Managua, Nicaragua - Stein Travel


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Welcome to Managua

Nicaragua's capital, Managua, is the perfect introduction to this Central American country and an ideal starting point for destinations across the country as it is situated on the banks of Lake Managua and midway between Leon and Granada. The city's name is derived from the indigenous Nahuatl language and means 'town surrounded by water'. In recent times Managua has been dubbed 'the Venice of Central America' because of all the makeshift canals used throughout the city.

Managua is divided into what can be termed pre- and post-earthquake areas. Two relatively recent and major earthquakes devastated the town in 1931 and 1972. These earthquakes forced residents to build businesses and residential areas outside of Managua rather than in the centre of town, which still contains older buildings that were not structurally designed to withstand the earthquakes. The rebuilt Managua does not seem to follow a particular system and shopping malls, residential areas and parks are scattered throughout the city. Zona Rosa and Metrocentro are the main tourist areas

Managua is the cultural and political centre of Nicaragua. It is also central to trade and industry, which is evident in the seemingly frenetic activity and constant buzz that the city exudes. Visitors to Managua will be charmed as it is a meeting point between old and new. It is also a remarkable beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes, lakes, mountains and lagoons.

Directions and getting around in Managua are slightly tricky because of extensive earthquake damage. Years of major earthquakes and earth tremors have left many parts of the central Managua without proper addresses or street names. Using the lake as a point of reference is particularly useful whether you're using a hired car, taxis or public buses.

Managua boasts a number of tourist attractions including the National Museum, National Palace and the old and damaged Managua Cathedral. The town has a selection of quaint markets where tourists can buy everything from ethnic mementos and souvenirs to colourful hammocks and paintings. Visitors to Nicaragua will be charmed by its capital city and enthralled by the country's natural beauty and extensive scenic surroundings.


Managua enjoys a tropical climate with year-round temperatures averaging between 80F (28C) and 90F (32). From late November through to early February the climate in Managua tends to be warm and dry. March through to the end of April Managua's weather is hot and humid but the city tends to enjoy its wet and rainy season from May to October with May, June and October being the wettest months. Visitors to Managua should plan their vacation for the November and December periods as the weather is warm and there isn't too much rainfall during these months. Travelling to Managua during March and April is not advisable as temperatures soar and the humidity is particularly bad.

The official language in Nicaragua is Spanish. Some communities on the Caribbean coast speak indigenous languages. English is understood at some tourist destinations.

The currency is named the Córdoba but commonly referred to as the peso. American dollars can also be used for common transactions. Bills must be in good shape to be accepted and damaged bills can be exchanged at banks. Only some banks will exchange travellers cheques. All major cities have ATMs and most hotels and restaurants accept credit card payments.

Local time is GMT/UCT -6.

Situated on both sides of the border between Nicaragua and Honduras, the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve covers more than 2 million acres (20 000 km²) and is home to thousands of plant and animal species, and nearly 200,000 types of insect. The area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997 and is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. Visiting the reserve is one of the many things to do in Nicaragua. Tourists who make the effort to visit the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve will discover untouched rainforests and a rich array of animal life.

Adventurous travellers should definitely include the Corn Islands on their list of things to do in Nicaragua. Situated 40 miles (70km) from the mainland, the two islands are home to howler monkeys, while the seas and coral reefs surrounding the islands are popular with divers wishing to see barracudas, nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays and green turtles. Tourists visiting the islands won't find modern hotels or resorts on the islands; instead there are a few sparsely populated villages and a wealth of unspoiled plant and animal life. The Corn Islands are a perfect off-the-beaten-track destination in Nicaragua.

The colourful city of Granada is packed with historical sights and beautiful colonial-style architecture, some of which dates back to the 1600s. The city's markets and museums offer visitors some of the most popular tourist attractions and activities in Nicaragua. Granada is home to a vibrant nightlife scene and a number of popular festivals, including the colourful Granada Holy Week festivities. Popular places to visit in Granada include the town's six main churches, Parque Centrale (central park), Fuerte La Polvora (an 18th century fort), Lake Nicaragua and the Mi Museo (a private museum). Among the many favourite things to do in and around Granada are zip-lining forest canopy tours, treks around the Massaya Volcano, shopping excursions at the town's local market and trips to coffee farms in the area. Granada is the best town for visitors to use as a base while exploring Lake Nicaragua, as well as many of the country's volcanoes and beaches.

Lake Nicaragua (sometimes referred to as Lake Cocibolca) is Central America's largest lake and the 10th largest body of fresh water in the world. A number of attractions set Lake Nicaragua above other lakes around the world. Lake Nicaragua is one of the only freshwater bodies of water with sharks. The Nicaragua Sharks, or Bull Sharks inhabit the depths of the lake and are a rare sight for the devoted tourist. Mombacho Volcano towers over this body of water and the collection of small islands known locally as Las Isletas scattered within the lake are believed to have been the result of a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The eruption spewed massive rocks out into the lake, which later became 'Las Isletas'. Visitors to Lake Nicaragua can hire a boat and tour the islands while taking in the spectacular scenery and multitude of bird and aquatic life. The lake is also home to the volcanic Ometepe Island with its twin volcanic peaks.

Montelimar Beach is situated on the Pacific Coast and offers tourists the perfect Nicaraguan beach resort experience. Visitors can take part in sightseeing activities at the nearby zoo or they can go shopping at any number of the popular curio stalls and shops dotted throughout the area. The most popular and attractive activity in Montelimar is to simply relax on the 1.5 mile (3km) stretch of beach made up of pristine white sand. Other things to do in this Nicaraguan resort town include scuba diving, surfing and snorkelling. Montelimar Beach is a must for visitors wanting a stress-free holiday filled with relaxation and fun in the sun.

The National Museum in Managua is one of Nicaragua's principal tourist attractions. The museum houses a fascinating selection of artifacts and a number of displays of Central American history, ancient Central American civilisations and the Columbus period. The museum's nine rooms house a selection of modern art and informative exhibitions about the country's turbulent natural history including information about the numerous Nicaraguan volcanoes and earthquakes that have devastated the country throughout history. The museum staff are helpful, informative and friendly, making it an ideal attraction for any visitor wanting to learn more about Nicaragua.

The twin volcanoes on Lake Nicaragua should be on every visitor's list of things to do in Nicaragua. The islands are situated midway between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Visitors to the islands can explore the volcanoes; hike though rain forests or bargain with local coffee farmers who use the fertile Volcanic slopes to grow the fragrant beans. The birds and wildlife on the islands will delight nature lovers, while sports enthusiasts can take part in kayaking and fishing tours around the island. For those who brave the hike up the 3,300-foot (1,500m) summit of one of the volcanoes, the views are unsurpassed. Visitors should set aside a few days to explore the numerous natural attractions the islands have to offer.

The quaint town of Rivas is situated on an isthmus midway between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua. This colonial town boasts a beautiful collection of churches and Spanish-colonial feel. Rivas is situated close to a number of other great Nicaragua tourist attractions such as Granada and the volcanic island of Ometepe. Rivas is a great jumping off point for visitors who want to take part in activities focussed on sea and beachfront interests such as snorkelling, swimming, tanning or chartering a fishing trip.

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