This emerging eco-destination has all the wild pleasures and treasures of its neighbors with half the crowds. There are volcanoes, remote lakes encircled by buzzing jungle, birds of every feather imaginable and close-up glimpses at a primordial world of rainforest, swamp, grasslands and tortuous canyons—and at the heart you find the glistening waters of Lake Nicaragua. Buccaneers plied their way up the Río San Juan to raid the colonial treasure of Granada time and time again. Lucky for us, the city was always rebuilt and a horse-drawn carriage ride and visit to the colonial churches is an easy highlight for cultural explorers.
While the coast offers some of the best beaches in all of Central America, inland you’ll find strings of peaced-back villages and national parks and nature reserves that bring you closer to the 632 species of bird, 181 mammals and billions of insects that call this thin country home. Despite facing economic and political challenges, and missing the chance for a canal way back in the day, the people of Nicaragua are as open and warm-hearted as you would ever want.