Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Nicaragua’s Volcanic Landscape

Nicaragua’s nickname, “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” evokes its primary geographical features: two great lakes and a chain of impressive and active volcanoes; these water and volcanic resources have had an enormous effect on its human history. The country has about 40 volcanoes, a half dozen of which are usually active at any time. Running parallel to the Pacific shore, Nicaragua’s volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire that encompasses most of the western coast of the Americas, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia.

Reserva Charco Verde. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Where to Go in Nicaragua

Unless you have a few weeks to dedicate to your travels, it’s impossible to see everything Nicaragua has to offer–even then, you’d have a tight schedule. The best way to tackle the country is to learn about each region, then plan according to your interests and favorite activities. From vibrant nightlife to exploring history to outdoor adventures, Nicaragua won’t disappoint.

Moon Nicaragua, 6th ed.

Moon Nicaragua

This full-color guide to Nicaragua includes vibrant photos and maps to help with trip planning. Nicaragua expert Elizabeth Perkins teaches travelers how to best experience the wonders of this Central American destination, from hanging out on the Pacific beaches of San Juan del Sur and shopping for crafts in Masaya to partaking in the ever-evolving […]

View from a stone path at the edge of the volcano's steaming crater.

Visiting Volcán Masaya National Park

An easy day trip from Managua, Masaya, or Granda, Volcán Masaya is Nicaragua’s most impressive outdoor attraction: one of the most visibly active volcanoes in the country. Read on to find out what the park has to offer beyond its famous overlook.

Dust rises as a man perches on the roof of a chicken bus with the view of the volcano in the distance.

The Best of Nicaragua in Two Weeks

Like other countries in the region, Nicaragua has a popular, carved-out tourist route based on its principal, most-developed attractions. Nicaragua’s beaten path is made up of the Granada–Ometepe–San Juan del Sur circuit, which can be done in about one week; save another week for tackling the northwestern lowlands and a third week for the Atlantic coast or Río San Juan. This helpful itinerary will get you on your way.

Lightning strikes far in the distance beyond the flat calm waters of the lake.

Laguna de Apoyo in Masaya, Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s cleanest and most enticing swimming hole is Laguna de Apoyo, just outside of Masaya. Actually a lake that formed in the drowned volcanic crater of the long extinct Apoyo Volcano, the lagoon floor reaches 200 meters in depth—the lowest point in all of Central America. Considering how easy it is to reach the lagoon, it is surprisingly untouristed.

The tops of wreckage emerge from the turquoise water at Nicaragua's Corn Islands.

Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua

Despite Nicaragua’s gorgeous shorelines, diving is a pastime only beginning to be developed, with only three shops in the whole country: one in San Juan del Sur and one on each of the Corn Islands. For those interested in snorkeling, it is best off the Corn Islands and some of the Pearl Cays.

An older woman with red, white and green facepaint and a decorated headress with feathers, ribbons and beads.

Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas

When planning your trip to Nicaragua, consider timing your visit to coincide with one of the many celebrations and festivals. Conversely, you might want to avoid festivals and all the fireworks, drunken masses, altered transportation schedules, and spiked hotel prices that they bring. Here are a few times of the year when services are affected by celebrations.