In the midst of a renaissance, Nicaragua is a place of peace and tranquility despite a recent history pocked by war, rebellion, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes. The residents of this, the largest and safest Central American nation, are equally resilient. String a hammock anywhere, and you'll rock away in scenes as glorious as they are varied. Bask in the lush landscape of jungle islands, dream beside a turquoise Caribbean shore or a sandy green lagoon with a volcano backdrop.
The sprawling Nicaraguan capital, Managua, was haphazardly rebuilt after a massive 1972 earthquake. More intriguing is León, with a wealth of museums and churches, including the largest cathedral in Central America. Granada is an architectural marvel and easily the most beautiful spot in Nicaragua; the city is also close to some of the country's top attractions, such as the handicraft mecca Masaya and artisan villages known as Pueblos Blancas.
Volcanoes tower along the Pacific Lowlands, the hot, dusty plains that stretch as far as Costa Rica. The north-central region's steep highlands are a picturesque landscape of pine-covered hills. The expansive Lago de Nicaragua is surrounded by volcanic peaks and speckled with hundreds of islands. Beautiful beaches stretch along the southwestern shore. The unspoiled Corn Islands, just off the coast, are surrounded by perfect white beaches and coral reef amid turquoise Caribbean waters.
Eating and Drinking
Nicaragua has fashioned seemingly infinite culinary possibilities out of three staples: corn, beans and rice. Grab a nacatamale, a soft, flat corn cake steamed in banana leaves and stuffed with rice, potatoes, sweet pepper, and pork or chicken and spiced with garlic, parsley, or paprika. Gallo pinto, which many claim is the national dish, is comprised of red beans, fried rice, onions and pepper. The thirst quencher arroz-con-piña is a mix of pineapple, rice and such added flavors as vanilla or strawberry.
Mountains and Lakes
Volcán Masaya is the most accessible field of craters and red-hot lava, while Volcán Mombacho boasts great hiking. The huge crater-lake Laguna de Apoyo provides a refreshing dip and makes a peaceful shore-side retreat. Among Lago de Nicaragua's hundreds of islands are the cone-shaped twin peaks of Isla de Ometepe, which has a serene, biodiverse jungle with excellent trekking, horse riding, and beaches.
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