Nicaragua

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Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373 km2 and contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua) or Cocibolca. The capital city of Nicaragua is Managua. Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, making it the second largest city and metropolitan area in Central America. (less...) (more...)

Population: 5,788,531 people
Area: 130,370 km2
Highest point: 2,438 m
Coastline: 910 km
Life expectancy: 72.45 years
GDP per capita: $4,500
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About Nicaragua

History

Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Columbian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation. Spain made Nicaragua a colony; Granada was founded as one of the oldest colonial cities in the American continent. During the colonial period, Nicaragua was part of the Capitania General based in Guatemala.

Nicaragua declared independence from Spain in 1821; by 1838, the country became an independent republic. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades.

One of the most colorful personalities of Nicaraguan history is William Walker. Walker, a US southerner, came to Nicaragua as an opportunist. Nicaragua was on the verge of a civil war; Walker sided with one of the factions and was able to gain control of the country, hoping that the US would annex Nicaragua as a southern slave state. With designs on conquering the rest of Central America, Walker and his filibustero army marched on Costa Rica before he was turned back at the battle of Santa Rosa. Eventually Walker left Nicaragua; he was executed after arriving in Honduras at a later date.

The U.S. Marines invaded Nicaragua several times. One of the cities that witnessed an invasion was San Juan Del Sur. General Sandino, seeing the US as invaders, took the war to them. It lasted more than 5 years, until the Marines withdrew from the country.

The twentieth century was characterized by the rise and fall of the Somoza dynasty. Anastasio Somoza Garcia came to power as the head of the National Guard. Educated in the US and trained by the US Army, he was adept managing his relations with the United States. After being assassinated, he was succeeded by his sons, Luis and Anastasio Jr ("Tachito"). By 1978, opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes and resulted in a short-lived civil war that led to the fall of Somoza in July, 1979. The armed part of the insurgence was named the Sandinistas, after the liberator of Nicaragua, Augusto César Sandino. Due to the nature of the Sandinista government, with their social programs designed to benefit the majority, their support for rebels fighting against the military government in El Salvador, and their close alliance with Cuba, the right-wing US President Ronald Reagan considered them a threat, and at his administration's insistence, guerrilla forces (Contras) were organized, trained, and armed throughout most of the 1980s. Peace was brokered in 1987 by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and led to new elections in 1990. In a stunning development, Violeta Chamorro of the UNO coalition surprisingly beat out the incumbent leader Daniel Ortega.

Elections in 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated by the Liberal party. During the 1990s the country's economic policies saw a shift in direction aiming to transform Nicaragua to a market economy. However, the Sandinistas, led as in the 1980s and 90s by Daniel Ortega, were returned to power in elections in 2006 and won again in 2011.

Nicaragua has suffered from natural disasters in recent decades. Managua's downtown area was vastly damaged by an earthquake in 1972, which killed more than 10,000 people, and in 1998, Nicaragua was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch. Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.

Climate

Hot in the lowlands, cooler in highlands. The weather during the dry months (November–April) can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands. Torrential downpours in the rainy season (May–October) can leave you soaked and chilly, even in the Pacific lowlands when it's cloudy, so be prepared if you're traveling during those months. Also be prepared for cooler, cloudier weather in mountainous regions. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.

Food

Food is very cheap. A plate of food from the street will cost 20-50 cordobas. A typical dinner will consist of meat, rice, beans, salad and some fried plantains, costing under US$3. Buffet-style restaurants/stalls called "fritanga" are very common, quality varies quite a bit. A lot of the food is fried in oil (vegetable or lard). It is possible to eat vegetarian: the most common dish is gallo pinto (beans and rice), and most places serve cheese (fried or fresh), fried plantains and cabbage salad. There are a 'few' vegetable dishes such as guiso de papas, pipián o ayote—a buttery creamy stewp of potato, zucchini or squash; guacamole nica made with hard-boiled eggs, breaded pipian (zucchini), and various fried fritters of potatoes, cheese and other vegetables. If you like meat, grilled chicken and beef is delicious, the beef is usually good quality but often cooked tough; also try the nacatamales, a traditional Sunday food, that is essentially a large tamal made with pork or beef and other seasonings (~15 cordobas). Indio Viejo is a corn meal (masa) based dished made with either shredded chicken or beef and flavored with mint. The typical condiment is "chilero" a cured onion and chile mixture of varying spiciness depending on the cook. Nicaraguan food is not known for being spicy, though either chilero or hot sauce is almost always available.

Nicaraguan typical diet includes rice, small red beans, and either fish or meat. Nicaraguans pride themselves for their famous gallo pinto that is a well-balanced mix of rice and beans and is usually served during breakfast.

Plantains are a big part of the Nicaraguan diet. You will find it prepared in a variety of forms: fried (subdivided into maduros/sweet, tajadas/long thin fried chips, and tostones/smashed and twice fried), baked, boiled, with cream or cheese, as chips for a dip, smashed into a "toston". Green bananas and guineo bananas are also boiled and eaten as side dishes.

Nicaraguan tortillas are made from corn flour and are thick, almost resembling a pita. One common dish is quesillo: a string of mozzarella-type cheese with pickled onion, a watery sour cream, and a little salt all wrapped in a thick tortilla. It can be found on street corners or in the baskets of women who walk around shouting "Quesiiiiiillo". The most famous quesillos come from the side of the highway between Managua and Leon in Nagarote (they also serve a local drink, tiste) and La Paz Centro. The best selection of cheeses, from quesillo to cuajada, is in Chontales.

A typical dish found for sale in the street as well as in restaurants is Vigoron, consisting of pork grind, yuca and cabbage salad, chilis can be added to taste.

Fritangas (mid to large street side food vendors and grills that usually have seats and are found in most residential neighborhoods) typically sell grilled chicken, beef and pork and fried foods. They also commonly sell "tacos" and "enchiladas" that can be delicious but have very little in common with their 2nd cousins-once-removed in Mexico. Tacos are made with either chicken or beef rolled up in a tortilla and deep fried, served with cabbage salad, cream, sometimes ketchup or a homemade tomato sauce, and chile on the side. They are a little like a Mexican taquito/taco dorado. "Enchiladas" don't have anything enchiloso about them (not spicy). They are a tortilla filled with a beef and rice mixture, folded in half to enclose the mixture, covered in deep fry batter and then yes, deep fried. They are served similarly to tacos.

One alternative to the fried offering in the typical menu is carne en baho. This is a combination of beef, yucca, sweet potato, potato and other ingredients steamed in plantain leaves for several hours.

One typical dessert is Tres Leches which is a soft spongy cake that combines three varieties of milk (condensed, evaporated and fresh) for a sweet concoction.

If you travel to Chinandega, ask the locals who sells "Tonqua" It is a great fruit that is candied in sugar and is ONLY available in Chinandega. Most Nicaraguans outside of Chinandega do not know what Tonqua is. Tonqua is a Chinese word for a fruit, because tonqua is a plant that Chinese immigrants introduced to the Chinandega area.

Drinks

Rum is the liquor of choice, though you will find some whisky and vodka as well. The local brand of Rum is Flor de Caña and is available in several varieties: Light, Extra Dry, Black Label, Gran Reserva (aged 7 years), Centenario (aged 12 years) and a new top-of-the line 18 year old aged rum. There is also a cheaper rum called Ron Plata.

Local beers include Victoria, Toña, Premium, and Brahva. Victoria is the best quality of these, similar in flavor to mainstream European lagers, while the others have much lighter bodies with substantially less flavor, and are more like mainstream U.S. lagers. A new beer is "Victoria Frost" which is similarly light.

In the non-alcoholic arena you will find the usual soft drinks (Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola). Some local drinks include pinolillo' and cacao are delicious drinks from cocoa beans, corn and milk and usually some cinnamon, a thick cacao based drink, Milka', and Rojita, a red soda that tastes similar to Inca Cola or "Red Pop" (if you're from Texas or the southern United States).

Nicaraguans drink a huge variety of natural fruit juices and beverages (jugos naturales which are usually pure juices, and refrescos naturales which are fresh fruit juices mixed with water and sugar). Popular are tamarind, cantelope, watermellon, hibiscus flower (flor de Jamaica), limeade, orange, grapefruit, dragon fruit, star fruit (usually mixed with orange), mango, papaya, pineapple, and countless others. "Luiquados" or shakes of fruit and milk or water are also popular, most common are banana, mango or papaya with milk. Also common and very traditional are corn and grain based drinks like tiste, chicha (both corn), cebada (barley) and linaza (flaxseed). Most fresh drinks are around C$10–20. As in other parts of Central America, avoid juices made with water if you are not conditioned to untreated water, unless at a restaurant that uses purified water.

Shopping

If entering the country from either Honduras or Costa Rica by land, get rid of those currencies as they are hard to exchange away from the border.

The national currency is called the Cordoba. As of July 2012, there are 23.5 Cordobas to one US Dollar. The government deflates the currency about 5% every year to be competitive with the dollar. Most places accept dollars but you will often get change in Cordobas and businesses will give you a lower exchange rate. Make sure you have some Cordobas handy when using collective buses, taxis, or other small purchases. Nearly all banks exchange Dollars to Cordobas but lines are often long, and you may have to use your credit card to get money rather than your bank card. Make sure you bring your passport when exchanging money. All ATMs give Cordobas and some can dispense dollars too. Make sure that the ATM you're using is part of the networks listed on the back of your bank card. Though you may be able to find some ATMs that work on the MasterCard/Cirrus system, most will use only the Visa/Plus system.

If you need cordobas when the banks are closed or you can't use your ATM, street licensed money changers or cambistas can be found. Always count your money, though mistakes are rare if you use members of the cambista cooperative. The rate of exchange can be better or worse than at the bank. However, it is rare during normal hours (M-F 9-5 and Saturday to Noon) to get a worse rate than the banks, though near the markets you might do as bad. (Latest example January 2010 - Bank pays 21.90 per US$1, cambistas offer C$22.10) In Managua, money changers can be found near Pizza Valentis in Los Robles, beside the Dominos Pizza near the BAC Building, and in the Artesania area of Mercado Huembes among other places.

Most modern stores, especially Texaco (Star Mart), Esso (On The Run), La Union (supermarket owned by Wal-Mart) will take US currency, often at a slightly better exchange rate than banks or "cambistas" on the streets (make sure to look for cambistas' ID badges), with change in Cordobas (C$). Limit the bills to US$20 for best success. Cambistas have no problem with US$50 and US$100 bills. They won't accept Euros, Canadian money, or Traveller's Cheques (checks). To make sure you have Cordobas for taxis and buses from Augusto Sandino Airport in Managua, you can change US currency for Cordobas at a window right in the airport.

If you are going to take one thing home from Nicaragua it should be a hammock. Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best made and most comfortable ever. The really good ones are made in Masaya, ask a taxi to take you to the fabrica de hamacas, the mercado viejo or the mercado nuevo. You will find the most variety and best prices in Masaya. A simple one person hammock should cost under US$20. Hammocks are also sold in the Huembes market in Managua, which has the only large local goods and arts and crafts section in Managua.

Nicaragua also produces excellent, highly awarded rum called Flor de Caña. This is the most common liquor drunk in Nicaragua. Those aged 4 (go for Extra Light over Extra Dry or Etiqueta Negra) and particularly 7 years (Gran Reserva) are a great buy for the money - about US$4–6/bottle. Buy in the local stores as the prices at the duty-free airport shops are higher. Gran Reserva is the best value based on price and quality.

A trip to the artisinal towns of the "Pueblos Blancos" is the most rewarding way to shop for local arts and crafts. The best and easiest location for tourists to buy artisanal items is in the craft market in Masaya. There is a similar market with the same products (from a lot of the same vendors) in Mercado Huembes in Managua with slightly higher prices than in the market in Masaya. Located just 10 minutes from Masaya, 30 minutes from Granada and 40 minutes from Managua, these towns are the arts and crafts center of Nicaragua. Catarina is home to dozens of nurseries with plants as diverse as this lush tropical country can produce, and also boasts a beautiful view over the Laguna de Apoyo (volcanic crater lake) where you can enjoy the view from numerous restaurants. San Juan del Oriente is the center of pottery production. You can find dozens of mom and pop studios and stores, meet the artisans and choose from a dazzling and creative array of vases, bowls and other ceramic items. Some of the best shops with more original designs are a few blocks into town off the main highway. Finally, Masatepe is known for its furniture—particularly wicker and wood, and with a special focus on rocking chairs, the favorite Nicaraguan chair. Although you might not be able take any rocking chairs or ferns home with you on the plane, it definitely worth "window" shopping in these picturesque towns. You can also find San Juan del Oriente pottery, Masatepe furniture and other arts and crafts in Masaya, Mercado Huembes in Managua, and in the streets of Granada, Leon and other places visited by tourists. Remember to bargain. Although you may be a tourist, you can still bargain.

Shopping to Western standards is found mainly in Managua in shopping centers, the largest and most modern being MetroCentro near the rotonda Ruben Dario. There are smaller and inferior malls at Plaza Inter and in Bello Horizonte at Plaza Las Americas. A new and large shopping center called Plaza Santo Domingo is located at Carretera Masaya at about Km. 6.

Shopping like the locals takes place at the mercados, or public markets. The largest (and must be one of the largest in the Americas) is Mercado Oriental. This market contains everything in individual stores or stalls from food to clothes to home electronics. Mercado Oriental is one of the most dangerous locations for tourists in the city. If you go, take only the cash you want to spend. No wallets, watches or jewelry and if you take a cell phone, take it in your pocket not visible to others. It is best to go with a local or better yet a group of locals.

Less frightening, safer and with a similar selection is Mercado Huembes. It is smaller and more open (less difficult to get trapped in a dark isolated passage). This market has the aforementioned Masaya artisanal crafts at higher than Masaya prices. There are a few other markets similar in nature, smaller in size, farther away from the beaten track and not worth looking for due to lack of safety and less goods at higher prices.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nicaragua on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Nicaragua

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Managua is the capital of Nicaragua.

Interesting places:

  • National Palace
  • Casa Presidencial
  • Managua Cathedral
  • Dario\'s Monument
  • Masaya Volcano National Park
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Granada is the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua & the all-time-rival of Leon. It is located on the north west side of the Lago Cocibolca. Its colored colonial buildings, interesting history and relative safety make it an important tourism destination.

Interesting places:

  • Parque Central
  • Granada Cathedral
  • Mombacho Volcano National Reserve
  • Los Poetas Park
  • Chapel of Maria Auxiliadora
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San Juan del Sur is a port on the Pacific coast of southwestern Nicaragua.

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Masaya is a city in Nicaragua

Interesting places:

  • Masaya Old Market
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León is one of the oldest cities in Nicaragua.

Interesting places:

  • Cathedral of Leon
  • Las Penitas Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Montelimar Beach
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Little Corn Island is off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea.

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Rivas is a city in the Southern Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.

Interesting places:

  • Santo Domingo Beach
  • Concepcion Volcano
  • Maderas Volcano
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Nicaragua

  • Granada
  • Masaya Volcano and Masaya Market
  • Leon City, including Old Leon Ruins
  • San Juan del Sur
  • Mombacho Volcano
  • Ometepe Island
  • Matagalpa

Parque Central - Granada

Cathedral of Leon - Leon

National Palace - Managua

Montelimar Beach - Montelimar

Masaya Old Market - Masaya

Momotombo Volcano - Puerto Momotombo

Santo Domingo Beach - Rivas

Granada Cathedral - Granada

Casa Presidencial - Managua

Managua Cathedral - Managua

Dario\'s Monument - Managua

Masaya Volcano National Park - Managua

Plaza de la Fe - Managua

Tiscapa Lagoon - Managua

Monumento a Sandino - Managua

Las Penitas Beach - Leon

National Autonomous University of Nicaragua - Managua

Dennis Martinez National Stadium - Managua

Multicentro Las Americas Shopping Center - Managua

Concepcion Volcano - Rivas

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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