13 Reasons To Get To Nicaragua Before Everyone Discovers It

Nicaragua Is The Next Costa Rica. Get There First.

Ahh, Central America. While most travelers spend their time plotting escapes to Europe or Southeast Asia, this little nugget sits unassumingly right under their noses (literally -- it's pretty much directly south, and a shorter flight than you'd think).

And Nicaragua may just be the best nation in the bunch. It's tropical, with both rich history and exotic Latin culture that awakens your spicy side upon arrival. Travel experts say Nicaragua will rise to become a hotspot in 2015; it is, after all, home to Granada, aka the "Paris of Central America."

At the same time, though, Nicaragua remains delightfully undiscovered. It's brimming with wellness retreats to kick back at, and the whole country is so zen, it feels like it's "swinging in a hammock."

And when you consider the food, people and insane nature, this place is truly epic. Here's why Nicaragua belongs on your list for 2015 and beyond.

1. It's got one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
Founded in the 1500s by Spanish conquerors, Granada is a treasure box of charm at the foot of a volcano. Visiting is a "trip back in time" to busy streets of colonial-style churches, homes and shops.

2. But then again every laid-back little town is historic.
As Lonely Planet puts it, "Many people fall in love with Granada, but most of them leave their heart in León." The breathtaking colonial town oozes with art galleries, old churches, political graffiti and an up-and-coming cafe scene.

3. This country is nature, uninterrupted.
Almost one fifth of Nicaragua's landmass is protected in national parks or nature reserves. That means more volcanoes, rain forests, valleys, beaches and islands to explore without human contact.

4. There are tons of casual volcanos to climb.
Especially awesome is Concepción Volcano, which is still active. (Don't worry, it only takes seven to 10 hours to hike the thing.) Take a crack at several others, too.

5. Here, volcano boarding is an actual sport.
volcano boarding nicaragua
Only semi-terrifying.

6. It's pretty much the adventure capital of the universe.
somoto canyon
If you're not scaling a volcano or trekking a rainforest, you're definitely knee-deep in Somoto Canyon, which sat undiscovered until 2004.

7. There are real-life pirate islands.
The Corn Islands were a hideout for buccaneers in the 17th century. Nowadays, they're just really awesome islands with cheap beach huts that nobody ever talks about.

8. And some islands have even MORE curious histories.
The Solentiname Islands -- a group of 36 islands in Central America's largest lake -- have their very own style of art called primitivist, thanks to a priest who trained natives to paint during the 60s. Intrigued? Come and meet them.

9. The food tastes as good as it looks.
Fresh seafood, plantains and rice are standard fare, and you could spend days perusing the colorful local markets.

10. And here, coffee is subtle and sweet.
An especially fruity-flavored bean grows under the shade of exotic trees on Nicaragua's coffee farms, many of which are small and family-run. You'll learn what makes them tick -- and get plenty of tastes -- on a tour.

11. It's just one big party on the beach.
San Juan del Sur, a town on the country's Pacific side, offers fishing, surfing, yoga and a full roster of beach bars. Surf's up!

12. But you'll be the only human on some of these beaches.
The Pearl Cays are one of the world's most important green sea turtle feeding grounds. Wading this crystal-blue water, you'll also encounter otters, dolphins and lobsters. Awwh.

13. You can REALLY get away, but in a luxurious way.
Thanks to the lucky travelers who have realized Nicaragua's allure already, there are plenty of high-quality tropical retreats here. But they're remote enough that you can still totally unplug... which is just the way we like it.

Before You Go

Photo Credit: Alexshalamov | Dreamstime.comWhere: CaribbeanRinged by blindingly white sand and lustrous aquamarine waters, this mostly flat desert island offers a decidedly low-key escape, especially compared to bustling St. Martin nearby. There are no nonstop flights from the U.S. to Anguilla, and no port for cruise ships to pull into, which helps to maintain the island’s relaxed vibe. Locals value privacy and peace—they won’t even permit Jet Skis on the island for fear of noise pollution.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Anguilla Travel Guide
Photo Credit: THPStock / ShutterstockWhere: AustraliaLocated less than 20 miles from Brisbane, “Straddie” (as locals call it) is a popular weekend destination for Brisbanites looking to escape the city. Activities here include swimming, fishing, surfing, and hiking to explore the island’s five beaches and dozens of inland lakes. You can spot koalas on the island, or head to Point Lookout, considered one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Australia Travel Guide
Photo Credit: LU JINRONG / ShutterstockWhere: ChinaPopular with Chinese and Russian tourists, but mostly unknown to other travelers, this tropical island off China’s southern coast is home to gorgeous beaches, a volcano park, monkeys, a Shaolin Buddhist temple, an ancient Hainanese village, and more. The island is now being promoted as “China’s Hawaii,” which may sound like a tourism ploy, but the scenery here is worthy of the comparison.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s China Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Saffiresblue | Dreamstime.comWhere: OhioHiking, biking, archery, fishing, hunting, camping—you’ll find all this and more at this state park, spread across more than 2,300 acres. The park is most notable for its waterfalls and dramatic rock formations, including Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Ohio Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Blanscape / ShutterstockWhere: ThailandAccessible only by boat, this island paradise in the Andaman Sea is surrounded by clear water and pristine reefs, where 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species live and swim. Considered a calmer alternative to overrun Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe features a variety of beaches—some developed, some deserted—but you’ll find peace and quiet at Sunrise Beach. As part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Koh Lipe is unlikely to see the kind of massive developments that have detracted from the appeal of other Thai islands.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Thailand Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Joshanon1 | Dreamstime.comWhere: AlaskaTravelers who are proficient in outdoor survival skills should head to this vast, nearly untouched wilderness park, spread across 8.4 million acres in northern Alaska. The park has no established, roads, trails, or campsites, which means that trekking across this landscape is a challenging but one-of-a-kind adventure. Home to the Brooks Range mountains and six rivers, the park offers excellent fishing opportunities in addition to its superlative scenery.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Alaska Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / ShutterstockWhere: TurkeyCommonly called Urfa, this historic city dates back at least 3,500 years, and Turkish legend has it that Abraham was born in a cave here. The cave and other important sites draw hundreds of thousands of Muslim visitors annually. Aside from its traditional architecture, Urfa’s main attractions are the Fish Pool, an old covered bazaar, the Throne of Nimrod fortress, and a small archaeological museum. A trip to nearby Göbekli Tepe is considered a must, as it is home to the world’s oldest temple, dating from more than 11,000 years ago.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Turkey Travel Guide
Photo Credit: dohtar / ShutterstockWhere: SloveniaLocated in the Soča Valley, this picturesque town is surrounded by majestic mountains and rolling green pastures. Aside from its natural beauty, Kobarid has historical importance, with archaeological sites dating to the Iron Age in addition to a museum commemorating the town’s role in World War I. For such a small place, Kobarid is home to a surprising number of fine restaurants, five of which comprise a group known as the Kobarid Gastronomic Circle.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Slovenia Travel Guide
Photo Credit: PRILL / ShutterstockWhere: RwandaThis very active eight-volcano chain straddles the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but for security reasons, your best bet is to visit the section located in Rwanda. Hikers who scale the volcanoes, up to heights of 15,000 feet, will be rewarded with incredible views and sightings of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and other wildlife.Read More: 12 Reasons to Go to Rwanda
Photo Credit: Fyletto | Dreamstime.comWhere: GermanyPopular for health retreats and winter sports, this town lies near the Austrian border and sits inside Berchtesgaden National Park, on scenic Lake Königsee. Mount Jenner offers skiing in winter, while Mount Watzmann is better suited to mountain climbers. Featuring small-town Bavarian charm, Schönau am Königsee is home to a number of cafes and traditional restaurantsPlan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Germany Travel Guide
Photo Credit: iPics / ShutterstockWhere: French PolynesiaYou’ve heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora, but not this place, which happens to be the second-largest atoll in the world. Essentially a string of coral encircling a beautiful lagoon, Rangiroa offers world-class diving and one-of-a-kind natural beauty. Activities are centered on beaches and the water, though you can also explore villages and visit a working pearl farm.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s French Polynesia Travel Guide
Photo Credit: iPics / ShutterstockWhere: CroatiaA UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, this stunning national park features approximately 20 lakes in addition to breathtaking caves, forests, and waterfalls. There’s also an abundance of wildlife here, including bears, wolves, and 126 bird species. Spread over more than 70,000 acres, the park is notable for the unique geological processes that formed its cascading lakes and continue to alter the terrain to this day.Where to Stay: there’s no lodging inside the park, but Hotel Degenya and Turist Grabovic are both popular with park visitors.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Croatia Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Kim Briers / ShutterstockWhere: IndonesiaWant the splendor of Bali without all of the crowds? Then head to Lombok, where you’ll find beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, a looming volcano, and relatively few tourists. The natural scenery and local way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the indigenous culture is quite rich. Aside from relaxation, this island is ideal for surfing and snorkeling.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Indonesia Travel Guide
Photo Credit: Jeppo75 | Dreamstime.comUlan BatorWhere: MongoliaThe Mongolian capital has a reputation for being a rather unattractive city, but don’t let that discourage you, as it makes a good base for exploring one of the world’s most beautiful and hospitable countries. (Don’t pass up the opportunity to hike in the mountains south of the city.) Primarily a business-traveler destination, you won’t see too many Western tourists here, meaning the museums won’t be overrun.Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Mongolia Forum
Photo Credit: Nicku / ShutterstockWhere: TunisiaOriginally built as the Thysdrus, this town in northern Africa features well-preserved architecture from the days of the Roman Empire. El Djem was once the second-most important city in the region, behind Carthage, and its most famous feature is a massive amphitheater, constructed in the third century, which could house up to 35,000 spectators. Though parts of the structure have crumbled, enough of it still stands to conjure its former glory. The town is also home to a museum that features a large selection of mosaics and a restored Roman villa.

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