This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
The cone of the Momotombo Volcano serves as a backdrop to Managua, located on the southern shore of Lake Managua and capital of the largest country in Central America. Among the things to see and do are visiting the National Museum with a fine pre-Columbian collection and contemporary art gallery, the New Cathedral—a mosque-like Catholic church with 63 domes to let in light to illuminate the stark interior—and the tourist-friendly Mercado Roberto Huembes with its colorful fresh fruits and flowers sections, as well as a good selection of national handicrafts. Don’t miss a concert performance at the Ruben Dario National Theater, named for Nicaragua’s poet laureate and the cultural heart of the city, and in season, take in a baseball game at the National Stadium. If you are staying at the very fine InterContinental Real or the landmark Crowne Plaza, turn the TV to channel 8 to catch Chef Nelson Porta on his morning show, then book for lunch or dinner at the Santa Lucia Culinary Institute where he presides over the restaurant (Santa Lucia Steakhouse) and cooking classes.
Day excursions are easy from Managua, but better yet visit and/or stay in Leon, home to the country’s leading university, and where you can see the Catedral de la Asuncion, the largest cathedral in Central America, and the Ortiz-Gurdian Foundation Centro de Arte. Then spend lots of time in Granada, a colonial gem of a town on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and tour around by horse and carriage, past historic mansions (many now boutique inns) to the museum complex of Convento de San Francisco. From here, explore “las isletas” by boat and go birdwatching and canopy touring in Mombacho Volcano Cloud Forest. Closer to the capital is Masaya Volcano National Park. You can drive right up to or climb up to the lookout over the lava-glowing crater, then later visit the Mercado Artesanias in Masaya.
- Best time to go:
November to April, best time in December, just after the rainy season
- Fun fact:
Nicaragua was the stage setting for both the 21st and 22nd seasons of the TV reality show, “Survivor,” based in the beach town of San Juan del Sur
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Managua
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
Steaks, the best in Central America
- Best buys:
Many fine handicrafts including leatherwork and primitive paintings from Solentiname Archipelago; rum and cigars
- Information please:
Nicaragua Tourism Board—visit-nicaragua.com