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Nicaragua Bucketlist: 8 Things to Do in the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes


| 7 mins read

Situated in the heart of Central America, Nicaragua is a vibrant country with a rich history, culture, and picturesque landscapes inhabited by warm locals. Often overshadowed by its violent past, a fact that has been missed is that the country has varied experiences to offer. For history buffs, there are the ruins of Leon; for adventure enthusiasts, there's Somoto Canyon and Mombacho Volcano; for beach lovers, San Juan is a haven, and interestingly, every street in its major cities of Granada and Leon invites travellers to experience life and culture at its best!  

With so much to explore, we have curated the ultimate Nicaragua bucket list of eight must-do activities for anyone visiting this enchanting nation.

Explore the Colonial Charm in Granada

Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, the city of Granada is not just a place to see but to be experienced. Each step and structure of the city presents a story that allows one to see beyond what meets the eye. Starting from the meeting point of locals, daily performers and tourists, the Parque Central, one can see the iconic yellow and white architecture of the Granada Cathedral, delve deeper into the pre-Columbian life at the San Francisco Convent Museum, visit the bell tower of the Iglesia de La Merced to get rewarded by panoramic views of the city and stroll through the Main Municipal Market, a sensory overload filed with a colourful array of produce, spices, and local crafts.

Cathedral of Granada

Hike the Mombacho Volcano

No visit to Nicaragua is complete without hiking up the Mombacho Volcano, a majestic stratovolcano located near Granada amidst lush cloud forest. It serves as the best spot for those seeking adventure and planning to explore the best nature spots in the country. Your adventure will start from the Visitor Centre, and beyond that, there are marked trails, like the popular Crater Trail, inviting hikers to discover the rich ecosystem. Moreover, consider hiring a local guide who can take you on the offbeat trails that will literally let you take the road less travelled! For those looking for an added adrenaline rush, the option of ziplining is also available.

Mombacho Volcano

Discover the Ancient Petroglyphs on Ometepe Island

Although Ometepe Island is a major attraction in itself, it's the ancient petroglyphs that amplify its popularity by providing a mythical touch. Carved by the native Nahuatl people, there are over 1,700 petroglyphs, some of which are thought to date back to 300 BC! Each petroglyph tells a story of a civilisation that was deeply connected to its environment. The motifs are decoded to suggest ceremonies, fertility rites, and worship of nature elements. The best site to closely observe these ancient carvings is Finca El Porvenir, where regular guided tours happen to offer interpretations and share local lore associated with them. 

Petroglyphs on Ometepe Island

Attend the La Purisima Festival in Leon

To be celebrated this year between 28th November and 8th December, the festival of La Purisima is a celebration honouring the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful sight of homes, streets, and churches decorated with elaborate altars, where the air is filled with locals singing hymns in honour of the Virgin Mary and visiting the church to receive gifts and traditional treats from the church owners in return. If you are planning to visit Nicaragua, it is best to plan a trip in December. Moreover, what makes Leon the epicentre of the celebration is that beyond the big gatherings and celebrations, the city has an informal tradition of competing for the best displays, which turns the city into a fantastic visual treat!

Leon Cathedral

Sail on the Vast Lake of Nicaragua

In case you need to take a break from the constant exploration of Nicaraguan wonders, sailing on the waters of Lake Nicaragua would be really refreshing. A vast expanse of freshwater, the lake is popularly known for the Nicaraguan bull sharks, which have adapted to freshwater life and are found nowhere else in the world! By taking a serene boat ride across its waters, you have the chance to spot and learn about the lake's unique ecological system. Moreover, Lake Nicaragua is home to the Zapatera Archipelago, another archaeologically significant site that contains ancient petroglyphs and statues. For an immersive experience, stay overnight in eco-lodges on one of the many islets, where you can enjoy the tranquillity of the lake at your own pace and witness the best colours of sunset and sunrise.

Lake Nicaragua

Savour the Best Local Cuisine in Managua

Being the capital of the country and the largest city, Managua serves as a melting pot of regional cuisines and international influences. Whether you want to taste authentic dishes or dine in gourmet restaurants, Managua will solve your food-related concerns. The best place to try local cuisine is the hotspot of Mercado Roberto Huembes, where you must try nacatamales (Nicaraguan tamales) and oxtail soup. Moreover, thanks to the country's vast coastline, the city is also popular amongst seafood lovers for its dishes like ceviche, guapote and garlic shrimp. 


Do you know Nicaragua's national dish is named after a bird?

Although made of just beans and rice, Nicaragua's national dish, Gallo Pinto, got its name from the speckled appearance that results from mixing the white rice with the black or red beans, just like the feathers of a speckled rooster. Interestingly, each region of the country has its own variation of the national dish, and locals often say that you can tell where someone is from by how they prepare this iconic dish.

Surf the Pacific at San Juan del Sur

Often called the surfer's sanctuary, San Juan del Sur is a crescent-shaped bay with a beach town vibe that attracts wave riders from around the globe. Not just skilled, but the site serves as a perfect destination even for those who want to begin surfing. Diving schools and associated tours line up the beach area, making it easy for everyone to hit the waves. Moreover, beyond surfing, you can also hike up your way to the massive statue of Christ of the Mercy, perched high on the northern end of the bay. This one of the tallest Jesus statues in the world offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific coastline. 

San Juan del Sur

Adventure Through the Somoto Canyon

Recognised as a tourist destination only in the last couple of decades, Somoto Canyon has been fed by the waters of the Rio Coco for millions of years! It finds its place as one of the oldest rock formations in Central America. Navigating the towering cliffs by walking, hiking, or simply swimming will allow you to take in the beauty of this hidden geological wonder. Interestingly, the canyon contains pre-Columbian petroglyphs, which point towards the spiritual or cultural significance of the canyon for the local communities living in the region. With the help of a local guide, you will be able to interact with the locals living in the small city of Somoto, who can provide interesting insights about the discovery and importance of the canyon. 

Somoto Canyon

All these experiences and explorations will be more beautified by the warm spirit of the people living in the nation. Hospitality and eagerness to share their culture and traditions are what define the values of this picturesque country. So pack your bag now and get ready to journey in a world of natural beauty, tempting culture and delicious cuisine!