Introduction to Nicaragua

Did you know that the capital of Nicaragua, Managua is the largest city in Central America? Would you like to try the national dish of Nicaragua? It is ‘gallo pinto’!
You should also know that Nicaragua has 20 volcanoes and many of them are still active.
Do you want to know more? Read the sections below!

Country local name: Republica de Nicaragua
Government type: republic
Capital: Managua
Time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
Population: 5,848,641 (July 2014 est.)
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Languages: Spanish (official) 95.3%, Miskito 2.2%, Mestizo of the Caribbean coast 2%, other 0.5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 58.5%, Protestant 23.2% (Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%), Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%, other 1.6%, none 15.7% (2005 est.)
Terrain: extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources: gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Agriculture – products: coffee, bananas, sugarcane, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products; shrimp, lobsters, cotton
Industries: food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, knit and woven apparel, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood, electric wire harness manufacturing, mining
Exports: coffee, beef, gold, sugar, peanuts, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, cigars, automobile wiring harnesses, textiles, apparel, cotton
Shopping hours: Shops and shopping malls are open whole week from 10am to 8pm. Markets are open Monday-Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
Major infectious diseases: Degree of risk: high
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
Vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2013)
Climate: tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes



The weather depends on the region of Nicaragua although generally the climate is tropical and temperatures are high all year round (around 27ºC (81ºF)). In the lowlands temperatures range from 22ºC (72ºF) to 30ºC (86ºF), whereas the mountain region is definitely cooler. Therefore the temperature is determined by altitude, with a more spring-like climate at higher elevations and a hotter, more humid climate at lower elevations and in coastal areas.

The most popular season for tourists is the dry season, which runs from December to May. April and May are extremely uncomfortable, hot, dry and leafless. The best time to visit is between December and March.

The wettest season falls between June and November. The Caribbean side of the country receives higher volumes of rainfall than the Pacific side. Hurricanes usually occur along the coast from September to October.

Nicaraguan cuisine, like Mexican food, is heavily based upon ingredients such as rice, beans, cheese and corn, but is less spicey. Corn is the fundamental ingredient of Nicaraguan gastronomy and has many uses: in drinks such as Chicha and Pinol; dishes like Nacatamal, Sopa de Albondiga and Indio Viejo; and sweets and snacks, such as Perrereque or Atolillo.

The main dish, which people can eat almost every day is Gallo pinto. The ingredients are fried rice, sweet pepper, onion, and red beans boiled with garlic. Everything is mixed and fried together. This dish is considered a national symbol and can be served in various ways, including grilled, fried, breaded or in soup.

A typical breakfast (served very early) is corn tortillas and bread. Every kind of dish is made from eggs, gallo pinto, sweet plantains and cheese.

Nacatamal, which looks like a tiny pillow, consists of corn dough filled with chicken or pork, vegetables and rice, all cooked in banana leaves. It is delicious.

Another famous Nicaraguan dish is Indio Viejo or “Old Indian”. It is made of shredded meat, vegetables fried with precooked corn meal, orange juice and broth. All of this is decorated with mint.

Vigorón is a classic meal, originally from Granada. The dish is composed of chicharrón (pork), cabbage salad and on the top of the banana leaf is yucca.
Sopa de Mondongo, a delicious tripe soup, is the specialty of Masatepe. If you like, you can add avocado and cheese.

The most popular and best dessert is Tres leches (three milks). It is a sweet sponge cake made with three kinds of milk, flour, eggs and cream.
Another tasty dessert is Cajeta de Coco, made with the sweetened condensed milk, coconut and yucca.

Tostomes – thick deep-fried plantains. Other popular name: Platanos fritos.
Tortilla con queso – tortilla with cheese.
Tajadas – crunchy thin chips of green banana.

Flor de Caña - national drink, brand of Nicaragua’s best rum.
El macuá – mixture of light rum, lemon juice, guana juice and sugar.
Chicha – fermented corn drink.
Pinolillo/ Pinol – cornmeal and cacao drink, mixed with milk, water or yogurt.
Refrescos – juices from fresh fruits, can help to quench your thirst.

The best beer brands: Toña (lager), BravaLa Victoria (pilsen). International beers, such as Heineken and Corona are also easily available.

Tap water is not recommended but you can find bottled water everywhere.

·    Spanish is the official language.
·    One of the literal translation of Nicaragua means ten volcanoes. Those ten volcanoes tower over Nicaragua.
·    The name of the country comes from its original inhabitants – Nicarao – chief of the area’s leading Indian tribe – Nahuatl.
·    Nicaragua in the nahuatl language means surrounded by water (large lakes: Lago de Nicaragua and Lago de Managua, lagoons and rivers).
·    The capital of Nicaragua is the largest city in Central America.



Simon – Yes.
Nelson – No.
Idiay, vos? – How are you?
¿Qué honda? / ¿Qué tal? - What’s up?
A la orden – You´re welcome.
Acá – Here.
Diacachimba! – Wow!
Andar chiva. – Be alert, be careful.
Me cuadra – I like him/her.
Contra el cacho! – Hurry up!
Salvaje – Awesome, incredible.
Otro gallo cantará. – That’s another story./ That’s a different matter.
Tombo / Jurra – Police.
Dale pues. – Yes. (more like slang)
Andar a pincel – walking by foot.
Prensar / fincar / besar – 3 way to say ‘kiss’.
Ser un águila – To be smart.
No fregés! – No way!
El tiempo perdido los santos lo loran – Wasting time is nothing good.
Hay nos vidrios – See you soon.

·    Most Nicaraguans prefer to keep a conversation impersonal except when they are talking to family and friends.
·    Nicaraguans are generally polite and helpful, and sometimes overly flattering.
·    Nicaraguans are quite direct if it comes to asking questions about personal things, such as marital status, the number of children you have, your age, etc. However, they are adept, themselves, at answering such questions in an indirect way. 
·    The most popular sport is baseball. It is a typical entertainment for younger children to play during the day.
·    Punctuality is not very necessary. A delay of around half an hour to an hour is acceptable. This also applies to business meetings.
·    Don’t take photos of military sites or personnel. 
·    Avoid saying “no” when somebody offers you something to drink or eat.
·    Titles are important for Nicaraguans. You should address people using their professional titles and those without professional titles as Senor, Senora, Senorita, followed by the surname. If you’ve just met someone, use “Don” or “Donna” before the person’s first name.
·    Gifts are always welcome and should be wrapped in pretty way.
·    Direct eye contact depends on a person’s class. More affluent people try to keep eye contact, but the lower classes don’t care about it.

Granada is the most popular and visited city in Nicaragua. You can admire wonderful, Spanish colonial-style buildings and remarkable architecture. Walking around the colorful cobbled streets is the first thing that you must do! You should also try a kayaking trip, and visit churches and nearby markets in Masaya. Don’t miss hiking trips to Mombacho volcano and a few hot springs dotted around its foothills.

One of the oldest colonial city in Central America is León. The town’s vibrant atmosphere is similar to that of Granada with plenty of inspiring culture, fabulous art collections, restaurants and exciting nightlife just waiting for you.

San Juan del Sur is an ideal place to go surfing, partying or fishing! San Juan del Sur – the most popular beach destination (in the horseshoe shaped bay) is located on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here, you will find the second-largest statue of Jesus in the world.

The Corn Islands are the perfect place to relax. There are two islands (Little Corn and Big Corn) about 70 km east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Sandy beaches, palm trees, a peaceful atmosphere in which to soak up the sun and chillout – this is a paradise for tourists. If you need more adrenaline, you can dive and snorkel in the Caribbean.

Isla de Ometepe is an island located on Lago de Nicaragua. The name comes from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), which means two mountains. Twin mysterious volcanic peaks are always a surprise and excite the admiration of the traveler. The shape of the island is determined by these mountains. You can hike the volcanoes, try kayaking, cycling and even taste healthy food.

Río San Juan is must-see! Also called El Desaguadero (“the drain”), this is a river with a spectacular past – attacked by pirates, defended by heroes and even Mark Twain steamed down it over 140 years ago. You can admire National Wildlife Refuges (different species of tropical flora and fauna), green hills and thick jungle around the river and look for alligators in the moonlight. It’s an unforgettable waterway adventure.

Estelí is the big commercial center in the north of Nicaragua and is called “the Diamond of the Segovias”. The city is also famous for its world-class tabacco production. It is rich in restaurants, museums, bars, clubs, woods and waterfalls.

Matagalpa is also known as the “Pearl of the North” or “Land of Eternal Spring”. You can find attractions such as mountain hiking, horseback riding, Indian villages, waterfalls, natural reserves or bird watching. But the most important part of your visit should be tasting the best, high-quality coffee in this region.

Jinotega, located in the center of Nicaragua and surrounded by mountains,is a peaceful city known as "La Ciudad de las Brumas" or "City of the Mists”. Use it as a base to visit El Diablo natural reserve, coffee farms, tropical forest or to take lakeside walks around Lago de Apanás or Lake El Dorado.

Masaya is situated 29km southeast from Managua and 16km west of Granada. The city is small, but offers several attractions, such as dancing, festivals, cultural exhibitions, a pier, Coyotepe Fortress, restaurants and craft shops. You can also admire more natural spaces like Volcán Masaya National Park and Apoyo Lake.

The four, large Solentiname Islands are captivating places to rest. They are famous for uninhabited islets, impossibly luxuriant flora, and as a haven for bird- and wildlife. In general the landscape is as fantastic as paradise.

Read our stories from our trips to NEPAL and PERU combined with volunteering experience, which we made in 2016 and 2017 >>

Join our next volunteering trip in a group and spend 2 weeks far away! Read more HERE!