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!
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.
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.
Also see these photo essays on Nicaragua: