A Visit To Nicaragua
Getting to Nicaragua was like making a series for “Don’t Tell my Mother” a hit travel series about a foreign correspondent that goes to the dangerous travel destinations around the world. My mom was very vocal about her concerns for my safety regarding my seven day solitary expedition to visit this largest country in Central America. Her apprehensions made me more determined to go on and pursue my adventure. As for me I was lucky enough to experience being in a destination that possesses both the extreme good and bad. Here is the account of my 2012 summer vacation in Nicaragua.
My journey began by getting onboard a 9 hour Delta Air flight from New York to the Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport in Managua. Visas are not required but I was asked to accomplish a form for a tourist card which was all processed upon arrival for $10. Riding on a rented Prado, I drove twenty minutes from the airport to get to the city of Granada. When I got there I met with four other tourists to enjoy the Granada Tours. First thing we tried was the 3 hour kayak tour of the Islets of Granada it’s a tour of Las Isletas, a beautiful collection of small islands along the Lake of Nicaragua. The guide showed us around its rich flora and fauna, wildlife animals, feeding fresh fruits with the monkeys, and seeing the homes of millionaires on the other parts of the islands. I photographed the beautiful coves of Mombacho from our motor boat. I also video some monkey activity on one island, it was fun! Great views and a bird watchers paradise surround the islands.
Each Isleta has something to offer. After the tour we all stopped by the Iguana Restaurant for a taste of the spicy cuisine of the Sandinistas. I passed by the Guadalupe Church for some meditation, which is just a few meters away from the Granada Main Square. I admired its old style architecture and the antique items and monuments that came from the old indigenous settlers of this island. I climbed way up to its steeple to admire the fantastic sunset, it was interesting to look all over Granada as the light goes down and the sky turns red.
The next day, our group rode an old army truck for a crazy adventure ride at the mountain leading to the Mombacho Volcano. After the ride we took a four hour hike to get to its 4 inactive craters. On top we had a great view at the viewing platform of the Granada Islets. Along the path I found a diversity of trees, bromeliads, other orchids and wildlife animals. Our park ranger guide brought us to the Café Las Flores Plantation; their friendly staff explains how the coffee is processed, I sampled their coffee and bought some packs for mom. I tried the zip line adventure at the Café Las Flores Canopy Adventure. It was an amazing sensation to fly over the trees and look down to its lush vegetation. From here I took advantage of a 5 hour one on one Spanish language course at the Casa Nica Spanish School. I learned a lot; the language, customs and Nicaraguan history.
Later that afternoon I took a walk along the Calle La Calzada, it is a beautiful street filled with Spanish colonial influences. This is where everything is happening, the “hippest” strip. It starts east from the Parquet Central and winds all the way to the lake. The street was flanked by casonas (large colonial houses), and historical buildings. At the south end I found the Centro Touristic, an area lined with restaurants, discos and cafes. This boulevard is indeed the heart of the colonial Granada!
Being a chocolate lover of course I did not miss visiting the Chocó Museo, located along Calle Atravesada. It is a small museum where they show the history and how chocolates are made. I had a blast with my chocolate making lessons with Ismael. I was taught how to roast, peel, and ground the beans to make a paste, and make my own personal bar. They gave me free samples of each chocolate variety. I bought souvenirs at their little shop and a hot chocolate drink. Truly a chocoholic’s delight! From here I visited the Mi Museo, a small museum that features old ceramic potteries and artifacts. Inside I found pots containing burial offerings, some were over 1000 years old! The small sculptures of Matirarchal Figurines were artfully preserved as well as other ceramics from Pre Columbian times. One block from here is the Cementerio de Granada; it is an old cemetery where the wealthiest of Nicaraguans are buried. Huge tombs and statues line the cemetery. I saw the finely sculpted Presidential Memorial where six Nicaraguan Presidents were buried.
The next day I drove to the city of Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. I started my tour with a visit to Laguna de Apoyo. It is the largest crater lagoon of Nicaragua that has a good view of the Masaya Volcano and Nindiri Volcano. I passed by a small museum to learn about the volcanoes before heading to the craters. I drove way up to the look out point to get to the lake near the craters. The Monkey Hut offers free kayaking tour of Lake Managua; I even swam on its warm waters. I saw a woman lead an Ox –drawn cart with their wares along the shores of the lake.
When I got hungry I stopped by at La Cueva de Tigre for lunch. From here I checked out The National Palace of Culture and learned more about Nicaragua’s political history and its people. It houses artifacts of beautiful pottery and explains the terrains and geography as well. Just across stands the Casa de los Pueblos, which used to be a presidential home but has now become a place for political and cultural activities. I prayed at the very Old Managua Cathedral, though the cathedral is in ruins, its main façade is very well conserved. I took pictures of the faded Sandinista Flags which can be found behind the Acoustic Conch.
Then I checked out the Museo Nacional (National Museum). An impressive building set around two leafy courtyards. I marveled at numerous artifacts and displays showcasing the rich culture of Nicaragua from its pre historic times to the present as well as a display of contemporary Nicaraguan art. A few meters from here, I saw the Statue of Simon Bolivar; he was one of the most important leaders of Nicaragua’s struggle for independence from Spain. Within proximity from the museum is the Casa Presidencial. The official palace of the president of Nicaragua is not open to the public but can be viewed outside. Along the Area Monumental, I also visited the Ruben Dario National Theater, named after a famous Nicaraguan poet. Behind this theater is the Nueva Cathedral.
Across from it is the Nicaraguan National Theater, a leading venue for the cultural, music, performance and the visual arts of Managua. On this area I also checked out the Monument of Pope John Paul II, it’s a tall obelisk in the center of the square where the late Pope held a mass for the people of Nicaragua. With four plaques on each side, it commemorates the Pope’s pastoral visit to Managua in 1983. From here, I drove to the next attraction which is the Huellas de Acahualinca Museum. It is the most intriguing museum I have ever been to. These ancient human footprints were discovered in 1874 along the shores of the Lake Managua. The footprints all 12 of them (men, women and children) all lead into one direction, the lake. Tracks of deer and mapache (a type of raccoon) were also present.
My mother was equally happy when I got back, she was delighted with my stories and the beautiful images I captured. The way the locals live, left quite a big impression on me. I felt more blessed with what I have in my life. Dios le bendiga Nicaragua! (God Bless Nicaragua!)