Top Five Facets of Nicaragua
If you’re visiting Nicaragua as a tourist or moving to Nicaragua as an expat, here are some of the features that make up the country’s individual spirit that you shouldn’t miss:
1. The colonial Towns. With two of the first cities on the American mainland, Nicaragua is spoiled for choice when it comes to cobblestones, adobe homes, and stunning churches. Visiting Leon and Granada is like taking a step back in time, and it’s the same with many other Nicaraguan towns.
2. Ometepe Island. This magical place is unique. It’s the only island in the world made up of two volcanoes that sit in the middle of a lake. It’s bigger than you think, too. Enormous, in fact – the 10th largest freshwater island on the planet. Ometepe came off pretty unscathed through Nicaragua’s 20th-century wars and has a very peaceful vibe. You feel it as soon as you step off the ferry. Well worth a visit.
3. The Surf. Even if you don’t surf the Nicaraguan waves will impress you. It’s those offshore winds blowing from Lake Nicaragua. They make even the most un-surfy person in the world want to get themselves on a board and hang ten.
4. The Volcanoes. There might not be many countries that have a volcano for all tastes. Nicaragua is one. Want verdant cloud forest and lots of nature? Mombacho outside Granada or Maderas on Ometepe will work. How about some of the best views after an exhausting hike? Concepcion on Ometepe or Cosiguina up in the far north (from Cosiguina you can see three countries – Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras). Adventure? Cerro Negro outside of Leon was where they invented the sport of volcano boarding. Nicaragua is the best volcano country on earth, period.
5. The Festivals. There is more than likely a firecracker going off somewhere in Nicaragua as you read this. Alongside that firecracker will be a thousand more and a crowd of screaming, dancing people, brass bands, and extreme joviality. Nicaraguans might be poor but they know how to party, and every town and community has its moments. When you hear a trumpet sound and find yourself in a crowd of people trying to dance with you, you know that you’re in Nicaragua.
Month-by-Month Guide to Nicaragua (When to Come for What)
Nicaragua is great at any time of the year but if you’re feeling a particular month, here’s what you can expect to see:
- January. One of the windiest months of the year, the surf is fantastic in January and the weather is dry and sunny. There’s also a wonderful horse show in Granada called the Caballo Español Pura Sangre Fair (purebred Spanish horses) where you can check out these magnificent animals. Leon hosts an annual festival about the poet Ruben Dario and the town of San Carlos has an aquatic parade where carnival floats take to the water.
- February. This month is dominated by the Granada Poetry Festival in Granada where poets from around the world gather and recite their work in front of fans.
- March. As we get closer to Easter, carnivals start kicking off all over Nicaragua, but none so important as the annual Joy For Life Carnival in Managua, which draws people in from all over the country.
- April. Easter Week normally takes place during this month (or late March) and the world heads to the beach. San Juan del Sur becomes a huge, huge party that doesn’t stop. You either love it or hate it.
- May. Bluefields in the Caribbean celebrates the Maypole Festival, a tradition that comes from when the English ruled. Elsewhere Labor Day is a national holiday and a time for political speeches. The cities of Jinotega and Esteli both put on festivals during this month too. May is also the month when the heat starts breaking, the clouds roll in and the rain starts.
- June. The island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua is a UN World Heritage Site and each June this is remembered with an exhibition that brings artists, foodies and visitors together to eat, drink and be merry. The beach town of San Juan del Sur also celebrates it’s Virgen del Carmen feast, which means another party there.
- July. July 19th marks National Liberation Day, the day in 1979 that the Somoza dynasty fell and the Sandinistas took over. It’s one of the biggest public holidays of the year.
- August. Granada and Managua both see another big horse fair and the Rio San Juan holds a major fishing championship. The Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption is celebrated in towns and villages all over Nicaragua with parades and fireworks
- September. Independence Day on September 15th dominates this month as many people take the whole week off to celebrate. Despite the fact that this is the rainiest month, the beaches are still packed because of the holiday.
- October. A quiet month in Nicaragua to go with the rain. There are a few fiestas here and there in Esteli, Jinotega and Masaya, but nothing much to write home about.
- November. Ometepe sees a couple of events in this month as the town of Altagracia holds its festival and another horse show. All Saints and All Souls (Day of the Dead) are also celebrated throughout the country during this month.
- December. The dry season is back and the Christmas parties start kicking off early. December 7th sees the Griteria festival, which is a homage to the Virgin Mary characterized by lots of fireworks, singing and dancing. Christmas and New Years have everyone hitting the beaches or the streets to party, like they have been all year but with twice the energy.