Nicaragua (pop. 5.8 million as of July 2008) is working to overcome a decades-old reputation of political instability, violence, civil war and natural disasters. It remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere (with a 2007 GDP per capital of $2,800), but is now at peace and is relatively safe for travel. Less congested than Costa Rica, but with spectacular natural and colonial attractions, Nicaragua has been growing as a tourist destination among those who are willing to overlook the country’s turbulent past and still underdeveloped tourist infrastructure. Visitors, who come to take advantage of Nicaragua’s relatively low prices, find themselves falling in love with the spectacular volcanoes, the largest lake in Central America, colonial Granada and Caribbean beaches in areas like Bluefields.

Nicaragua’s Geography

The largest Central American nation, Nicaragua, is full of parks and reserves and more lakes than any other Central American nation. Located between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south and with long coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Nicaragua is about one-third tropical rainforests and is split in half by a mountain range scattered with volcanoes.

Nicaraguan Culture

Baseball-crazy Nicaraguans are friendly and helpful and will happily tell you their opinions about their country’s political past. In 1998 the nation was rocked by Hurricane Mitch which killed thousands and left 20 percent of the population homeless.

Some highlights not to miss on your trip to Nicaragua are:

Granada– Founded on the shores of Lago de Nicaragua and the base of Volcán Mombacho in 1524, today it is a hub for tourists taking daytrips in the area or for those who just want to relax in this peaceful town loaded with international restaurants and inexpensive lodging.

Lago de Nicaragua– The largest lake in Central America and home to the world’s only freshwater sharks, Lago de Nicaragua can be seen on a daytrip boat tour, or through longer stays on one of its islands.

The Corn Islands – These two Caribbean islands, Little Corn and Big Corn, are lined with picturesque palm trees and surrounded by beautiful coral reefs covered by crystal-clear water.

Leon The second-oldest Nicaraguan town, Leon was the capital of Nicaragua until 1857 and is today considered its intellectual capital due to its large university-student population.

All information for this overview was written and researched by Dawn Wohlfarth.