On my last day in Nicaragua, I saw this Apache blessing inside the worn cardboard menu at a small, mostly gringo cafe. In a nutshell, it seemed to sum up pretty well how taking a week completely off the grid in a developing country, far away from all the insanity of American life, made me feel.
“May the sun bring you energy by day, May the moon softly restore you at night, May the rain wash away your worries, May the breeze blow new strength into your being, May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life”.
Traveling to Nicaragua is perhaps not on everyone’s bucket list. However, for me, as long as a destination is reasonably safe I’m always game for seeing someplace new. Over the last five years, I’ve explored most of Central America with my first visit to the most developed and modern country of them all, Costa Rica, followed by travel to Guatemala, Honduras and even a brief trip to Belize. What surprised me the most about Nicaragua is how as the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti which I visited last year), it was incredibly lovely and safe.
The people are warm and friendly, welcoming visitors with open arms. The culture and beauty of Nicaragua pulls you in and never leaves your heart. Perhaps this is why Nicaragua’s tourism industry is booming and only going to expand. Nicaragua is a wonderful place and is still a relatively unexplored travel gem.
I’ll confess that I did not spend much time in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, which like most other Central American capitals is not very nice or safe. I only spent the night there upon my arrival and departure out of the country. However, the rest of Nicaragua that I saw, albeit only a tiny slice of the country, was spectacular and I would go back to see more in a heartbeat.
Known as “the land of lakes and volcanoes“, Nicaragua has an extraordinary blend of flora and fauna with over 40 volcanoes across the country and two large lakes dominating the geography, Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua) and Lago Xolotlán (Lake Managua). There are also 12 stunning lagoons that fill the craters of ancient volcanoes.
Most tourists head to the southwest of Nicaragua to explore Granada, Nicaragua’s most preserved colonial city, and the pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean. A visit to Ometepe Island and the remote, rugged Corn Islands are another favorite for the tourist who wants to get away from it all. Unfortunately, I only had a week to spare so my trip to Nicaragua included an overnight stay at the Best Western directly across the street from the International airport in Managua, followed by a visit to Granada and San Juan del Sur, a beautiful, small fishing village located on the Pacific coast.
Looking back over my week in Nicaragua, there are many highlights from my wonderful adventure. As with all my travels, it will take me some time to process it all and edit my photos. However, I wanted to give you a quick overview of the best experiences on the trip. Here they are:
Traveling solo and making new friends
I have done solo, group, family and couple travel for the past 25 years and each has its own set of pros and cons. As a middle-aged American woman, solo travel to third-world countries can sometimes be challenging and intimidating. But for me, the more I do it the more I love it. I went into this trip not knowing a soul who was invited but by the end of the week I felt like I knew these women for years.
As a mom and wife, I rarely get time alone and traveling alone in a country that speaks a different language and has a different culture can be life-changing. I find that I always learn so much about myself and in a sense really rediscover who I am while I’m traveling alone. I am at times out of my comfort zone and have to rely solely on myself. It is an exhilarating, empowering feeling. I know not everyone can do it but I’m so fortunate that I can. Some of my best trips have been when I’ve traveled alone.
Visiting Colonial Granada
Granada is a beautiful, vibrant city filled with colorful buildings, tourists, delightful restaurants and horse-drawn carriages. I loved my stay in Granada at the lovely Plaza Colon Hotel overlooking the main square in town and watching the world go by from the comforts of the front porch. There is so much to explore and see. It is a photographer’s dream, and there are plenty of tourists and expats for you to befriend.
Taking a sunset tour of Las Isletas
With only a night in Granada, I wanted to make sure to get as much in as possible. Through the hotel concierge, I booked a sunset cruise of Las Isletas, a series of hundreds of tiny islands in Lago Cocibolca. The beauty of the water at dusk as well as the thousands of birds, mesmerized me. It is an incredible place.
Learning to surf in San Juan del Sur
The number one highlight of my trip was attending Chicabrava’s learn to surf camp in San Juan del Sur. It was also the primary reason why I went to Nicaragua in the first place. I was invited by Chicabrava on a press trip to experience and review their all women’s learn to surf camp. It was absolutely amazing! I will be dedicating more posts on this experience soon.
Meeting fellow WordPress blogger Debbie of Rewind and Retired in Nicaragua
One of the best parts about blogging is the fantastic community of friends you met along the way. I’ve followed Debbie’s blog for years and when I found out I was going to Nicaragua I knew we’d have to meet in person. I met Debbie of the blog Rewind and Retired in Nicaragua, her husband Ron as well as her son and his fiancé for a delightful lunch in San Juan del Sur. We had lots of laughs and many smiles and hugs.
Watching the sun set every night and getting off the grid
Perhaps the best thing of all about going to Nicaragua was to simply get away from it all and enjoy the sunset. The more I travel to developing countries, the more I love it because it simply means you can truly get away. There is no CNN blaring or flashing news updates on some massive shooting or our crazy American political race. There is limited access to email or newspapers. Being in small town San Juan del Sur simply forces you to chill out, something I have a hard time doing. If you want nightlife you can find it or else you can do as I did, watch the sun light up the sky and sip a glass of wine, in awe and wonder.
Overall it was a week to savor and remember. An empowering vacation to add to my ever growing list of travels. I can hardly wait to share more.