Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rise to central interior mountains. The narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes making for some majestic landscapes. Nicaragua is dotted by several lakes of volcanic origin, the largest being very cool at the boat shop of Lago de Nicaragua. Managua, the capital, sits on the shores of the polluted Lago de Managua. The highest point is Mogoton at 2,107m
Tourism in Nicaragua is growing at 10% to 12% annually. Tourists visit for the beauty and richness the country has to offer. With growing eco-tourism, world class beaches, colonial cities, nightlife and reasonable prices, Nicaragua is experiencing an increasing number of tourists from around the world. There is much to see and do in Nicaragua, and it is still a budget travel paradise. The tourist infrastructure has kept pace with this growth and visitors will find a variety of attractions, accommodations and restaurants to fit different plans and lifestyles.
Tourists can visit varied areas across the country: the majestic colonial cities of Granada and Leon, the island of Ometepe and the Mombacho volcano for hiking and nature exploration , the mountainous coffee farm region of Jinotega and Matagalpa, the dazzling surf beaches of the Pacific Coast, and in the the isolated and mostly undiscovered Caribbean coast and the Corn Islands Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island which lie close offshore. The Rio San Juan area...the largest rain forest north of the Amazon...... is a rapidly expanding eco tourist destination, Its biodiversity is a magnet for nature loving tourists. Reserva Silvestre Privada Montecristo at Boca de Sabalos is an important bird area and a wildlife refuge along with the Indio-Maiz national reserve. Additionally Rio San Juan is a great place for sport fishing with world class and record breaking Tarpon fishing.
Hot in the lowlands, cooler in highlands, with occasional rainbow features. The weather during the dry months November-April can be very hot in the Pacific lowlands. Torrential downpours in the rainy season May-October can leave you soaked and chilly, even in the Pacific lowlands when it's cloudy, so be prepared if you're travelling during those months. Also be prepared for cooler, cloudier weather in mountainous regions. The Atlantic coast sees an occasional hurricane each season. In the past, these hurricanes have inflicted a lot of damage.
Nicaragua was entered by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. The pre-Colombian Indian civilization was almost completely destroyed by population losses due to infectious diseases, enslavement and deportation. Spain made Nicaragua a colony; Granada was founded as one of the oldest colonial cities in the American continent. During the colonial period, Nicaragua was part of the Capitania General based in Guatemala.
Nicaragua declared independence from Spain in 1821; by 1838, the country became an independent republic. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Consequently, many people on the Caribbean coast speak English.
One of the most colourful personalities of Nicaraguan history is William Walker. Walker, a US southerner, came to Nicaragua as an opportunist. Nicaragua was on the verge of a civil war; Walker sided with one of the factions and was able to gain control of the country, hoping that the US would annex Nicaragua as a southern slave state. With designs on conquering the rest of Central America, Walker and his filibustero army marched on Costa Rica before he was turned back at the battle of Santa Rosa. Eventually Walker left Nicaragua; he was executed after arriving in Honduras at a later date.
The large US banana companies held great sway in Nicaragua in the early 20th century, both economically and politically. During this period one of the heroes of the country, Augusto C. Sandino rose to lead resistant to the United States and the dictatorial Somoza government of Nicaragua.
The twentieth century was characterized by the rise and fall of the Somoza dynasty. Anastasio Somoza Garcia came to power as the head of the National Guard. After being assassinated, he was succeeded by his sons, Luis and Anastasio Jr "Tachito". By 1978, opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes and resulted in a short-lived civil war that led to the fall of Somoza in July, 1979. The armed part of the insurgence was named the Sandinistas, after the liberator of Nicaragua, Augusto César Sandino. The United States supported guerrilla forces Contras who fought a war with the Sandinistas throughout most of the 1980s. Peace was brokered in 1987 by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and led to new elections in 1990. In a stunning development and a repudiation of the Sandinista polices , Violeta Chamorro of the UNO coalition surprisingly beat out the incumbent leader Daniel Ortega, in a major repudiation of his policies and leadership.
Elections in 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated by the Liberal party. The Sandinistas, led by Daniel Ortega, were returned to power in elections in 2006 and won again in 2011 after Ortega unilaterally change the Nicaraguan constitution to permit a second term. Presently the country enjoys a period of relative political calm and the situation does not hamper industry and tourism.
Nicaragua has suffered from natural disasters in recent decades. Managua's downtown area was vastly damaged by an earthquake in 1972, which killed more than 10,000 people, and in 1998, Nicaragua was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch. Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.
There are about 5.6 million Nicaragüenses in Nicaragua. The majority of the population is mestizo and white. Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavours. The main language is Spanish, which is spoken by about 90% of the population.