Friday Five: Postcards from Nicaragua.

When considering a week-long trip south of these United States, Nicaragua wasn’t the first country to come to mind. Brazil had that honor, but its $1200 airfare pushed it far out of the eight-day destination category. (My equation isn’t exact, but if the airfare tops $1000, the destination deserves at least ten days, if not two or more weeks.) The lower price tag of Nicaragua (most flights from CMH were closer to $600) and the quick flight (less than three hours from ATL), combined with a friend’s lavish praises piqued my interest. Simply put, it was personal economics that landed me in the poorest — and safest — country in Central America. I’d go back in a second.

Today’s Friday Five is a quick peek of our fleeting visit to three areas in the Southwest region of Nicaragua.

1. Granada’s Market.

With only half a day to experience the famous Spanish colonial city of Granada, we placed a visit to the market on top. Piles of produce (some recognizable, some not), clothing and countless street food temptations sang to us as we wandered the streets of the sixteenth century city.

2. La Merced Church Bell Tower.

Every tourist that comes through Granada is almost required to pay the $1 (U.S.) fee to climb the narrow spiral staircase up to the bell tower of La Merced. Not every traveller chooses to photograph construction. But that’s how I roll. Note the many modes of transportation on Granada’s street below: horses and motorcycles were as common as cars on our Central American journey.

3. The Ferry To Ometepe.

Lake Nicaragua (or Lake Coliciboca) is one of the largest inland lakes in the world and the largest lake in Central America. It wasn’t the size of the lake that drew us to its shores, but what is in it. Just one hour (by ferry) away from land is Ometepe, an island that consists of two volcanoes. Complete with permaculture farms, a live volcano and ages-old petroglyphs, this island was a must-see on our Nicaragua itinerary. And we weren’t alone. The ferry ride was filled with passengers, luggage and materials needed from the mainland.

4. Our Cabin at Hotel Finca Del Sol.

One of my favorite evenings of the trip was spent drinking beers on the front porch of this volcano-side cabin. $55 (breakfast included) via Paypal gained us access to the swanky eco-abode. A few more dollars bought us two big bottles of Cerveza Toña. Next time, though, we’ll remember to ask for a beer opener (or better yet, pack one) before embarking on the quarter mile hike down the volcano from “concierge.” We made do with a belt buckle (and learned a new skill, as well).

5. San Juan Del Sur.

See that silhouetted figure on the hill on the right? That’s Jesus, watching over the party town and expatriate surfing hub of San Juan Del Sur. (A closer view of the statue might remind one of another gigantic Jesus that we would have likely seen if we’d had more time and money.) While the image seems tranquil, there’s nothing — not even a yoga class — that was calm for this anxious traveller. Stay tuned for stories from San Juan Del Sur, involving police, a fugitive, angry men with baseball bats, a near-death yoga experience and a failed attempt at nachos.

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