Visiting Nicaragua | Rum & Volcanoes
When you get to the top of the Cerro Negro (Black Hill) volcano in Nicaragua and look down the view is a little scary for most people. You booked the volcano boarding excursion without a second thought but standing at the summit it looks very steep, and it was easy to have doubts.
One person in our group backed out straight away, I was worried that Malka was going to do the same as she was not keen when she looked down. But after a few minutes of seeing other people slide down fairly slowly, we could see that you don’t career off into an abyss so we got on our boards and got involved. It was much less steep when you were on the slide (an optical illusion of some sort?) and in the second half of the slide, when you become confident, you can really let go and go quite fast and it is a lot of fun!
Nicaragua had been on my “to-do” list for years but, with all the other bigger players in Latin America, I just hadn´t got round to it. Having been through Central America before I had an idea of what was in store but the overall experience was much better than I had expected.
This is a country shaking off its old reputation and people are starting to recognize it as a viable destination. Obviously things can change and you should ask us about current conditions but normally it is as safe as any Latin American country I have been to and is no-where near as expensive as Costa Rica, Chile or Brazil so you get good value for your money.
I was traveling with Malka so the trip was to be part business and part pleasure and we checked out several locations, hotels, tours, and transfers with our local agents to have a first-hand experience of what our clients would enjoy. The two cities of Granada and Leon form the bedrock of any tour to Nicaragua and several days in each is the way to go.
Both Granada and Leon are lovely places, steeped in history, and have plenty of character. Granada has had more money spent on restoration than Leon and as such has finer buildings, Leon seems more “real” somehow and has a less touristy vibe. Both are a real pleasure as you wander at a snail’s pace, looking for any excuse for another cold beer or an iced coffee, or maybe a rum. You can use either city to visit other locations, Masaya and Ometepe from Granada, and a multitude of volcanoes and the famous rum distillery from Leon.
One of the best experiences was stopping in the countryside on the way to a volcano trailhead and talking to a local farmer. One of the great benefits of being on a private tour is being able to ask your guide or driver to stop if you see something unusual. We saw that there were farmers collecting firewood with carts pulled by oxen, plus they were using the same animals to draw water from deep wells, we wanted to have a close look.
We are used to being out in the countryside and generally, people are not very welcoming when two tourists want to interrupt their work and have a close look at what they are doing, so we were a little nervous about asking. The farmer was not only very friendly, as was another random guy on horseback, but they shook our hands and told us what was going on and said no problem if we take some photos.
It was a real breath of fresh air that someone wanted to talk to us, didn’t get upset that we were nosy and were wandering around their farm, they were probably curious about us too. There are not many places I have been where this would have happened and it made a good day out into a great one!
To be fair everywhere we went in Nicaragua the people were nice and welcoming, the service level is not what we get in Peru or Costa Rica that’s true but that is part of the charm for me, it has not been overrun by mass tourism and still retains its character. Nicaragua is well worth the visit and remember to leave plenty of space in your luggage for bringing rum and coffee home!