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Nicaragua
General Information / Regions / Activities / Services / Important tips for the trip
 
 GENERAL INFORMATION
 
• Why Nicaragua? • General Information
• A Brief Historic Overview • Social and Cultural Facts
• Weather and Climate • Ecology
• Economy • Music and Dance
• Festivities, Holiday & Special Celebrations • The Way We Speak
• Time Zone • Geography
• Population
 

WHY NICARAGUA? Top

Nicaragua is undoubtedly a country to be discovered! Now it's considered by travelers and world renowned magazines as a great vacation destination that's still a bit of a secret.  A few years ago, international tourists enthusiastically discovered the country and realized that in fact Nicaragua definitely possesses beautiful and exciting tourist attractions.  Nicaragua, known as "the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes," has a lot more to offer, such as colonial cities, tropical forests, a huge variety of fauna, and breathtaking landscapes.

Bordered by two great oceans (Atlantic and Pacific), Nicaragua also has volcanic islands, crater lagoons, a rich and impressive history, pre-Colombian ruins, a pleasant tropical climate, and a strategic geographic location - but without any doubt the country's greatest treasure is its people, customs and culture.

In Nicaragua, travelers can enjoy the sunny beaches of the Pacific Ocean or the sandy white beaches and the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors interested in exploring the country's ecology will enjoy its nature reserves and national parks. Cloud-covered forests with huge, ancient trees laden with orchids and hanging moss are a dream come true for the eco-tourist. The many mountains and volcanoes are perfect for adventurous tourists looking for a hike in the wild.  Rich in culture, colonial towns with their well-preserved architectural treasures and warm, friendly inhabitants are a "must-see" when visiting our country.  Distances between towns and cities are usually relatively short, making for pleasant traveling and giving tourists more time to enjoy the wide variety of activities offered everywhere they go.

In the past few years our infrastructure has grown rapidly and extensively.  Today we are able to offer a variety of lodging and travel options for all kinds of tourists with different budgets and preferences,. Nicaragua is ready to welcome its visitors with an extensive range of tour options, such as adventure tours, classical tours, sightseeing, hiking, special interest tours, self-drive tours, packages for the whole country, and more - all designed to make each tourist's visit more pleasant and enjoyable, leaving each visitor with a desire to come  back for more. Most important of all is our concern for the visitor's safety at every step of the way.

 
GENERAL INFORMATION Top

Nicaragua is a tropical country situated in the very heart of Central America between Honduras and Costa Rica. With long coastlines along both the Pacific and Caribbean, Nicaragua is the largest Central American country, with an area of over 130,000 sq. km - nearly 9,500 sq. km of which are covered by lakes

Our country boasts three distinctive geographic zones. The most highly populated is the Pacific region, which runs along the country's western coastline. This region, with its chain of 25 volcanoes, the country's largest cities and the most active trading centers, is home to about 90% of the population,  as well as being Nicaragua's agricultural heartland. The central zone is blessed with a beautiful mountain range hosting coffee farms, cattle ranches and rain forests. The Atlantic region (almost half the country's area) is the wildest part of the country, settled mostly by non-Spanish Europeans, and populated by Sumo and Miskito Indians. Here you will find English-speaking coastal Nicaraguans of Creole descent. The region is largely flat, humid tropical forest. Access is difficult and depends largely on the weather. At this time there are still no roads connecting the two coasts and the two cultures.

 
A BRIEF HISTORIC OVERVIEW Top

In pre-Columbian times, Nicaragua was sparsely settled by several native tribes. During Columbus' fourth westward voyage he landed on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua (Cabo Gracias a Dios) and claimed the territory for the Spanish crown. Several years later the Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernández de Cordoba explored further into the interior of Nicaragua and founded the first cities on  mainland America, Leon and Granada in 1524.

After Nicaragua gained its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, disputes arose between these two colonial capitals, ushering in a period of foreign intervention. The most famous of these involved a U.S. soldier of fortune, William Walker, who proclaimed himself President and brought about a civil war, which lasted from 1855 to 1857. At the end of the conflict, Managua was established as the capital due to its central location.

At the beginning of this century, US Marines were invited to Nicaragua to provide political and economic stability. As they left, power was handed over to the head of the military, General Anastasio Somoza, beginning a dictatorship of the Somoza family that lasted than forty years. In 1972, a catastrophic earthquake destroyed Managua, leaving 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Somoza pocketed the millions of dollars in foreign relief funds, further enriching his own coffers.

This was the beginning of the end for the Somoza dynasty, as a student-based revolutionary group, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), organized the populace and overthrew Somoza in 1979. The Sandinistas took their name from Augusto Sandino, an anti-imperialist revolutionary who led underground resistance to US Marine occupation in the 1920s. After an eleven-year war against the Contras, a coalition government headed by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro took presidential power in 1990.

Since then, Nicaragua has been substantially more peaceful, stable and prosperous. In October 1996, the Nicaraguan people followed democratic process begun in the 1990 elections and elected Liberal Party candidate Arnoldo Alemán to the presidency. Again in 2001 the Nicaraguan people voted democratically, as they had in 1990 and 1996, electing a Liberal Party candidate, Enrique Bolaños. Currently the President is Daniel Ortega, elected last November 2006.

 
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL FACTS Top

There are approximately 5 million people in Nicaragua, the majority living in and around the capital of Managua. Our population is one of the youngest in the world, with a high growth rate. Half of our population is under 16 years of age. Eighty-five percent of all Nicaraguans are Spanish-speaking mestizos. The remaining 15% consists of African/Caribbean Creoles and indigenous Miskito, Rama and Sumo Indians. The sparsely populated Atlantic coast boasts a rich cultural diversity where Miskito, Sumo, Rama, Creole, English and Spanish languages are all spoken. Even though most of the population is considered "poor" with very low incomes, Nicaraguans do not lose a single opportunity to show their joy of living.

The predominant religion (about 85% of the population) is Roman Catholic. Most people are very religious, participating faithfully in the many religious celebrations and activities.

The Pacific and Central regions are home to a rich Latin culture and poetic figures such as the renowned Ruben Dario, considered the father of the Modernist movement, and the priest Ernesto Cardenal, Minister of Culture during the Sandinista period.

 
WEATHER AND CLIMATE Top

As in all tropical countries, Nicaragua has only two distinct seasons, the dry season from December through late May and the rainy season from June through November. The coolest and most pleasant months are November through January. 

The entire countryside blooms and it's impossible to count the various shades of green. The hottest and driest months are April and May, at the end of the dry season.  

During the rainy season, also called the "green season," showers last an average of an hour in the afternoon. In the Pacific region, the average temperature ranges between 25° and 33° Celsius (80-90° Fahrenheit). The  average temperature in the central highlands is a bit cooler, depending on the altitude, and the Caribbean coast is more humid with some areas reporting up to 5 meters (yes, meters!) of rainfall annually.

The ocean temperature is between 21° and 27°C all year (70-80° Fahrenheit) on both the Pacific and the Caribbean side.

 
ECOLOGY Top

Visitors to Nicaragua have access to a wide variety of beautiful wilderness areas to discover and explore. From jungle rainforest lowlands, to our northern peaks and cloud forests, to the expansive savanna, beaches and mangrove habitats on both coasts, to the numerous active volcanoes, we offer one of the  most  diverse  and  exciting  landscapes in Central America. Nicaragua richly deserves its designation as the "Land of Lakes and Volcanoes."

The traveler can enjoy Nicaragua's incredible scenery even in its cities and towns, which are full of tropical plants and blossoms such as the sacuanjoche, Nicaragua's national flower. It is important to note that both the Nicaraguan government and non-government institutions and private initiatives have begun to focus on and implement protection of rare or endangered species and habitats by creating national parks, biological reserves, and a fledgling environmental education program. An ecological consciousness has been forming in Nicaragua.

 
ECONOMY Top

The Nicaraguan economy traditionally has been and continues to be based on agriculture. Coffee, sugar cane, bananas, tobacco, cereals, beef, and lumber are the traditional major exports. The fishing industry is also experiencing a recent comeback. In the last four years, non-traditional products such as handmade furniture, hammocks, and the national rum, "Flor de Caña," have become popular exports. By the end of this year, two of our national beers (Toña  &  Premium) will also be exported. Tourism is receiving more and more support from the government and private investment and since 2002 has been listed as the most important source of income. With the recently approved law for tourism incentives, the country has opened its doors to foreign and national investment opportunities. This law, offering great advantages, is considered the best investment law in Latin America. Although the official under- and unemployment rate in Nicaragua is calculated at around 55%, the economic growth rate for the last three years was over six percent, ranking Nicaragua as the country with the highest GNP growth rate in Latin America. The inflation rate is currently about eight percent a year.

 
MUSIC AND DANCE Top
The national instrument in Nicaragua is the marimba. Similar to a xylophone, the marimba is constructed with hardwood plates placed over bamboo of different lengths.  It is usually played along with guitars and other percussion instruments. On the Caribbean coast, the visitor will find a different kind of music due to the region's African influence. Besides reggae and other Caribbean music, the "Palo de Mayo" provides an intense, erotic rhythm, especially during the May festival in Bluefields. Most of the local religious festivities and celebrations are accompanied by theatrical presentations with costumes, music and dance, representing scenes from the past and depicting both Indian and Spanish colonial cultures.
 
FESTIVITIES, HOLIDAY & SPECIAL CELEBRATIONS Top

With a population of approximately 5 million people, Nicaragua is extremely rich in culture, its calendar full of Patron Saint feast days, Festivals and Celebrations. There are plenty of religious symbols and signs involved with a definite influence from the ancient indigenous cultures, present today thanks to a strong oral tradition.

January
1st:  New Year's Day
3rd Sunday of the month: Señor de Esquipulas, El Sauce (Leon)
19th - 21st: Festival Vival Leon, Leon
3rd Week: San Sebastian, Acoyapa (Chontales)

February
2nd Weekend: Festival of Music and Youth, Managua

March
3rd Weekend: Festival of Folklore, Gastronomy and Handicrafts in Granada

April
Easter processions throughout the country. Holy Friday Celebration, Leon

May
First Week:  Tourist Caravan from Managua to Puerto Cabezas
3rd Week: "Palo de Mayo" Festival, Bluefields

June
24th: San Juan Bautista patron saint feast day, San Juan de Oriente
24th: San Juan Bautista patron saint feast day, San Juan del Sur
29th: San Pedro Apóstol patron saint feast day, Diriá (Granada)

July
24th and 25th: Santiago patron saint feast day, Jinotepe and Boaco
26th: Santa Ana patron saint feast day, Nandaime, Chinandega, Nindiri, Niquinohomo and Moyogalpa (Ometepe Island)

August
1st until 10th: Santo Domingo patron saint feast day and "Noches Agostinas," Managua
10th: San Lorenzo patron saint feast day, Somotillo
11th: Bullfights, Granada
14th: "Gritería Chiquita," Leon and Masaya
18th: Virgin of Asunción patron saint feast day, and horse parade, Granada
15th: "Hijo Ausente" festival and bullfight, Juigalpa
3rd weekend: Mariachis and Mazurcas festival, Esteli

September
14th and 15th: Independance Days
15th: Villa Nueva patron saint feast day, Chinandega
24th: La Merced patron saint feast day, Leon and Matagalpa
30th: San Jerónimo patron saint feast day,  Masaya
4th Weekend: Festival of Polkas, Mazurcas and Jamaquellos, Matagalpa

October
2nd Weekend: Festival of Music Bandand "Norteño" Groups, Jinotega
12th to17th: San Diego de Alcalá patron saint feast day, Altagracia, Ometepe

November
1st weekend: Horse Show, Ometepe. last Sunday of the month: Folklore Festival, Masaya

December
6th: "Lavado de La Plata," Virgen del Trono,  El Viejo, Chinandega
7th: "Gritería" in honor of Virgin Mary lof the Immaculate Conception, throughout the country
24th: Christmas Eve
25th:  Christmas Day
31st:  New Year's Eve

Note: Every Thursday night, Masaya celebrates Verbena, a festival  with  music  and  food attended by both locals and tourists.

 
THE WAY WE SPEAK Top

Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua. English is spoken in tourist areas throughout the country.

 
TIME ZONE Top

Nicaragua has the same time as US Central Standard Time (GMT -6), but does not observe daylight savings time.

 
GEOGRAPHY Top

Nicaragua borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. It has both a Caribbean and a Pacific coast. A volcanic chain runs down the country on the Pacific side and there is also a mountain chain in the central area, with coastal lowlands on either side. Over half the population lives on the Pacific coastal plain with its fertile volcanic soils.

 
POPULATION Top

Nicaragua has a population of about 5 million people.

 

 

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