The flag of Nicaragua – courtesy of George Kenyon
Everybody knows I am in love with anything Latin America. But those who have the privilege of talking to me, quickly find out I have an obsession for Nicaragua. I have been there 3 times, and I hope to visit Nicaragua again soon. Yes, it is my favourite country in Central America, so much so that when people contact me to ask about other countries such as Costa Rica or Panama, I end up suggesting visiting Nicaragua instead.
What makes it so special to me? It simply is an amazing country, that has so much to offer to travellers. Beautiful colonial cities
Leon is one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua
A turbulent yet fascinating history
Museo de la Revolucion, Leon
Incredible nature and wildlife.
Panchito lives on La Isla de los Monos, at Las Isletas: one of the places to visit in Nicaragua – courtesy of George Kenyon
Lakes and volcanoes.
Volcanoes are among the tourist attractions in Nicaragua – courtesy of George Kenyon
Poneloya is one of the best beaches in Nicaragua
Kind and warm people.
La cara de Nicaragua, the face of Nicaragua – courtesy of George Kenyon
And, something that backpackers should never underestimate, this beautiful country is still unspoilt by mass tourism (but hurry! This will change, it is such an incredible place), it is very safe to travel even for solo female travellers, and it actually is the cheapest country in the continent: my dollars could get me a long way here.
Not convinced yet? Perhaps these amazing sunsets will do the trick and prove it is time to plan a trip to Nicaragua.
Five amazing sunsets that will make anybody want to travel to Nicaragua
Granada and Las Isletas:
Anybody visiting the country will take a side in the local argument over which city is better, Leon or Granada? Many will say colonial Granada, is the prettiest one among Nicaragua attractions. I must admit my heart beats for Leon, but the most touristic destination in the country (which for some reason reminds me of Trinidad, in Cuba) is indeed picture perfect, and the waterfront of Lake Granada or a boat ride across Las Isletas offer fantastic opportunities to photography lovers. Snapping a good picture is one of the things to do in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua tours can’t skip a stop at Las Isletas
Volcano Mombacho – view from Las Isletas
Poneloya and Las Peñitas
A half hour ride on a chicken bus from Sutiava, Leon, these two Nicaragua beaches are more than a surfer’s paradise. Lay in the sun, challenge the waves, go for a walk, enjoy a cold beer and by all means, do not miss the amazing Pacific sunset.
Catching the waves at Las Peñitas, one of the best beaches in Nicaragua
Volcan Cerro Negro
About one hour drive from Leon, Cerro Negro is a great, short and windy hike. I could practice volcano boarding here and get covered in sand. And, let’s not forget that the view from the top is simply stunning. I absolutely did not want to miss a volcano on my Nicaragua vacation.
It’s not a Nicaragua vacation if it doesn’t feature a volcano: view from top of Cerro Negro
Storm in the distance – sunset from Cerro Negro
Isla de Ometepe
Located in Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe is an 8 shaped island which, despite the presence of two active volcanoes, is peaceful, remote, and offers great hikes, wildlife and spectacular views. Among Nicaragua attractions, it may well be my favourite.
That’s one smokey volcano!
Corn Islands Nicaragua
Whether I feel like relaxing under the Caribbean sun, snorkelling in the clear waters, diving or just want to walk around to explore the island, Isla de Maiz won’t disappoint me. And here, I can be treated to a beautiful, almost stereotypical sunset.
Little Corn Island – courtesy of Nomad Kiwis
Care to know about more things to do in Nicaragua? Stay tuned for more posts!
Colombia is a huge country, and it is much more than the old cliches of narco-trafficking and kidnapping. As the Lonely Planet describes it, it is a great cocktail consisting of caribbean atmosphere, the great mountains and glaciars of the Andes, the Amazon, the unique Tatacoa desert, cloud forest, colonial cities, indigenous, Afro-descendants and European cultures, and colourful and friendly people. Top all of this with a great, relaxed atmosphere and here is the perfect place. One could spend months travelling around the country, and still feel unfinished and wanting to explore more. Furthermore, some of the places to visit in Colombia are so isolated that no roads get there. Leticia – the main starting point for a visit of the Amazon basin – can only be reached by plane.
Why San Gil is among the places to visit in Colombia
By all means, I know I am an adventure seeker, and I know I have a choice of about a million places to visit in Colombia. But, since I was looking for some of the great Colombia tourist attractions combined with fun sports, I headed to San Gil. This is definitely THE place for extreme sports and I could easily fill up my days there with all sorts of activities, from rafting to rappelling, torrentismo (rappelling down a waterfall), horse riding, paragliding, caving, mountain biking, and so much more.
The best thing to do for me, since I didn’t want to burn all my energies was to alternate any of these extreme activities with quieter ones such as swimming in natural pools (such as the Pozo Azul), visiting the nearby waterfalls (Cascadas de Juan Curi) and going on easy, nearby hikes. Although San Gill is small city, it gave me a pleasant and authentic Colombian feel and it is not crowded with travelers. I could enjoy its atmosphere fully during the day, at the local market, or after sunset, when the locals meet for evening drinks in the main square, children happily run around, and everybody is up for a chat.
Things to do in Colombia: go mountain biking with Colombian Bike Junkies
Among the things to do in Colombia, there is some great rafting. Many companies in San Gil organise whitewater rafting excursions. Unexperienced rafters may prefer opting for the easier Rio Fonce – with rafts of grades 1 to 3.
I was in the mood for something more challenging, so I opted for the Rio Suarez: around 30 dollars for a full day (about 6 hours in total and snacks included, consisting of fresh fruit, local cheese, crisps and drinks). Colombia Rafting Expeditions is the most reliable company in town. I was picked up from my hostel and driven (about one hour drive) to the starting point.
The English speaking guides are very experienced, and did everything to make my day memorable. After a briefing on safety measures, we started rafting down the river. We all got soaking wet, we got the chance to swim in the river carried away by the current, and we even had to get to shore to hike up for a while, and even jumping off cliffs. The only low point is that there is nobody taking pictures for the rafters, so I would advise to carry a waterproof camera.
Things to do in Colombia: go rafting with Colombia Rafting Expeditions
Another one of the things to do in Colombia is mountain biking. Mountain bike tours near San Gil go through the Chicamocha Canyon and they allowed me to visit the beautiful Barichara, an immaculately renovated city of white-washed buildings and stone streets, with a beautiful cathedral and a gorgeous and airy main plaza, which is definitely one of the places to visit in Colombia.
Places to visit in Colombia: Barichara
The best company running the tour is Colombian Bike Junkies. It is based out of the restaurant Gringo Mike’s, which is also the meeting point. The trip lasts all day (by which I mean ALL day – do not expect to be back before dark!), it costs around 60 dollars. Ok, that is not cheap but it possibly is the best and most fun among the things to do in Colombia and it is worth saving on other things to embark on this adventure.
Colombia Bike Junkies is reliable, the bikes are in excellent state, and it is organised to the point that when I booked the tour, I was even asked where I wanted to have the front and back breaks, and even a meal preference (yes: a delicious lunch, snacks such as fresh fruit and home baked cookies and water are all included, as well as a “well done” beer after finishing) and my size, as at the end of the day I was given a t-shirt that will always remind me of this great adventure.
There was a very good guide at the front, ready to help with any problems and to give instructions and advice on the technicalities of the path; as well as a guide at the back, driving a jeep and carrying any equipment that may needed to fix bikes on the road, including flat tires. And, to top things off, I didn’t have to worry about taking pictures as the two guides took plenty of shots in key points and moments and shared them with participants. Look at me in full motion:
Things to do in Colombia: mountain biking!
The 50 km trip will be tiring: going downhill is challenging for non-expert mountain bikers, yet it is a lot of fun. After the lunch break, the path is an easier (in technical terms!), slightly uphill 16 km road.
By the time I got to the finishing point, I was dusty, sweaty, dirty and, most importantly, happy and accomplished and that beer tasted oh so good!
What do to in Colombia: become a Colombian Bike Junkie
Where to sleep and eat in San Gil:
Open House Hostel in San Gil is an excellent option for backpackers. It is very close to the main plaza: it is clean, quiet, and it has nice, comfortable beds, an airy common area and very well equipped kitchen and a nice backyard. My humble advice is to cook at the hostel, as, other than Gringo Mike’s, there aren’t many good options to eat in town and the market sells lovely fresh vegetables and fruit.
How to get to San Gil:
San Gil can be reached by bus from pretty much anywhere in Colombia. There are night buses from Cartagena (the trip lasts 17 hours and goes through Barranquilla); there are regular buses to and from Bogotà (8 hours, around 17 dollars), Medellin (11 hours, around 30 dollars) and Bucaramanga (2 hours), which is the closest airport.
Looking for more things to do in Colombia?
My luck has it that I was born and raised in Sardinia, and this is what I call home. I have the chance to explore it one bit at a time, and I am not done exploring yet! I have a few favourite places of course. My hometown, Cagliari; Costa Rei, my favourite vacation spot, and all its surroundings; the area of Golfo di Orosei and Isola dell’Asinara – these are only a few of the amazing places Sardinia has to offer to those who visit.
Sardinia is a great place to travel to in all seasons. Most people enjoy it in the summer, as we have amazing beaches with crystal clear water. I think it is incredible even in spring, fall and winter, despite the rain may be abundant. During spring time, the countryside is blooming, the weather is good for going on amazing hikes (like those to Su Gorropu) and we enjoy long walks on the beach. Spring is when Sant’Efisio, in Cagliari, takes place. A great free event. Fall is mild, and if we are lucky enough we get to go to the beach well into October. This is when the various village festivals are held. I love Cortes Apertas, and Autunno in Barbagia – food sampling, wine tasting, lots of great traditions. My favourite? Su Prugadoriu in Seui – our own very traditional version of Halloween. Finally, did you know that we even have a ski resort in Sardinia? Ok, it is not really a ski destination… but it is nice nonetheless.
One more reason to love Sardinia? The music festivals – jazz lovers will have a huge choice of places and events. And even the book festivals.
We call Sardinia paradise, and for a good reason!
To read more of my posts about the most amazing island in the world, click here
My first stop in Argentina was its incredible capital Buenos Aires. I loved walking around, visiting its museums and galleries, its parks, the area of Puerto Madero with its Calatrava bridge, Recoleta, Caminito and San Telmo. I tasted the great food – in particular the asado – in the many good restaurants; and I enjoyed a day trip at Delta del Tigre. I then flew to Trelew, from which I reached Puerto Madryn, a good place to start visits of Peninsula Valdes and Punta Tombo – where I saw the incredible wildlife.
A long bus journey from Puerto Madryn took me to El Calafate. There, I froze while awing and the spectacular glaciar Perito Moreno, I hiked the Estancia Cristina from which I saw the Uppsala glacier, and from which I reached the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile.
I then flew to Iguazu, from which I visited the magnificent Iguazu waterfalls, from both the Brasilian side and the Argentinian side. My next stop was Salta, from which I went to spend an incredible adventure day rafting and ziplining. I then rented a car and drove to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, stopping at Salinas Grandes, Humahuaca, Purmamarca and the lively Tilcara. This was my last stop before heading back to Buenos Aires and flying back to Italy.
For more posts about Argentina, click here.
The typical starting point for a tour of Guatemala is Antigua, its old capital. That was my first stop too. I loved visiting the numerous churches, plazas, walking along the cobbled streets, admiring the colonial buildings and beautiful gardens, and enjoying a lively nightlife. Antigua is also a great starting point to hike an active volcano, such as Pacaya – I opted for the sunset tour and loved the view.
My second stop in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, which I fell in love with immediately. The view of the 3 volcanoes from Santa Cruz la Laguna was stunning, and I enjoyed hiking around the area. From the main port of entrance to the lake, Panajachel, I hopped on several chicken buses to head to Chichicastenango and shop at its great market. It was great and I got a lot of bargains, and I enjoyed the atmosphere at the market, especially around the food stalls. I even visited the not-so-visited site of Iximche!
I then felt it was time for a bit of jungle and made my way to Semuc Champey, where I hiked around the natural pools. My final stop in Guatemala was Flores, from where I visited the amazing archeological site of Tikal, immersed in the nature and where you can see and hear wildlife, including racoons and hauling monkeys. I even visited Yaxa! From Flores, I then continued South to Honduras.
To read more about my adventures in Guatemala, click here!