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Nicaragua: Ringing in 2023

Growing up in a very political family, where discussions were led with lots of emotions on a daily basis, for the longest time I was convinced that this kind of political engagement was good and necessary. My grandmother, who I dearly loved and who was the kindest person, would get emotional over politics even in her 90s. She experienced monarchy, the first republic, fascism, Nazi rule and the second republic in her lifetime, and even though she saw all those changes she argued that she liked the monarchy most, because according to her, at least the monarchs had style and dignity. I, of course, totally disagree and think any monarchy, whether constitutional or absolute, should be abolished in favor of a true and fair democracy and that monarchies belong only in fairy tales and history books.

Over the years I noticed how many people got more and more bitter because of politics (or perhaps, more accurately, regular engagement with what often amounts to political theatre) and this has made me rethink my approach to politics. You can’t escape political ideas, but you can control how much you let the day-to-day reports affect you. I will always voice and stand up for what I think is right, and I will always vote, for so many people have let their life to achieve this right, but I am not really interested in political discussions just for the sake of it. I also refuse to see everything solely on a political level, which takes away so much from what life has to offer and so rarely gives anything fulfilling back.

Yet, in autocrat-run Nicaragua, the political is difficult to escape. A man has seized power again and refuses to step down and the party which once was responsible for freeing the country from a dictatorship has now become an extension of a new dictator. Since we lived in 3 different places in Nicaragua and also made a short visit to Honduras, we traveled around in cars a lot and noticed an extreme number of police check-points throughout the country, which I have personally witnessed in no other country.

Lots of properties in Nicaragua seem to be abandoned and businesses closed–something that can also be attributed to the decline of tourism caused by the 2018 protests which were violently smashed by the regime. Nicaragua is one of the poorest Latin American countries and tourism is an important income stream for many.

After 12 months of staying in one place every month, living in 3 different places in Nicaragua marked a change. Bee’s holiday started and gave us the flexibility of no longer needing to rely on stable internet throughout our stay. Initially we planned to stay a month in Granada, but the host at our accommodation canceled and we decided to stay in Granada, Ometepe and Las Peñitas instead.

Granada, situated on Lake Nicaragua, is a charming city and, unlike León which we visited later, has a constant pleasant breeze blowing from the gigantic lake that feels more like an ocean. It connects Granada with the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River, once making Granada prone to pirate attacks. Nicaragua has many volcanoes, which we could see throughout our journeys. Since several of them are active, we took the opportunity to visit the nearby active Masaya Volcano where we spotted the magma flowing in the crater! We also took a fun boat ride through the Isletas de Granada, 365 small islands that were created when Mombacho Volcano blew much of its cone into the lake thousands of years ago. The boat anchored in a nice lagoon where we went swimming while trying to forget that there are sharks in the lake, too. (There have only been 3 shark attacks in Lake Nicaragua so far.)

We arrived on Ometepe, the world’s largest volcanic island on a lake, via a 45 min ferry ride from San Jorge. The sight of Conceptión Volcano, the active and higher of the two volcanoes forming the island, was breathtaking from the ferry itself. The view never got old even after we got settled in our small cabin on a more remote part of the island near Maderas Volcano. Ometepe is very rural and lots of streets are just dirt roads, which didn’t stop us from renting a bike to explore the island. Bee unfortunately got a cold and so I had to venture out on my own too. I loved visiting San Ramon Waterfall and we had a lot of fun kayaking up the Rio Istián. We also tried to kayak to the Monkey island, but the waves in the very last stretch got too rough and we missed out on seeing the monkeys which are supposed to live on this otherwise uninhabited island. The water level of Lake Nicaragua was so high that all of the beaches on the island were under water. I am sure the beaches would have added to the already beautiful island. We had a lot of white-throated magpie-jays in our garden, a humming bird came to visit and the neighbors’ dog would basically sleep in front of our cabin. I enjoyed doing yoga on the porch of the property and swimming in warm-to-me lake water, which we could access from the garden.

The last leg of our stay in Nicaragua was Las Peñitas, a cute fishing / surfer town on the Pacific Ocean. We got an old house right on the beach and had the neighbors next door not have started construction, we would have loved our stay throughout the time we spent there. The beach of Las Peñitas stretches out very far and sunsets are magical. We also made a day trip to Honduras to visit one of Bee’s colleagues and a trip to the city León, which we both enjoyed a lot. The rooftop views from the Cathedral in León, Central America’s biggest cathedral, were stunning and being art lovers we enjoyed our visit of Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Gurdián equally, as well as the flat white in the café Mañana Mañana, since the coffee options in Las Peñitas are not that great.

Nicaragua felt very safe throughout our stay and the people were very friendly. The country was a really positive surprise and I would definitely come back to explore it further!

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