Nicaragua’s very hot and very lush capital was established between the colonial cities of Leon and Granada. Its history has been troubling with years of foreign intervention and natural disasters.
From 1927 until 1979 the Somoza family – or Somoza dynasty – ruled the country with an iron fist. A small group became extremely wealthy, while most of the population sweltered in poverty.
The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the massive 1972 earthquake that destroyed the city and killed thousands. Somoza and his merry band of thugs stole much of the aid money.
As the people of Nicaragua rose against such injustice, this impoverished country was caught up in cold war geopolitics. Thousands died in guerrilla fighting and over a million people fled to other countries.
The cathedral in old Managua still sits in ruin with its clock stuck on the time of the earthquake.
After all that sad and difficult history, Nicaragua has emerged as a young, friendly and remarkably safe country. It is always hot, but is a magically land of volcanos and lakes.
Both Granada and Leon are deservedly major tourist destinations. Despite a less positive reputation, I always look forward to visiting Managua itself.
The city’s 2.5 million inhabitants are so spread out and hidden under the green canopy, the city feels much smaller. As testament to the wild nature of the country, Managua is built around a volcanic caldera.
Every time I visit, I ride the zip line over the Tiscapa volcanic lagoon (which changes colour) and marvel at the views.
Recently some brave travellers joined me for this adventure. They too were surprised how beautiful Managua is and everyone comments about the friendliness of Nicaraguans.
Statistically, Nicaragua remains very poor, yet it is safe and infrastructure is improving. It should be included on almost any visit to Central America and Managua is well worth visiting for a day.
Did I mention it is hot? 🙂