Tourism in Nicaragua
Tourism in Nicaragua has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country. The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Nicaragua's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010.
|Life in Nicaragua|
During the Nicaraguan Revolution in the '80s Nicaragua was not regarded as a place to travel and caused a decrease in tourism. However, rapid expansion of the tourist industry over the last decade has made it the nation's second largest industry. Over the last 7 years tourism has grown about 70% nationwide with rates of 10%-16% annually. The country is mostly famous for its landscapes, flora and fauna, wildlife, culture, beaches, lakes, and volcanoes. By 2010, the nation welcomed one million visitors--the most in its entire history for a calendar year. Nicaragua's tourism industry in 2010 raked in approximately 360 million dollars for the nation's economy.
According to TV Noticias (news program) on Canal 2, a Nicaragua television station, the main attractions in Nicaragua for tourists are the beaches, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as León and Granada and most recently ecotourism and agritourism, particularly in Northern Nicaragua.
In 2005, 803,933 tourists visited Nicaragua, a noticeable improvement from the mere 579,165 in 2002. The tourism industry received US$ 240 million, outstripping the other main earner, coffee. That same year Nicaragua received more visitors than Panama. The majority of tourists came from the U.S., Europe, and Central and South America.
About 60,000 United States citizens visit Nicaragua yearly, primarily businessmen, tourists and others visiting relatives.
According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR) the colonial city of Granada is the preferred spot for tourists. Also, the cities of León, Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, and others are main tourist attractions. In addition, ecotourism and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua.
Also, a popular destination are the Corn Islands located about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua near Bluefields. They have been regarded as a "tropical paradise" by the Los Angeles Times. Cruise ships have been docking in San Juan del Sur since January 2000 and average 50,000 tourists alone every year, some who partake in tours to nearby Lake Cocibolca and the colonial city of Granada.
Nicaragua was ranked with the lowest crime rate in Latin America by Interpol and many other sources, with only 12 crimes for every 100,000 citizens. Nicaragua also holds the largest lake in Central America, about 700 species of birds, and unspoiled natural beauty, despite all this it is still the least visited country in the region. However, the lower number of tourists help Nicaragua keep low prices, and an "off-the-beaten-track" feel.
Rural and community-based tourism
CECOCAFEN is an organization of coffee cooperatives in Northern Nicaragua that manage a rural and community-based tourism project, which has been developed with support from the Lutheran World Relief. CEOCAFEN was founded in 1997, the drop in international coffee prices is what started the CECCOAFEN project in 2003. Tourism allows farmers to receive new opportunities in alternative markets, harvest coffee and diversify their income. CECOCAFEN offers visitors the opportunity to visit a coffee farm, learn about coffee craftsmanship, and even to stay overnight on a coffee farm and explore with a community guide.
Eco-tourism aims to be ecologically and socially conscious, it focuses on local culture, wilderness, and adventure. Nicaragua's eco-tourism is growing with every passing year, it boasts a number of eco-tourist tours and perfect places for adventurers. Nicaragua has three eco-regions, the Pacific, Central and Atlantic which contain volcanoes, tropical rainforest and agricultural land.
Nicaragua is home to 78 protected areas covering over 20% of it landmass, and is home to 7% of the world's biodiversity. More than Costa Rica, which is thought to hold more natural areas than Nicaragua. Nicaragua is also home to Bosawas, located in Northern Nicaragua, which is the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil, and the largest lake in Central America, Lake Cocibolca. Lake Cocibolca attracts its fair number of tourist yearly, most of which primarily visit Ometepe, which is a large volcanic island formed by two volcanoes in the lake. Tourists typically visit and explore the flora and fauna found in the Charco Verde Nature Reserve.
Nicaragua's rich biodiversity also attracts many tourists to protected areas such as the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which holds a higher number in species of trees, birds, and insects than all of Europe.
International tourist arrivals
Tourists from Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, the Palestinian National Authority, Romania, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen require a visa to enter Nicaragua.
Other tourists can obtain a Tourist Card for US$10 valid for 1 month upon arrival, provided with a valid passport with at least six months to run. There is also a US$32 departure tax (the tax is usually already included in a round-trip ticket).
Nicaragua is referred to as "the land of lakes and volcanoes" due to the number of lagoons and lakes, and the chain of volcanoes that runs from the north to the south along the country's Pacific side. Today, only 7 of the 50 volcanoes in Nicaragua are considered active. Many of these volcanoes offer some great possibilities for tourists with activities such as hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in crater lakes. Most recently sand skiing has become a popular attraction at the Cerro Negro volcano in León. Both dormant and active volcanoes can be climbed. Some of the most visited volcanoes include the Masaya Volcano, Momotombo, Mombacho, Cosigüina and Ometepe's Maderas and Concepción.
The Apoyo Lagoon was created by the eruption of the Apoyo Volcano about 23,000 years ago, which left a huge 7 km-wide crater that gradually filled with water. It is surrounded by the old crater wall. The rim of the lagoon is lined with restaurants, many of which have kayaks available. Besides exploring the forest around it, many water sports are practiced in the lagoon, most notably kayaking.
Another popular attraction is the archipelago of 365 islands known as the Islets of Granada (Isletas de Granada). The islets were formed when the Mombacho volcano blew most of its cone into the lake, thereby creating the archipelago. The islets are popular with both locals and tourists. The islets differ in size and have a community of about 1200 people, most of whom make their living as fishermen. Many visitors take boat rides along the islets, which are abundant with many different species of birds and fish.
- Managua, Montelimar Beach, Mercado Roberto Huembes, Metrocentro, Pharaoh's Casino, Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve
Department of Rivera
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Nicaragua.|
- New York Times Travel Guides: Nicaragua
- San Juan del Sur Surfing
- ElUniversal.com.mx Nicaragua destaca en ecoturismo (Spanish)
- Alternativas al Turismo de Sol y Playa(Spanish)