I was relaxing at a beach resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica on the final leg of my FAM trip when it dawned on me; Nicaragua is less than an hour away, this would be the perfect opportunity to check out a new country. I’d always wanted to visit the colonial city of Granada after seeing it on my favorite show, House Hunters International and add to that, Nicaragua would be the 40th country I visited. It seemed like a no-brainer to take a day trip across the border. I usually research a country before traveling there, but since this was so spontaneous, I had to do it after my return home.
Below are five fascinating facts I discovered on my visit to Nicaragua:
1) Nicaragua is the largest but most sparsely populated country in Central America. Slightly bigger than New York state, Nicaragua is bordered to the north by Honduras and to the south by Costa Rica. The Pacific coast features high, volcanic mountain ranges and two large freshwater lakes. The swampy Caribbean side is referred to as the “Mosquito Coast” but was named for the Miskito Indians who once inhabited the region, not the bothersome insect.
2) The name of the country is derived from two words “Nicarao” and “Agua.” Nicarao is the name of the indigenous people that lived on the shores of Lake Nicaragua in the 15th century, prior to the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Agua is the Spanish word for water, used due to the abundance of water in the country, such as the large lakes, Lago de Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) and Lago de Managua (Lake Xolotlán).
3) Unlike most of Latin America where fútbol (soccer) is the most popular pastime, in Nicaragua, baseball is the national sport. In the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia, Nicaragua’s baseball team lost the bronze medal to the United States.
4) Although the capital of Nicaragua is Managua, the beautifully preserved colonial city of Granada is probably the most popular tourist destination. Granada is arguably the oldest city in continental Latin America too. It was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, who also gave his name to the national currency – the cordoba.
5) There are sharks in Lake Nicaragua! It was originally thought that the sharks were trapped millions of years ago when the mountains rose up on the Central American isthmus. However, in the 1960s, it was discovered that these are actually Bull sharks that can swim upstream in the San Juan River (which connects Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea). Bull sharks are a species known for entering freshwater elsewhere around the world too.
Be sure to check back later for more articles about my adventures in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Have you ever been to Nicaragua before? What were your impressions? What travel advice would you recommend? Feel free to comment in the section below!
Michael Figueiredo is a freelance travel writer based in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not gallivanting around the world, he’s enjoying the laid-back lifestyle and perfect weather of Southern California. So far he’s visited forty countries and territories on five continents. His goal is to see at least one new country every year! . Read more from this author