Aerial view of volcano crater in Masaya, Nicaragua

Things to do in  Nicaragua

Adventure goes volcanic

A strand of active volcanoes is just the beginning of Nicaragua’s hot spot status. From surf beaches to historic cities, the largest Central American country gathers the region’s iconic draws into one enchanting—if sometimes tumultuous—package. For travelers, that diversity translates to endless opportunities for exploration. A sense of adventure pays off, and things to do in Nicaragua include strolling Granada byways, soaking up the sunshine on the Corn Islands, or hiking through the jungles of Ometepe Island (Isla de Ometepe).

Top 15 attractions in Nicaragua

Granada Cathedral

The Granada Cathedral rises above the city skyline in a vision of red domes and lemon-yellow walls backed by the towering Mombacho volcano. Well recognized for its beauty, the Spanish Renaissance cathedral—whose first stone was laid in 1523 and took 181 years to complete—is a quintessential image of Nicaragua and a popular Granada attraction.More

Masaya Volcano

Skip the hike and drive right up to the lava-spitting rim of Masaya Volcano (Volcan Masaya), perched between Managua and Granada. The active volcano’s famous lava shows at the Santiago Crater, combined with ridiculously easy access, have made it one of the most popular attractions in all of Nicaragua.More

Ruins of León Viejo

Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage–listed ruins of León Viejo makes it easy to imagine life for the first Spanish settlers in Nicaragua. Located on the slopes of Momotombo volcano and preserved by volcanic ash, the ruins are some of the most complete Spanish colonial ruins in Central America—even though they’re also some of the oldest, dating back to 1524.More

León Cathedral

The largest church in Central America, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed León Cathedral is a must-see while in León, a charming colonial city in Nicaragua’s northwest corner. The cathedral combines a striking blend of architectural styles with religious import and pirate-riddled history, making for a church visit unlike any other.More

Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve (Laguna de Apoyo)

A crystalline lagoon just a short drive from Granada, Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve (Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo) is one of the most popular natural attractions in Nicaragua. Get away from the city for a few hours of kid-approved water sports, or hang out and relax all day in a lounge chair poised on the rim of this beautiful crater lake.More

Ortiz Gurdian Foundation Art Center

Nicaragua may not be known for its museums, but León’s Ortiz Gurdián Foundation Art Center holds its own. The center seamlessly blends a private collection of national and international art, from renowned Nicaraguan painter Armando Morales to world-famous artists like Rubens, Miró, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Diego Rivera.More

Mombacho Volcano

With an Aztec name that translates to “Steep Mountain,” the Mombacho volcano certainly lives up to its name. Its 4,410-foot (1,344-meter) peak towers over Nicaragua’s colonial city of Granada, creating both a beautiful backdrop and a huge backyard ripe for adventure and exploration.More


Catarina is a colorful Nicaraguan village overflowing with so many flowers that these friendly florals outnumber the locals. Throughout the town, you’ll find gardens, nurseries, and flower baskets handwoven by Catarina’s skilled artisans. Catarina is a breath of fresh air for travelers looking to escape Nicaragua’s busy cities.More

Rubén Darío Museum

The Rubén Darío Museum (Museo Rubén Darío) is dedicated to the famous poet, writer, and ambassador who brought modernismo to Spanish literature. A must for poetry fans, this León museum is also a good choice for those curious about Nicaraguan history—the museum offers an intimate look at 19th-century upper-class life in Nicaragua.More

Ruben Dario National Theatre (Teatro Nacional Ruben Dario)

A humble exterior conceals an elegant, velvet-swathed concert hall at the Rubén Darío National Theatre (Teatro Nacional Rubén Darío), Nicaragua’s premier exhibition space. The hall is a true homage to Managua’s cosmopolitan roots with Spanish chandeliers, American design inspiration, and the best of Latin American and other cultural performances.More

Cerro Negro Volcano

Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro is the youngest, and one of the most active, volcanoes in the country. With its name derived from its black, ashy slopes, the stratovolcano stretches nearly 1,700 feet (518 meters) into the air. Cerro Negro is an accessible volcano near León, with most visitors lured up the rocky pathways to experience the thrill of “volcano boarding.”More

Lake Nicaragua (Lake Cocibolca)

Lake Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) is Central America’s largest lake and an outdoor activity destination for locals and visitors alike. Nature lovers will enjoy bird watching from the shore, boating to the lake’s islands, or hiking the island’s volcanoes. Plus the cities around Lake Nicaragua offer many archeological sites, historic churches, and local markets to explore.More


The city of Masaya showcases Nicaragua's Spanish and Indigenous cultures among its historic plazas and lakeside promenade. Known as the Cradle of National Folklore, Masaya sees the streets taken over by traditional dancers for a “Night of Revelry” (Noche de Verbena) every Thursday. Just beyond the city limits, you’ll find the smoldering Masaya Volcano.More

Tiscapa Lagoon Natural Reserve (Reserva Natural Laguna de Tiscapa)

Combine a bit of nature, a sprinkle of history, and the best view of Managua on a trip to the Tiscapa Lagoon—a crater lake, park, and nature reserve right in Nicaragua’s capital. The area is perhaps best known for its massive Augusto Sandino statue, an iconic symbol of the city.More

Old Cathedral of Managua (Antigua Catedral de Managua)

The Old Cathedral of Managua (Catedral de Managua) is a spectacular ruin whose gilded neoclassical facade still stands but insides were devastated in a 1972 earthquake that shook Nicaragua. Though visitors are not allowed inside, the cathedral’s striking beauty and historical significance make a visit worthwhile.More

All about Nicaragua

When to visit

Ample sunshine makes Nicaragua’s December–April dry season, when rain is sparse even among lush jungles, the most popular time to visit. In late March or early April, Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations fill Granada with devotees and beaches with vacationing families. Still, the country draws travelers year-round: Pacific swells usher in Nicaragua’s May–November surf season, with the biggest and most consistent waves sweeping beaches in June, July, and August.

Getting around

Many travelers get around Nicaragua on local buses, where conditions are cramped, but fares are remarkably affordable. Taxis and shuttle buses are a convenient and comfortable alternative—especially if traveling in a group. To reach farther-flung destinations, travelers take to the water or skies: Planes link Managua with San Carlos, Bluefields, the Corn Islands, and Puerto Cabezas, while boats trawl the big lakes and Atlantic coast islands.

Traveler tips

The active Masaya Volcano smokes and spits fire just 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) south of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. It’s a photographer’s dream, but capturing the drama during daylight hours can be tricky because sunshine drowns out glowing magma. Consider visiting the volcano at night to bring home the best possible volcano images. Guided night tours of Masaya Volcano are a secure way to experience the sulfurous landscape after dark.


People Also Ask

What is Nicaragua best known for?

Nicaragua was dubbed the “land of lakes and volcanoes” for good reason. The country has 19 active volcanoes in a fiery chain that parallels its Pacific coastline. Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America—it’s a hub for birdwatching, scenic cruises, and exploring picturesque Ometepe Island (Isla Ometepe).

Is it worth going to Nicaragua?

Yes, it’s worth going to Nicaragua. The largest country in Central America boasts world-class surf beaches, Caribbean islands, coffee highlands, and a string of active volcanoes. Nicaraguan cities combine youthful energy with a rich history: Granada offers brightly painted colonial-style architecture, while Leon bustles with student energy, political protests, and art.

Do U.S. citizens need a visa for Nicaragua?

No, U.S. travelers don’t need a visa to visit Nicaragua. You can purchase a “tourist card” upon arrival at the airport, valid for 90 days in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Requirements include an onward ticket, evidence of sufficient funds, and proof of valid yellow fever vaccination.

Can you drink the water in Nicaragua?

Some parts of Nicaragua have tap water that’s safe to drink. While most locals rely on that water for drinking, brushing their teeth, and other daily needs, many travelers opt for purified water. To reduce plastic waste, consider bringing a reusable bottle you can fill with filtered water.

What do I need to know before going to Nicaragua?

Do a safety check: While thousands of travelers visit Nicaragua safely each year, the country does face occasional disruptions and travel advisories. It’s a good idea to consult up-to-date information from your government before leaving home. You’ll also need valid proof of a yellow fever vaccination before traveling to Nicaragua.

What should I wear to Nicaragua?

Humid weather in Nicaragua means savvy travelers rely on loose-fitting and lightweight outfits that wick away sweat—sturdy shoes are essential for hiking volcanoes and jungle trails. Keep in mind that while many Nicaraguans are casual dressers, they leave beachwear at the beach. Going out? Dress up in something spiffy.

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