Nestled between Honduras and Costa Rica, in the heart of Central America, is the hidden joya (gem) of Nicaragua. A country of 6 million people, it is known as the land of lakes, surf, and volcanoes—A blissful southern getaway for many of us snow-buried northerners. Though development has risen in recent years, the country has remained somewhat untouched by the outside world, making it an item of desire for back-country-seeking travellers.
This neat patch of yet-to-be-touched tropicana is a surfer’s paradise. Soft-sand beaches and crisp ripping surf bring big-wave hunters from all over the world to its Pacific Ocean coast. San Juan del Sur, a once sleepy fishing village town has become well known in global eyes for its buenas ondas (good waves).
The Caribbean-facing east of the country is characteristic of the sticky sweet humidity of its lush rainforest. Here the region is ripe with beautifully coloured tropical fruits, many of which are completely foreign to North Americans. The better known sun-kissed papayas, bananas, mangoes, avocados, and citrus fruits are just an arm reach away. Imagine plucking straight from the branch.
Markets rich with local fare are common practice. Whether Nicaraguans take their inspiration from the lush countryside, or from their ample history, they pride themselves, nonetheless, on their artesanía (artisanry). Soapstone, ceramics, and jewellery are just some of the products to come from the country.
Nicaragua is a nation blessed with water, both salt and fresh. The famous Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua), Central America’s largest lake, is one of the country’s most prized bodies of water. Found swimming in its azure is one of the rarest varieties of fresh-water shark in the world. The Corn Islands, to the country’s east, promote fields of neon coral.
Along the west coast snakes a spine-like stretch of volcanoes, running north and south. Looking down from atop the Volcán Masaya (Masaya Volcano), one could get lost in the constant downward spiral of the charcoal-coloured volcanic rock. Rising from its dark basin is a steady cloud of white steam. The view from the peak feels quietening infinite. From up here, one can see the Laguna de Masaya (Masaya Laguna), a peaceful basin of fresh water.
Nicaragua has an inexplicably rich cultural history that has resulted in a paradise of diversity. This Central American country is a mezcla (mixture) of cultures. The official language is Spanish, a language of beautiful rolling Rs and sibilance, but many indigenous languages are also spoken throughout the country. Many claim that the Spanish spoken in Nicaragua is unique: nicañol, español (Spanish) with a Nicaraguan twist.
Though at times this country’s unique identity may become lost under the blanketing label of Latin America, it does in fact have much of its own to boast. To foreigners, it is an exotic white-sand haven, but to locals, it is simply home. But what both parties would agree on, however, is that Nicaragua is truly bella (beautiful), in the purest and sense.