Bask in Nicaragua’s Raw and Pristine Scenery

by Djulia Montana de Veyra

Known as the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, Nicaragua has much to offer. From jungles and forests to acres of golden beaches, the attractions in the country go beyond just the world-famous lakes and volcanoes! Nicaragua has come a long way from its history of dictatorship and revolution and is now one of the safest countries in Central America (behind Costa Rica). Studying abroad in Nicaragua means spending as much time outdoors as you will in school (and possibly more).

Drive to the rim and look over the edge of Volcan Masaya.
Drive to the rim and look over the edge of Volcan Masaya. Photo Courtesy ElasticMindTJ on Flickr

While it’s a picturesque country worthy of exploration, Nicaragua is not as touristy as other travel destinations. This means visitors get to enjoy pristine and raw sceneries that feel like paradise on earth, without all the tourist traps. If you seek a destination that is beautiful, exotic and safe for your study abroad, Nicaragua is the place to go.

Volcanic Thrills. Imagine yourself looking down into the so-called Gates of Hell as foggy hot gases swirl at you from the bowels of the earth. That is exactly what the active Masaya Volcano offers. A must-see attraction in Nicaragua, Volcan Masaya speaks of a history that is just as fiery.

Before the 16th century, the indigenous tribes of Nicaragua believed that witches dwelled in the giant fire-spewing cone. They sacrificed children and virgins to appease them, ceremoniously throwing them into the pit of the abyss. To this day, the Masaya Volcano maintains its fierceness as it continues to sporadically erupt and spew rocks. Visitors are always reminded to park their vehicles facing the exit in case they need to make a quick getaway.

Bat Caves. To keep the thrill going, drop by the nearby caves … and we do mean drop. Once the dwelling of the tribe’s shaman (who decided which innocents to sacrifice to the volcano!), the caves are now home to thousands of bats. You will go 150 meters underground into a pitch-black domed chamber. The adrenaline really starts pumping when the flashlights are switched on and black bats start flitting around the stalactites above your head.

Lovely Lake. Lake Nicaragua is a majestic freshwater lake made exciting by volcanic islands and islets. Visit the largest island, the Ometepe (a biosphere reserve), and have fun swimming, kayaking, and lounging on the beautiful beaches. Two impressive volcanoes, the Maderas and the Concepcion, are also located on the island. The volcano trails are perfect for hiking and biking.

Don’t miss the Granada Islets, 365 volcanic islets which vary in size. Some are just a clump of vegetation while others are big enough to accommodate vacation homes, hotels, eco-lodges, and restaurants.

Study Programs in Nicaragua

Permaculture Program. The beautiful sceneries of Ometepe is the setting for a work-study project, Cultivating Change, run by the organization Where There Be Dragons. Part of the program tis held at an organic coffee farm located amidst two prominent volcanoes. This is where students harvest coffee with the locals. They also work in a permaculture farm. Students interact with community activists, farmers, and NGOs while learning the local language and enjoying a warm and welcoming homestay. This community-based service learning program opens participants' eyes to pressing social issues.

The program brings the classroom to the field, giving students invaluable hands-on learning experience in subjects of water conservation, sustainable food production, and community-centered development. Hiking up the Concepcion volcano and touring the banana plantations are all part of the package.

Study At A Beautiful Eco-Destination. NicaEco offers a program at Ave Maria University in San Marcos. Studying abroad in Nicaragua could mean enjoying pristine beaches, picturesque volcanoes and scenic crater lakes while taking a range of classes in various fields, such as Political Science, Literature, Spanish Language, Chemistry, and more.

Nicaragua’s Past. Take Latin American Studies while learning a local language, and gain insight into the indigenous cultures in a beautiful colonial city that  boasts a multi-cultural port. This option is offered through the University of Kansas summer study abroad program in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua’s Social Dynamics. If social change is important to you, check out the “Social Change in Central America” program offered in Managua, Nicaragua by the Center for Global Education, Augsburg College. The program immerses students in both the rural and urban communities of Nicaragua and compels them to learn the local way of life firsthand. Students live with homestay families, and work with grassroots community organizations dedicated to progressive work on issues related to conflict, foreign policy, gender, and economic/social justice.

Nicaragua’s Politics. If you are interested in the history of social and political movements in Nicaragua, the SIT Study Abroad offers an interesting program. Participants study the Sandinista Revolution and other similar movements, while exploring their contemporary relevance not only to Nicaragua but to neighboring Central American countries as well.

Study in Nicaragua, and have an incredible learning experience that includes nature’s raw beauty!