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in Nicaragua

Destination Information

While the country is still poor and its infrastructure in dire need of improvement, Nicaragua offers a rich experience to travelers with a sense of adventure. Its southern neighbor, Costa Rica, draws almost double the number of visitors, even though Nicaragua is blessed with similarly beautiful, unspoiled landscapes. Plush resorts now provide adventurous travelers with the opportunity to sample the simple natural pleasures of an unspoiled and undiscovered corner of Central America. Despite being repeatedly sacked and set alight over the centuries, the colonial city of Granada retains a colorful charm. Its compact center, laid out in an approximate grid, invites exploration on foot.

The rainy season generally runs from June to October, with December to April being the best time for a visit.

Editor Tips

A Low-Key Market

Like Guatemala, Nicaragua boasts a particularly rich handicraft tradition. Fine local pieces can be found in Granada’s boutiques, but we had more fun shopping in the sprawling old market of Masaya, a small city halfway between Managua and Granada. Shopping here turned out to be refreshingly low-key. Pleasant vendors may greet you as you pass, but there is no high-pressure pitch to browse their wares, nor is extended haggling required to bring prices down to earth.

Colorful Ceramics & Beautiful Views

On my most recent visit to Nicaragua, I stopped in the craft village of San Juan de Oriente, known for its colorful ceramics. My guide recommended Taller Escuela de Cerámica Valentín López, but I preferred the less touristy experience at Miguel Angel Calero. There’s nothing fancy about this warehouse-like workshop and showroom, covered by a corrugated-metal roof, but the ceramics are undeniably beautiful. 

Calero produces pre-Columbian-inspired zoomorphic pieces, colorful traditional works with figurative and geometric motifs, and strikingly contemporary ceramics. When in town, I also recommend stopping at the nearby Mirador de Catarina, a viewpoint offering magnificent panoramas of a vast lake filling an ancient caldera.

World-Class Rums

Some of the finest rum in the world comes from Nicaragua, produced by the century-plus-old Flor de Caña distillery. The rich and spicy 12-year and graceful 18-year Centenario rums, as refined as high-end cognacs, deserve to be sipped neat or on the rocks, with no mixers. Macuá, the refreshing but potent national cocktail, mixes white rum and fresh guava juice with fresh lemon and/or orange juice. The premium 4-year-old Flor de Caña Extra Seco is the ideal rum to make this with.

Activities in Granada

The former capital of Nicaragua, Granada, thrives with an array of elegant courtyard mansions and ornate churches to rival any in the Americas. The compact colonial center is easy to explore on foot, however, and most major sites are within walking distance of the Parque Central. Visit the Convento y Museo San Francisco, a charming museum housing enigmatic 1,000-year-old basalt statues from nearby Zapatera Island, plus Parque Xalteva, a unique plaza dotted with lantern-topped columns. 

A little farther on, you can observe cigar-rolling at Doña Elba Cigars. For lunch, I recommend Restaurante El Tranvía, the gourmet dining room within the Hotel Darío, and for dinner, Restaurante El Zaguán, a grill located behind the cathedral, patronized by locals and tourists alike.


The rainy season generally runs from June to October, with December to April being the best time for a visit. 

Direct Dial Codes

To phone hotels in Nicaragua, dial 011 (international access) + 505 (Nicaragua code) + local numbers in listings.


One hour behind New York (EST).

Entry Requirements

Passport. Visit, and for travelers’ health information,

U.S. Embassy

Managua, Tel. (505) 2252-7100.


Nicaraguan córdoba (NIO). Fluctuating rate valued at NIO33 = US$1.00 as of June 2019. Note: Our suggested hotels quote rates in US$.