Volcano Concepcion © jyuen1314
Political unrest has given way to a period of calm and stability in scenic Nicaragua. Yet the country has not quite escaped the stigma of the past, consequently not becoming the major tourist destination it deserves to be.
However, the tourism industry is growing. Nature lovers will adore the rich tapestry of flora and fauna within this Central American wonderland. It is only a matter of time before more travellers appreciate what a lucky few have already found.
Positioned between Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north, the country is flanked by seas on two sides: the Atlantic Caribbean stretches along its eastern shores, with the Pacific Ocean stretching out 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 canopies.
The lively Pacific western coastline produces great waves for surfing vacations, while tourists can appreciate the mix of languages and cultures along the relaxed eastern coast and embrace the Caribbean lifestyle with the locals.
The capital, Managua, isn't a picturesque city. 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.
The atmosphere is 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.