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Nicaragua

Main attractions

Colibri and flower, Nicaragua
The amazing nature of Nicaragua / Jorge Mejía Peralta, / CC BY 2.0

This beautiful Central American country is not a popular destination of international tourism. Not yet - the memories of comparatively recent civil war and mine fields still are there. But things are changing to the best now.

Highlights of Nicaragua are:

  • Volcanic landscape - few other countries have that many interesting volcanoes as Nicaragua. Exact cone shaped mountains rise directly from enormous lakes of Nicaragua and bear every kind of heritage values - geological monuments, unique species of plants and animals and mysterious archaeological monuments on their slopes.
  • Little explored rainforest - vast forests in the western part of the country may hide numerous interesting monuments unknown to contemporary people. This is the largest undisturbed rainforest in Central America.
  • Historical cities - León and Granada are some of the oldest European cities in Americas - and old rivals. Both are true jewels with rich architecture heritage.

Natural landmarks

Concepción volcano, Nicaragua
Concepción volcano on Ometepe island - the tallest lake island in the world / Mat Honan, / CC BY 2.0

Volcanoes and geothermal fields

  • Concepción volcano on Ometepe - Rivas. Perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone, rising almost 1.6 km above the lake, thus turning Ometepe island into the highest lake island in the world.
  • Masaya volcano and its acid rain - Masaya. Very active and unusual volcano (635 m) with several active craters. One crater contains molten lava, Santiago crater emits large amounts of sulfur dioxide, which created acid rain and eliminated vegetation around the volcano.
  • Momotombo - León. Very symmetrical volcano next to Managua Lake. This 1,297 m tall volcano is active and caused much destruction in the surroundings.
  • San Jacinto hot springs - León. Geothermal field with boiling mud pools.

Waterfalls

Below are listed just few of the countless waterfalls in Nicaragua. The tallest waterfalls in the country exceed 200 m height.

  • El Rosario Falls (Salto de la Selva Morena) - Nueva Segovia. Wide, beautiful waterfall, one of the most impressive ones in Nicaragua. Three steps, total height exceeds 200 m.
  • San Ramón Waterfall - Rivas. Some 56 m tall waterfall in the cloud forest of Maderas, Ometepe Island.
  • Yaho Falls - Atlántico Norte. Large waterfall on Waspuk River in the pristine forest of Bosawas National Park.
Cloud forest of Mombacho, Nicaragua
Cloud forest of Mombacho / Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ecosystems

Nicaragua has huge varity of unusual and unique ecosystems - most of them are poorly researched. Here are mentioned just two easily accessible cloud forests.

  • Cloud forest of Maderas - Rivas. One of the two places in the Pacific side of Nicaragua, where cloud forest grows on the very fertile volcanic ground. This forest has developed around the summit of Maderas volcano (1,394 m) on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua and is very rich with rare species. According to the local legends, this misty forest is inhabited by fairies and spirits.
  • Cloud forest of Mombacho - Granada. One of the two cloud forests in the Pacific side of Nicaragua, this unique forest grows on the slopes of Mombacho volcano (1,344 m). In some parts dwarf forest has developed. Forest contains endemic species of plants and animals living only here.

Other natural landmarks

  • Quizaltepe monolith - Boaco. Enormous, some 300 m tall monolith with caves.
  • Somoto Canyon - Madriz. Up to 160 m deep and 3 km long canyon along Coco River.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs on the slopes of Maderas volcano, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Petroglyphs on the slopes of Maderas volcano, Ometepe / Poutine, / CC BY 3.0

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs are found in hundreds of locations around the country, here are mendioned just few of them.

  • Cailagua petroglyphs and falls - Masaya. Large group of petroglyphs over a 100 m wide segment of rock, located around 65 m tall waterfall.
  • Cueva del Duende (Dwarf's Cave) - Nueva Segovia. Small rock shelter with interesting petroglyphs.
  • Cueva La Conga - Jinotega. Cave with Pre-Columbian paintings and carved speleothems, the southernmost Mesoamerican cave paintings.
  • Isla El Muerto - Granada. Small island near Zapatera. Cliffs of this small island are covered with large panels of Pre-Columbian rock art, mostly stylised animals, birds and humans. Also stone statues have been found here.
  • Montelimar Cave - Managua. Small rock shelter with petroglyphs. In the prehistoric paintings the blue color is used - what is very rare for cave art.
  • Punta las Figuras, Zapatera and other sites on the Zapatera island - Granada. On this volcanic island have been found very interesting archaeological monuments - large stone sculptures (up to 2.25 m tall), petroglyphs, pottery and other. Most statues have been removed from the island. Mostly created in the time period between 800 and 1350 AD, possibly by Chorotega culture.
  • San Fernando petroglyphs - Río San Juan, one of Solentiname Islands in Lake Nicaragua. Prehistoric petroglyphs which show people, monkeys, parrots.
  • Sculptures and petroglyphs of Maderas - Rivas. On the northern slopes of Maderas volcano in the cloud forest are found large basalt statues and petroglyphs. Oldest artefacts are from 300 BC. Whole Ometepe Island is very rich with archaeological heritage, most of it - very diverse petroglyphs.

Other archaeological monuments

  • Ancient footprints of Acahualinca - Managua. Footprints left in fresh volcanic ash by a group of people, who walked here circa 110 BC.
  • Nawawasito megaliths (El Gavilán statues) - Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur. Rich find of Pre-Columbian megalithic sculptures which were made from different materials - basalt, carbonate rock, andesites. 13 intact sculptures and pieces of many more sculptures have been found here. Numerous mounds.
Historical centre of Granada, Nicaragua
Historical centre of Granada / Carlos Adampol Galindo, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Historical cities

  • León Viejo - León. Initial location of the city of León, which was founded here in 1524. It experienced frequent damage from volcanic and earthquake activity and in 1610, after a popular consultation it was decided to move the city to its present location. Old city was gradually buried under volcanic ash and rediscovered only in 1967. City has been preserved very well, without any alterations in its original planning, but the structures have been much damaged by earthquakes and storms.
  • Historical centre of Granada - Granada. One of the most beautiful historical cities in Central America, with some 376 historical buildings. Established in 1524 - one of the earliest European cities in America which was a recognized urban centre since early years of its history. The architecture of historical buildings in this city bears Moorish and Andalusian influence. City is a historical rival of León - Managua is choosen as a capital city in order to settle the eternal fight of power between León and Granada.
  • Historical centre of León - León. In the central part of this colonial city have been preserved numerous ornate and interesting buildings in Castilian style. Founded in the present site in 1610, university city since the 1813.
Church of Recollection in León, Nicaragua
Church of Recollection in León / Poutine, / CC BY 3.0

Churches

  • Cathedral of the Assumption, León - León. Beautiful cathedral in Baroque - Neo-Classicism style, built in 1747 - 1814. The largest church building in Central America which forms a part of the identity of Nicaragua. Numerous tunnels connect this cathedral to other buildings in the city.
  • Church of Recollection in León (Iglesia de la Merced) - León. Beautiful church, built in Baroque style in the 18th century.
  • San Francisco Church in Granada - Granada. Large and ornate convent church. Convent was founded in 1529 and was one of the first Christian missions in America.

Other man made landmarks

  • Fortress of the Immaculate Conception - Río San Juan. Historical fortress at San Juan River, built on the border of Atlantic rainforest and agricultural lands in the central part of Nicaragua. Built in 1673 to prevent the coming of pirates to Lake Nicaragua.
  • Museum of legends and myths, León - León. Unique museum of the rich Nicaraguan folklore which involves existance of fantastic creatures, spirits, possessed people. Located in former prison.

List of described attractions by departments and self-governing regions

Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two self-governing regions.

Boaco
Carazo
Chinandega
Chontales
Estelí
Granada
Jinotega
León
ArrowCathedral of the Assumption, LeónChurches
Madriz
Managua
Masaya
Nueva Segovia
Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte
Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur
Rivas
Río San Juan

Map of Nicaragua