets good ratings. The movie Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford takes place in Eastern Nicaragua. You may also want to look up or read a bit about William Walker before you go. I had never heard of him before my trip, but he is an infamous American who was President of Nicaragua for a short time and tried to take control of most of Central America before he was executed in Honduras in 1860. Who knew?