When I was planning my winter getaway last fall I went through multiple destinations in my mind. My original plan included Guatemala coupled with either Belize or Honduras but after reading and hearing about some misadventures other travellers had encountered in Guatemala, I started to think that it may not be the best option as my first Central American destination.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think of Nicaragua sooner but once I started reading about this small Central American country it sounded amazing. And as it turned out, it really was the perfect place to escape the winter and to fall in love with the region!
So why should you visit Nicaragua? Well let me tell you…
Nicaragua is authentic.
What I loved most about Nicaragua was that it felt like I was visiting a real country and not a façade put up for tourists. I started my trip by flying to San Jose, Costa Rica and spent a few days there as well. I noticed Nicaragua is much less developed in terms of tourism services than Costa Rica but all the services you needed were there; they just weren’t handed to you on a silver platter and a hefty price tag. People seemed relatively uninterested in tourists (taxi drivers excluded!) but they were more than happy to help if it was needed. English was not always an option which to me as a Spanish learner was great – There were times where my language skills were really put to test and it was very rewarding to be able to communicate in the local language.
If you’re coming from North America or Europe Nicaragua is ridiculously cheap. After crossing the border from Costa Rica the prices plummeted, too. Accommodation costs varied a lot depending on the location. San Juan del Sur was much more expensive compared to Isla de Ometepe, for example. You should expect to pay around $10 – $25/ night for an air conditioned double room with private bathroom, although you could spend as little as $3/night if you wanted to sleep in a hammock on a deck. Transportation is also very affordable. A 30-45min long taxi ride was $4 whereas 1h 30min in a ‘chicken bus’ would cost around $1.75. With taxi drivers it helps tremendously if you can negotiate the prices in Spanish!
The nature is unique.
Ok, tall palm trees and sandy beaches aren’t exactly unique, but volcano island rising from a giant lake? Yep, haven’t seen that before! Nicaragua also has a lot of coffee plantations (highly recommend a visit if you have a chance!), volcanoes, very curious monkeys and lovely, colourful colonial cities. So if you are looking for white sandy beaches dotted with palm trees for your winter getaway, you will get those and a lot more in Nicaragua.
Proud and friendly people.
I think most people are proud of their country no matter where you are (well, there are of course exceptions..) and this is also true for Nicaragua; I met many proud Nicaraguans along the way. My coffee plantation guide, a 50 something year old Jose, had spent his whole life on the island of Isla de Ometepe and he was so proud about his work on the organic coffee farm and Nicaraguan coffee, of course. I often relied on the help of locals for getting a ride somewhere as taxis weren’t always around on the island and people were so kind to help a traveller in need. One day a banana truck driver stopped his truck to tell me that if I was looking for the village of Balgue I had already passed it (and the next village would be very far in the direction I was going). I also met some kids on a beach and they seemed just genuinely curious about the blonde, sunburnt traveller wandering in their backyard.
Would I go back to Nicaragua? Absolutely. And I don’t usually return to destinations I have been to! The scenery on Isla de Ometepe was so wonderful that I would love to see those volcano views again. In addition, the Corn Islands on the Caribbean side sound like the perfect place to take a break from everything. So, until next time Nicaragua –Hasta luego!