The Rugged Beauty Of Nicaragua

Spanish colonial cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua

When the subject of Nicaragua comes up many people immediately think of the awful civil war that took place there during the 1980’s between the Sandinistas and the Contras. No doubt those were some extremely difficult times for the largest country in Central America, but unfortunately too many people still think of the place as being a war-torn country too dangerous to visit. Likewise, I don’t think very many people realize just how picturesque the country really is. It hardly ever gets mentioned in the mainstream media, so how would they know.

For me personally, because of some wonderful things I had heard about traveling in Nicaragua from one of my dive instructors back in 1995, I had been wanting to go there for a really long time. And in more recent years I kept hearing that Nica is now much what Costa Rica was like 30 years ago, making me want to go even more. With over one million visitors to the country in 2010, obviously the word is already starting to get out. I absolutely love exploring wonderful places before the potentially overwhelming masses start showing up, so my partner and I took the plunge on a trip there together this past month. And you know what? We absolutely loved it!

Volcano Concepcion, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

First of all Nicaragua is definitely not too dangerous to visit. No doubt, just like any place in the world, including the US, you need to be thoughtful of where and when you spend your time. But we never felt threatened, and for the most part the people were extremely friendly and helpful. Also, considering that Nica is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, I was actually very pleasantly surprised with how good the infrastructure is already. The roads were well maintained, there were plenty of interesting and nice hotels and restaurants to choose from which were suitable for a wide range of budgets, and internet access including wi-fi was much more prevalent than I had expected.

So now that you know you could travel there relatively comfortably, perhaps you are wondering why you would want to go there in the first place? Well, as all those people told me in years gone by, Nica really is in some ways what I imagine Costa Rica was like 30 years ago. If you like the natural beauty of Costa Rica with its stunning volcanoes, rich tropical rain forests, colorful birds and laid back atmosphere, then you would definitely like Nica as well. And it makes perfect sense that these two countries are so ecologically and culturally similar, because they are literally right next to each other, Nicaragua to the north and Costa Rica to the south.

Mestiza (mixed blood) woman in outdoor market in Granada, Nicaragua

But I personally would also say that Nica likewise shares some common characteristics with another one of its Central American cousins, Guatemala, which also make this often overlooked country an interesting place to visit. First of all, Nicaragua’s Spanish colonial history is beautifully enshrined in the architecture of several of it cities, most notably in Granada and Leon. Costa Rica really doesn’t have nearly as much Spanish colonial architecture to admire when compared to Nicaragua or Guatemala. Secondly, much like the people in Guatemala, those in Nicaragua have a lot more indigenous influence, i.e. genetic makeup and social customs, and you literally see this in its people and taste it in its foods. In other words there seems to be a little more variety in the people and the foods of Nicaragua than what you tend to find in Costa Rica. I personally like this.

And like both Costa Rica and Guatemala, Nicaragua is a photographer’s paradise. I only really consider myself an average photographer, but because of all the gorgeous and colorful scenery, both natural and manmade, that we constantly encountered I was able to get some seriously beautiful and interesting shots. I’ve already shared some of these photos on my Facebook page, and I will soon be sharing some more.

If you think you’d like to learn more about Nicaragua and what it has to offer, then definitely stay in touch with my blog and/or my Facebook page. I’ll definitely be writing more about specific places and activities in this country when I return from my upcoming trip to Cambodia and Laos which of course I will also write about. But if you have any immediate questions please feel free to post them below or on my Facebook page. Likewise if you think you might be interested in actually visiting Nicaragua yourself in the future on a small group tour please let me know that as well. Those wheels are definitely turning in my head.

Travel well!

Also see these photo essays on Nicaragua:

Colorful Nicaragua – Part 1

Colorful Nicaragua – Part 2

Colorful Nicaragua – Part 3


About Keith Hajovsky

Since 1985 I have traveled throughout much of the United States and to over forty different countries within five continents for both business and pleasure. As my friends and family will tell you, I love to travel and I love to help others travel. If you are looking for someone to help you out with your travel plans or if you need a personal guide, please let me know!

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4 Responses to “The Rugged Beauty Of Nicaragua”

  1. Shelley Seale January 29, 2012 2:56 pm #

    It was a great trip, really loved everything we did there. For me, the pros were:

    Good roads for the most part
    Laid-back; vendors and market sellers were not pushy at all
    Set prices on most taxis
    Little to no hassle

    The only con, really, was the fact that while you are correct in saying it’s a safe country, no less safe than where we leave, I would add the caveat that for WOMEN travelers, there does exist a certain element of harassment in some places. Latin sexist machismo is alive and well here, so ladies on your own (especially in Granada and at night) just exercise caution and do not speak to or acknowledge men who throw comments at you. Don’t even make eye contact. Sure most of it is harmless but there definitely is a sexual aggression toward women in this country. That was my only negative experience.

    • Keith Hajovsky January 29, 2012 7:42 pm #

      True, there is definitely a segment of men, not all of them of course, who seem to believe all females are open targets for catcalls and other inappropriate behaviours. Perhaps some pepper spray or even bear spray would easily fix that. :-) Seriously though, that part wasn’t cool, and as you said women should not even make eye contact with the men there. That’s unfortunate, but it is the reality of the situation, especially in Granada.

  2. Ana McBride June 15, 2012 9:25 pm #

    Dear Keith, if you have the opportunity, time wise, journey to Honduras, specifically, Catacamas. It was the site of our medical missions up until three years ago.
    At that time the coup and now the heavy drug and humn trafficking that goes down that main road have prevented us from returning. The area is lovely as are the people. The area is poor but within the last two years they were the recipients of a relativly modern hospital( albeit small)that is the standard for all the others in Honduras. Honduras previously had only ,five medical facilities
    and all are substandard. The town itself is not large yet they do have some nice new hotels at winning prices for as little as $7-$15.00/per nite. There is a natural beauty that is only surpassed by the loveliness of it’s people. the cuisine is tasty yet not spicy as we are accustomed to. When we were last there most of the villages we visited were primarily matriarchal as most of the young men and boys had immigrated north.

    What I found fascinating is that whatever clothing is white remains like snow in spite of the filthiness of the local water supply.

    there are (or were) several governmental programs interested in maintaing and raising the local water tables by planting several species of trees found in those particular areas.

    I did not notice any infrastructure regarding community health concerns.

    It is rather funny(?) that when the local electrical supply is interrupted —the only businesses that can continue to operate are the internet cafes.

    It is an intersting area to visit and we long to return to visit our old friends.

    I hope that someday you will be able to see for yourslf how wonderful the people are.

  3. Keith Hajovsky June 16, 2012 10:36 am #

    Hi Ana,

    Thanks for the great information. I have been to Honduras several times, mostly in the 1990′s, but it was always on the northern coast and the Bay Islands. I’d definitely like to get back there soon and explore other parts of the country, and hopefully Catacamas will be safe enough for me to visit whenever I do finally get there.


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