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Sunday, 27 December 2015 13:50

Nicaragua's Pacific Side

Written by  Rita Cook
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LATIN-Nica
If you are looking for a country in Latin America that is not only unique, but still relatively untouched with regard to mass tourism, Nicaragua is an excellent choice. While there is an entire Caribbean side to discover, the Pacific side of the country offers old world charm, outdoor adventure and a look at some of the country's important handicrafts.

Visitors will want to spend a good deal of time in the Colonial town of Granada and the surrounding area, which offer great opportunities for tourists, and also ranks as the number one spot to visit here.

WHAT TO EAT
You won't go hungry or thirsty in Nicaragua. Instead of a Cuba Libre, have a Nica (that is what the locals call themselves) Libre, same thing - different name, made with Coca-Cola and rum, plus soda water added. The Nica Libre is a popular drink here, but the favorite ingredient is the rum. The company that makes it best is Flor de Caña.
When sitting down for a meal, diners should be aware that they might be served iguana. It is a Nicaraguan favorite and said to taste like chicken. Of course, you can wash it down with that Flor de Caña. Then, be sure to order the best dessert around, the Tres Leches. Tres Leches is a specialty cake in Nicaragua, made with three types of milk; regular, evaporated and condensed.
Chocolate is also a Nicaraguan mainstay. The city of Granada has a variety of places to sample it, and there are also a few spas in the city that feature chocolate treatments.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Participating in outdoor adventure is a must while visiting Nicaragua. Head to the Masaya Volcano National Park and see the Masaya caldera. While you can ride horses to the crater, it's easier to drive, and you will not be disappointed. Masaya is the only volcano in Nicaragua that you can drive into, despite it still being a very active and powerful volcano. In fact, it is still smoking. Overall, there are 26 volcanoes in the country and a number of these are still quite active. Some tours include visits to the bat caves housed in the lava tubes in the Masaya Volcano area. The ghost-faced bat, or Mormoops Megalophylla, can be seen here, and are among over 90 species of bats found in Nicaragua.
For a more hearty adventure, try sand boarding in Nicaragua. It's like snowboarding, using sand versus snow. This activity is best near the town of Leon, around a volcano called Cerro Negro on the Pacific Coast. Cerro Negro is an active volcano that last erupted in 1999 and it is the youngest volcano in Nicaragua at 162 years old. You have to walk to the top of the volcano carrying your sand board and ride the board on the sand on the way back down.
Cigars and cigar making are an interesting pastime in the city of Granada. One of the most famous cigar factories in the country is called Don Elba, which has been in business since 1991. You will definitely want to visit Don Elba and try one of a variety of cigars they are known for; the company offers organic and
flavored cigars.
Granada is very pedestrian friendly, however you will see people getting around by horse and cart, right alongside old taxis and mini buses that look like they have been bolted together haphazardly, which adds to their charm. For more sightseeing, take a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua and see some of the 365 islets with a range of homes built on them. You'll see very poor dwellings to some of the country's finest vacation homes, belonging to the wealthiest folks in Nicaragua. One island you will pass is home to just a
few monkeys.
Handicrafts are very important industry in Nicaragua, and the country specializes in amazing hammocks made in the town of Masaya. There, you can also find some beautiful ceramics and woodcarvings, as well as handmade guitars.

WhERE TO STAY
There are few high end resorts in Nicaragua, but a luxury resort called Mukul (www.mukulresort.com) stands out and is worth a few nights visit. Mukul is the vision of prominent Nicaraguan entrepreneur Don Carlos Pellas, whose family has roots in the country that date back to the 19th century. Mukul offers special activities for guests including surfing, snorkeling and sunset cruises. One standout activity is sport fishing for wahoo, grouper or mackerel. The spa at Mukul has six different themed huts including Rainforest, Crystal Temple, Secret Garden and Healing Hut, and from there you can choose your own personalized massage, body treatment or facial. At Mukul, accommodations are in what are called bohios, located about 300 feet above the ocean. It's like being in a tree house in the rain forest, and each bohio features a small pool on the balcony. There are 23 bohios, all built from native teak and pine, with floor-to-ceiling glass so you can see the nature and ocean outside. Mukul's restaurant serves dishes made with local ingredients including organic Nicaraguan grass-fed beef, produce grown by nearby farmers and fish caught by fishermen in the neighboring village of Gigante. Many of the items on the menu reflect the chef's eclectic culinary background, with Mexican, Italian, French, Mediterranean and even Asian accents.
So whether it's a relaxing or high-end adventure you are after, Nicaragua has a variety of choices that include a combination of laid back and exhilarating. Indeed, in this country, you can indulge in it all.

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