Nicaragua had been on my list for years. I think I saw an eco resort in a magazine or something....all I knew is that I wanted to go :) Nicaragua didn't disappoint. I flew into Managua, which is the main international airport. There are non-stop flights from several cities in the US (Miami, Houston and Atlanta to name a few). I took a car service to Granada, one of the colonial cities. My destination was an island in the huge Lake Nicaragua---accessible from a marina just outside of Granada. There are several eco-resorts and they are all about a 10 to 20 minute boat ride from Granada. Pretty easy commute for the tranquility I experienced.
From my casita at the resort I had unobstructed views of the volcano Mombacho. There were more birds than people....by a long shot....and the stars were amazing at night with almost no light pollution.
Many of the eco-resorts have all of the creature comforts (electricity 24/7, hot water, well prepared food, spa services) that you would want on vacation. My massage therapist came over on the boat from Granada and I had my service in a small open area palapa. Very relaxing. My favorite meal were tacos made from homemade tortillas with fresh avocados and salsas accompanied by a fresh mango beverage (can be made with or without alcohol). My lodge also made homemade teas, ginger beers and smoothies.
After all that relaxing, I was ready to explore. The resort accommodates last minute requests and an hour or so after I asked for a guide to show me Granada, I was shaking his hand. Ishmeel took me to see the highlights of Granada--the museum, cathedral, bell tower, central square and the town market.
Just FYI...that is not a bag of rocks at the market. Those are cacao beans....what is used to make chocolate. Nicaragua is known for its coffee and chocolate...I can attest that both taste amazing!
Granada is a vibrant city, but isn't very big or very congested. If I had more time, I would have spent one night in town so I could explore the city some more. It was nice to come back to the tranquility of the island and know that I didn't have to go anywhere. Dinner is about a 2 minute walk away.
My second day, I chose to hike Mombacho. The top of Mombacho is part of a cloud forest eco system and as the name implies, is often under cloud cover. I got incredibly lucky---that day there was hardly a cloud in the sky and I could see for miles and miles. There are several options to get to the top---hike the whole way (a 4 to 5 hour hike), take a truck half way up and hike from there ( 2 to 3 hours) or take the truck to the top and walk along the crater and up to the summit. I chose the last option....I wanted to see the scenery, but didn't want to spend the entire day. There are also tours available where you tour a coffee farm on Mombacho and/or do a canopy tour via zip line. I didn't do either as I was more in the mood for a tranquil walk.
I seemed to stop every few minutes as my eyes were drawn to a flower or bird or some beautiful view. At the summit there were a few fumaroles (vent holes for the volcano) and the wind was quite strong (thus the photo with my hair standing straight up).
One last photo that isn't of Nicaragua, but it is what I brought with me. The resort works with local communities living on the islands of Lake Nicaragua and has a small suggested donation list. I only brought a carry on bag for my 3 nights stay, but I managed to find some space (I will always prioritize donations over another pair of pants!). I post this to show the impact this small donation could make if we all tried to put a few extras into our luggage. The impact could be huge!
Nicaragua is a destination that has something for everyone. Please get in touch if you are interested and I would happy to plan your journey.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent (thanks to the recent visit to Antarctica!