Nicaragua is a challenge; less touristy than its neighbor Costa Rica. The nature in Nicaragua is very special with as many as 58 volcanoes, jungle, desolated beaches and a big centrally located lake with an island (Isla Ometepe) formed by two volcanoes. The climate is a lot dryer than in Costa Rica: less rain but therefore also less tropical green.
Colonial towns like Granada and León still have a lot of remnants from the 16th century like big central squares, cathedrals and churches.
Outside the cities you will see cowboys on horses and farmers with ox-carts. Nicaragua has 75 national parks and the biggest rain-forest north of the Amazon. On the difficult to reach Caribbean coast you will find the Miskito’s, together with the Sumo’s and the Rama’s, Indian communities with a pre-Hispanic origin. And like the rest of the Caribbean coast of Central America you will also find the presence of an Afro-Caribbean culture: all in all quite a diverse culture mix. Nicaragua is a poor country and quite a big percentage of the inhabitants are still illiterate. Nicaragua and Haiti are the poorest and at the same time the cheapest countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
Walking around in Leon I noticed the incredible amount of school children in dark blue and white uniforms. That’s right: Nicaragua is a ‘young’ nation: over 40% of the people are younger than 15 years of age. Murals or ‘murales’ play a big role in the Nicaraguan culture. Most of the time these murals will depict war scenes. They spend a relative big amount of money on paint here; you can buy paint on just about every street corner and even simple houses will be painted in a cheerful color. The offerings of a store are often painted with colorful letters on the outside walls.
Nicaragua has known civil wars for a long time but the country has been stable for the past 10 years. It seems strange because of the poverty, but because of the political stability and the limited number of tourist, Nicaragua is now one of the safest countries of the region! In my opinion Nicaragua and Guatemala are the best options for volunteers. Mainly because these poor countries still do not have a lot of social security. The governments of these countries are not able to put aside money for social projects. Volunteer work is often still free and the people are just very happy with foreign help. Look for more information at our volunteer work León page.
San Juan del Sur
This former fishing village, now the most famous Nicaraguan seaside resort is situated on a small semicircular bay. On the north side of the bay a 25-meter high statue of Christ stands on a hill overlooking the bay and the ocean. Many small beaches are located north and south of the bay. Most are less crowded and more beautiful than the beach of the village, we recommend visiting those on the weekend!
- Canopy tour with 17 cables 2,5 kilometer total
- Antennas Trail beautiful walk through jungle and fields
- Horse back riding at rancho Chilamate
- Yoga studio at the hotel
- Surfing look at the page with school info, the school offers surfing classes!
For a short period of time León was the capital of Nicaragua. That is why there are a relative large number of churches and cathedrals. The city has 100,000 inhabitants and many universities. As a result there are a lot of bars and places to go out. It is easy to find a place where they play live music. León has the advantages of a big city but not the disadvantages like busy traffic and air pollution. There are a lot of parks and green areas. The parks, filled with benches, food stands and chilled refreshments serve as a meeting place for both locals and foreigners. On Saturdays a band plays in the central park in front of the cathedral.
Leon has hardly been discovered yet by tourists, which makes it, in my opinion, nicer than Granada, the biggest tourist attraction in Nicaragua. Leon is alive, most of the places you can easily reach on foot but if you do want to take a taxi in town it will only cost you $0.50. You can eat very decently for a small amount of money but if you do want to ‘splash out’ take a perfect cappuccino at the plaza for $1,25. Leon is only 20 kilometers away from the beach. With a bus it only takes half an hour to get there, so very easy to go there on an afternoon after your classes. A delightful place to swim or walk along a quiet beach; during the week you will hardly meet anybody. Do be careful of the strong undercurrent in this part of the Pacific Ocean.
Activities in León Nicaragua
- Visit the cathedral on the central square.
- Have a Nicaraguan bite to eat for one dollar in one of the many restaurants.
- Take a ‘mural tour’; you will learn about the background of the murals.
- Go to Leon vieja, the old capital of Nicaragua.
- Climb a volcano like for example the Telica or Momotombo (you can do this at night as well)
- Pay a visit to Quetzaltrekkers and take a tour through them, the profit benefits ‘Las Tias’, one and a half block east of the church: Iglesia la Recolección.
- Go sandboarding with Quetzaltrekkers: a great experience to race down a volcano on a board.
- On Friday night a live band plays in the café of hotel ViaVia (Av. Santiago Arguelo).
Go back to the homepage to see how our site is build up into Spanish Courses, volunteer work, and travel with or without Spanish courses. Or go back to the page with the description of Spanish courses in the different places in Nicaragua.
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