Tourism in Nicaragua is on the up.
Every year, more and more people are visiting this beautiful country. Nicaragua has stepped out of the Cold War shadow and is fast becoming the hottest destinations in Latin America.
Itís not hard to see why; Nicaragua is blessed with amazing natural landscapes. There are pristine beaches, huge lakes, and stunning volcanoes (both active and dormant). There is also an abundance of flora & fauna, wildlife, and culture.
Another selling point is its relative lack of development. Events in recent history have meant that Nicaragua has not been Westernised in the way that Costa Rica, itís neighbour to the South, has. Instead, Nicaragua has held on to itís unique charm (and low prices).
However, things are changing fast. People are beginning to recognise the opportunities that Nicaragua offers, and investments are being made across the country. This is most notable in San Juan del Sur, where a new $3 million cruise port was opened last year.
This new port makes Nicaragua more accessible than ever. In the 2017/18 cruise season, 50% more ships will visit San Juan than in the previous year, bringing tens of thousands more visitors.
So what activities are available to these visitors when they arrive?
Letís take a lookÖ
Located 90 minutes from San Juan del Sur, the charming, colonial city of Granada is the oldest European city in the Americas. Founded by the Spanish in 1524, it is known as La Gran Sultana due to is Moorish and Andalusian architecture.
Visitors to Granada can enjoy a tour around its historical centre, either on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage. Highlights of the tour include the stunning cathedral and the convent of San Francisco.
From Granada it is also possible to take a boat tour around the isletas of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. The isletas are 365 small islands which were created by an eruption of the Mombacho volcano thousands of years ago. Today they are home to many species, including Capuchin monkeys who are always keen to say hello to their visitors.
The small town of Masaya has two big attractions ó itís awesome volcano, and the best artisanal market in Nicaragua.
The Spanish conquistadors referred to the Masaya volcano as "the Gates of Hell", and itís easy to see why. The bubbling lava must have been a terrifying sight back then. Itís no surprise that they erected a huge cross and had a priest bless the crater!
The market isnít quite as scary. Instead it offers tourists a place to admire Nicaraguan handicrafts and leather goods, and to pick up souvenirs of their trip.
San Juan del Sur
For those who are looking for a more relaxed day, there is absolutely nothing wrong with staying close to the ship and spending the day in San Juan del Sur.
Often overlooked by the official ship tours, San Juan has a lot to offer. There are beach side restaurants where you can enjoy freshly caught fish, high-quality spas where you can get a relaxing massage, and a market where you can find Nicaraguan produce like coffee, cigars & rum.
If you want to be a little more active, you can take a trip up to the impressive statue of El Cristo de la Misericordia. From there you can look down on your ship and enjoy stunning views up and down the Pacific coast
Or you could visit Parque de Aventuras Las Nubes, where you will be taken up through the cloud-forest in an off-road vehicle, stopping to spot monkeys along the way. You could even go ziplining once you reach the top!
You can even combine these activities in a half-day tour which also includes a brief history of the Nicaraguan Revolution.
Nicaragua is a hot, up-and-coming destination and the time to visit is now. With so much to see, you're going to want a tour company that specialises in catering to cruise ship passengers, that company is Nicaragua Tour Network.