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DESTINATIONS TIN AMERICA | NICARAGUA


experts ASK THE


“I was completely blown over by how welcoming the Nicaraguans


are; nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way to make sure we were well looked after. A highlight for me was Isla


Ometepe, a tranquil island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua. The lush jungle is home to monkeys and tropical birds;


there are ancient petroglyphs and waterfalls to hike to; or you can climb the volcanoes for the finest views in the country.” Chris Rendell-Dunn, travel consultant,


Journey Latin America


CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Masaya volcano; fam trip attendees explore Cerro Negro; monkeys at Morgan’s Rock PICTURES: Shutterstock; Katie McGonagle


Yet it wasn’t Nicaragua’s natural beauty that


“Jicaro Island Lodge, a hidden gem just off Granada, stood out for me. For many travellers, Ometepe would be the highlight of Lake Nicaragua, but Jicaro and the


surrounding small islands are missed from the guidebooks. It felt like our own private area in the middle of nowhere. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, it doesn’t come better than that.” Trehan Francis, long-haul customer operations manager, Exodus Travels


brought it to the world’s attention last year; rather the outbreak of violent protests against president Daniel Ortega and subsequent Foreign Office ban on all but essential travel, imposed in April 2018. That advisory was lifted in February, and a group of UK operators joined a Latin American Travel Association fam trip to find out how the country’s tourism industry is recovering.


HIGH POINTS Cerro Negro is just a baby volcano compared with some of the country’s towering peaks, each of which offers a different experience. Masaya, Nicaragua’s first national park, is one of only a handful of active volcanoes in the world where you can drive right up to the mouth and peer in – no hiking required! Visitors arrive to find smoke and steam belching out of the vast crater, but as it clears, they can lean over the edge (not too far, mind) and see the molten magma writhing below. Visit at night, when the colours are at their brightest, and they might wonder whether ‘the mouth of hell’ label was really so far off. At nearby Mombacho volcano, there’s no fiery pit


offering a dramatic wow factor, but a hike high above the cloud forest offers rewards of a different, subtler kind. Recommend clients drive up as far as the visitor centre (it’s possible to walk, but they might as well save their energy for the main draw), from where they can


opt for walking routes of between one and four hours. Along the way, they might spot howler and spider


monkeys, sloths and salamanders, as well as a dazzling array of orchids, begonias, bromeliads and bird life, not to mention smoking fumaroles and – on a clear day – sweeping views. This isn’t a box-ticking exercise, though; it’s about spending time in the mist-filled air of the cloud forest, with no other sound but the squelching of leaves underfoot and the occasional call of a bird rustling in the trees to appreciate the quiet beauty of Nicaraguan nature.


² CARIBBEAN COOL


Nicaragua’s Caribbean coastline is a great spot to wind down after a tour, with clear waters, palm-fringed beaches and a cool Creole culture to rival any island in the region. We headed to the Corn Islands, an hour by small aircraft from Managua, with a further – somewhat bumpy – boat ride for clients who want to swap the better-value Big Corn for the seclusion of Little Corn island. On the latter, Yemaya resort offers spacious, comfortable rooms right on the beach, with snorkelling, sailing and stand-up paddleboarding among the activities on offer.


82 5 SEPTEMBER 2019 travelweekly.co.uk


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