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Tourism in Nicaragua

Maderas and Concepcion Volcanoes on Ometepe island are popular tourist destinations.

Tourism in Nicaragua has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.[1]

The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Nicaragua's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010.[2]


  • History 1
  • Tourism 2
    • Rural and community-based tourism 2.1
    • Ecological tourism 2.2
  • International tourist arrivals 3
    • International airport 3.1
    • Visa regulations 3.2
  • Tourist attractions 4
    • Volcanoes 4.1
  • Popular destinations 5
  • See also 6
  • Further reading 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


During the Nicaraguan Revolution in the '80s Nicaragua was not regarded as a place to travel, which caused a decrease in tourism. However, rapid expansion of the tourist industry over the last decade has made it the nation's second largest industry.[3] Over the last 7 years tourism has grown about 70% nationwide with rates of 10%-16% annually.[4]

Nicaragua is mostly famous for its landscapes, flora and fauna, wildlife, culture, beaches, lakes, and volcanoes. By 2010, the nation welcomed one million visitors--the most in its entire history for a calendar year. Nicaragua's tourism industry in 2010 raked in approximately 360 million dollars for the nation's economy.[5]

According to TV Noticias (news program) on Canal 2, a Nicaragua television station, the main attractions in Nicaragua for tourists are the beaches, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as León and Granada and most recently ecotourism and agritourism, particularly in Northern Nicaragua.[4]


In 2013, more than 1.2 million tourists visited Nicaragua, representing an increase of nearly a third from 2009.[6] Two-thirds of these tourists were from other Central American countries, 290,000 were from North America and 80,000 from Europe.[7] Of those that come for recreation, their principal activities include surfing, hiking volcanoes and getting to know the country's nature trails.

According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR) the colonial city of Granada is the preferred spot for tourists. The city's central park, Parqué Colón, hosts many vendors of traditional foods and arts and crafts, and there are always several horse-drawn carriages ready to give thorough and affordable tours of the city.[8] Venturing outside of the city limits, one can explore the verdant islets of Granada by a relaxing guided boat ride or by kayak.[9] The islets also boast many luxurious hotels and arrangements for those that wish to take in the sunrise from the Mombacho Volcano, a common day destination for those interested in climbing into a cloud forest. The Apoyo Lagoon is also a popular destination for those visiting Granada. Also, the cities of León, Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, and others are main tourist attractions.[10] In addition, ecotourism and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua.

Another popular destination are the Corn Islands located about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua near Bluefields. They have been regarded as a "tropical paradise" by the Los Angeles Times.[11] Cruise ships have been docking in San Juan del Sur since January 2000 and average 50,000 tourists alone every year, some who partake in tours to nearby Lake Cocibolca and the colonial city of Granada.[12]

A view of the Montelimar Beach and the Barcelo Hotel and Resort in Managua.

Nicaragua was ranked with the lowest crime rate in Latin America by Interpol and many other sources,[1][13] with only 12 crimes for every 100,000 citizens.[14] Nicaragua also holds the largest lake in Central America, about 700 species of birds, and unspoiled natural beauty, despite all this it is still the least visited country in the region.[15][16] However, the lower number of tourists help Nicaragua keep low prices, and an "off-the-beaten-track" feel.

Rural and community-based tourism

CECOCAFEN is an organization of coffee cooperatives in Northern Nicaragua that manage a rural and community-based tourism project, which has been developed with support from the Lutheran World Relief. CEOCAFEN was founded in 1997,[17] the drop in international coffee prices is what started the CECCOAFEN project in 2003. Tourism allows farmers to receive new opportunities in alternative markets, harvest coffee and diversify their income.[18] CECOCAFEN offers visitors the opportunity to visit a coffee farm, learn about coffee craftsmanship, and even to stay overnight on a coffee farm and explore with a community guide.

Ecological tourism

Eco-tourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious, it focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Nicaragua's eco-tourism is growing with every passing year,[19] it boasts a number of eco-tourist tours and perfect places for adventurers. Nicaragua has three eco-regions, the Pacific, Central and Atlantic which contain volcanoes, tropical rainforest and agricultural land.[20] The majority of the ecolodges and other environmentally-focused touristic destinations are found on Ometepe Island, found in the middle of Lake Nicaragua just an hour boat ride from Granada. While some are foreign-owned, such as the tropical permaculture lodge at Finca El Zopilote, others are owned by local families, like the small but well-acclaimed Finca Samaria.

Nicaragua is home to 78 protected areas covering over 20% of it landmass, and is home to 7% of the world's biodiversity. More than Costa Rica, which is thought to hold more natural areas than Nicaragua.[21] Nicaragua is also home to Bosawas, located in Northern Nicaragua, which is the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil, and the largest lake in Central America, Lake Cocibolca. Lake Cocibolca attracts its fair number of tourist yearly, most of which primarily visit Ometepe, which is a large volcanic island formed by two volcanoes in the lake. Tourists typically visit and explore the flora and fauna found in the Charco Verde Nature Reserve.

Nicaragua's rich biodiversity also attracts many tourists to protected areas such as the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which holds a higher number in species of trees, birds, and insects than all of Europe.[22]

International tourist arrivals

After its renovation, Nicaragua's Augusto C. Sandino International Airport stands as the most modern airport in Central America.[23]

International airport

Nicaragua only has one international airport, the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, located in Managua.

Visa regulations

Tourists from Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, the Palestinian National Authority, Romania, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen require a visa to enter Nicaragua.[24][25][26]

Other tourists can obtain a Tourist Card for US$10 valid for 1 month upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run. There is also a US$32 departure tax (the tax is usually already included in a round-trip ticket).[27]

Tourist attractions


Sand skiing down the Cerro Negro volcano.

Nicaragua is referred to as "the land of lakes and volcanoes" due to the number of lagoons and lakes, and the chain of volcanoes that runs from the north to the south along the country's Pacific side. Today, only 7 of the 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua are considered active. Many of these volcanoes offer some great possibilities for tourists with activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in crater lakes.

Most recently sand skiing has become a popular attraction at the Cerro Negro volcano in León. Both dormant and active volcanoes can be climbed. Some of the most visited volcanoes include the Masaya Volcano, Momotombo, Mombacho, Cosigüina and Ometepe's Maderas and Concepción.

The Apoyo Lagoon was created by the eruption of the Apoyo Volcano about 23,000 years ago, which left a huge 7 km-wide crater that gradually filled with water. It is surrounded by the old crater wall.[28] The rim of the lagoon is lined with restaurants, many of which have kayaks available. Besides exploring the forest around it, many water sports are practiced in the lagoon, most notably kayaking.[29]

Another popular attraction is the archipelago of 365 islands known as the Islets of Granada (Isletas de Granada). The islets were formed when the Mombacho volcano blew most of its cone into the lake, thereby creating the archipelago. The islets are popular with both locals and tourists. The islets differ in size and have a community of about 1200 people, most of whom make their living as fishermen. Many visitors take boat rides along the islets, which are abundant with many different species of birds and fish.[30]

Popular destinations

Granada's Town Square.
Bahia Majagual Rivas.

Department of Managua:

Department of Granada:

Department of León

Department of Rivas

Department of Masaya:

Department of Río San Juan:

Department of Estelí

Department of Jinotega

Department of Matagalpa

Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur:

Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte:

department of Chinandega

See also

Further reading

  • Leonardi, Richard (2001). Nicaragua Handbook: The Travel Guide. Footprint Travel Guides.  
  • Jeffrey Zuehlke, Christopher Dall (2006). Nicaragua in Pictures. Twenty-First Century Books.  
  • Randall Wood, Joshua Berman (2006). Moon Living Abroad in Nicaragua. Avalon Travel Publishing.  


  1. ^ a b Carroll, Rory (2007-01-07). "Ortega banks on tourism to beat poverty". Guardian Unlimited (London). Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  2. ^ Nicaragua exceeds one mn foreign tourists for first time
  3. ^ "Travel And Tourism in Nicaragua". Euromonitor International. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  4. ^ a b Alemán, Giselle Alemán. "Turismo en Nicaragua: aportes y desafios parte I". Canal 2 (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  5. ^ Up to a million tourists Nicaragua
  6. ^ "Boletín de Estadícas de Turismo de Nicaragua No. 24". INTUR. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Boletín de Estadícas de Turismo de Nicaragua No. 24". INTUR. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Cathedral of Granada". Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Granada Islets". Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Destinos". INTUR. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  11. ^ Wedner, Diane (2007-04-06). "Nicaragua's Corn Islands, an unspoiled Paradise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  12. ^ Stevens, Jennifer. "Nicaragua update: More tourists & greater". Escape Artist. Archived from the original on 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  13. ^ Carter, Jimmy. "Jimmy Carter's Nicaragua Trip Report". The Carter Center. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  14. ^ Kerr, Michael (2007-06-02). "Contra to expectations...". Telegraph (London). p. 1. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  15. ^ "Nicaragua Travel Guide". Travelotica. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  16. ^ "Nicaragua’s Evolution". Transitions Abroad. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  17. ^ "CECOCAFEN, the Coffee Cooperatives Central in the Northern Regions". Cooperative Coffees. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  18. ^ Butler, Felicity. "Rural and community-based tourism harvests greater yields". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  19. ^ "Nicaraguan Ecotourism". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  20. ^ "Nicaragua Travel Guide - Overview". World Travel Guide. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  21. ^ "Eco-tourism in Nicaragua: Green Giant". Guardian Unlimited (London). 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  22. ^ Cawley, Joe (2005-09-17). "River of dreams". Guardian Unlimited (London). Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  23. ^ "Country Profile: Nicaragua; Infrastructure". ProNicaragua. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  24. ^ "Know Nicaragua Visa and Passport Regulations". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  25. ^ "Mayoría de turistas serán los africanos". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  26. ^ "". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  27. ^ "Consular Information Sheet: Nicaragua". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  28. ^ "Volcanoes in Nicaragua: Apoyo Volcano". ViaNica. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  29. ^ "Activities in and around the Apoyo Lagoon". ViaNica. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  30. ^ "Boat trip among the Granada Islets". ViaNica. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 

External links

  • New York Times Travel Guides: Nicaragua
  • San Juan del Sur Surfing
  • Nicaragua destaca en ecoturismo (Spanish)
  • Alternativas al Turismo de Sol y Playa(Spanish)
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