Volcano Concepcion © jyuen1314
Political unrest has given way to a period of calm and stability in scenic Nicaragua; yet, the country hasn't quite escaped the stigma of the past to become the major tourist destination it deserves to be. The tourism industry is growing, however; it is only a matter of time before more travellers appreciate what a lucky few have already found: an entire geographical world exists within Nicaragua's borders.
The country is positioned between Costa Rica to the south, and Honduras to the north. It is flanked by oceans on two sides: the Atlantic Caribbean stretches along its eastern shores, with the Pacific to the west. Nicaragua is known as 'the land of lakes and volcanoes', with countless lagoons and lakes connected by networks of interlacing rivers, and a chain of smouldering mountains and lava fields running along the country's Pacific side. Lago de Nicaragua, a 92-mile (148km) long freshwater, shark-inhabited lake, dominates the terrain of the southwest. Rainforest blankets much of the lowlands, while high quality coffee beans grow along the highland slopes. Incredible animals make their homes in these environments: millions of sea turtles are born on the sandy western beaches, while jaguars and three-toed sloths roam the jungle and its canopies.
The lively Pacific coastline produces great waves for surfing vacations, or tourists can appreciate the mix of languages and cultures along the relaxed eastern coast, while embracing the Caribbean lifestyle with the locals. The capital, Managua, isn't a picturesque city, but its modern facilities, like the airport and hospitals, make it a convenient stop for travellers. The colonial architecture of many cities and towns makes for some romantic destinations, more reminiscent of the days of Spanish rule than of modern Nicaragua. The country remains relatively underdeveloped; for some, this can mean unwanted difficulties, but for others, it is a chance for unique experiences and unspoiled attractions.