Nicaragua is the most underrated country in Latin America.
Nicaragua's Red State and Blue States
Nicaragua's has two jewels: its former capital, Leon, and its historic rival city, Granada. The Spanish founded both towns in 1524; just 32 years after Columbus discovered America and 83 years before America's Jamestown Settlement.
The two nearby cities hated each other so much that after many bitter wars they finally agreed to move the capital to a city that is right between them: Managua. Although Managua is still Nicaragua's capital, it is not as beautiful as Leon or Granada.
Leon's highlight is its cathedral, the largest in Central America. It's worth seeing the photos I took of it, even though it was hard to get the immense building in my camera frame. The locals submitted bogus blueprints in 1747 so not to let Spanish authorities know about the monstrosity that they planned to build, for fear that they would not allocate any funds. It suffered massive cost overruns and it took the Nicaraguans over 100 years to construct it. Now you know where the Pentagon gets its budget proposal ideas from.
As nice as Leon was, Granada easily tops it. Granada's colonial monuments are spectacular. Its setting (sandwiched between El Volcan Monbacho and the enormous Lago Nicaragua) is divine. The combination makes it tied with Guatemala's Antigua as the best city in Central America.
Crossing the largest lake in Central America
El Lago Nicaragua is the 21st largest lake in the world, but what makes it special are the twin volcanoes that rise in the middle of it, forming La Isla de Ometepe. If you're familiar with Crater Lake in Oregon, then imagine the same idea, except that there are two Wizard Islands connected to each other, that the island is 10 times bigger, and that they're set on a lake that is a 100 times bigger than Crater Lake. That's Lago Nicaragua. Swimming in the fresh water are sawfish, tarpons, cichlids, and the endangered bull sharks.
Taking a boat to Costa Rica
After paying $3 for a 10 hour boat journey, paying $10 for a one hour boat ride felt like a scam. However, that boat ride down El Rio Frio (The Cold River) is the only to go from San Carlos, Nicaragua to Los Chiles, Costa Rica.
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