Despite Nicaragua's vibrant, tumultuous history, the violence associated with the Sandinista revolution and Contra War ended in the early 1990s, leaving a tranquil, peace-loving people to finally get on with their lives.

Today's Nicaragua is politically stable and attracts an increasing number of foreign visitors and investors each year. Nicaragua's low prices, proximity to international air hubs in Miami and Houston, and stunning scenery and culture have served to vault the country into the tourism arena.

Rising global interest in ecotourism is also drawing travelers to Nicaragua's natural and cultural attractions. Indeed, the country is known as "The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes," and includes Lake Nicaragua, the 20th-largest freshwater lake in the world, and its jewel, La Isla de Ometepe, a volcanic island that was nominated for the "new seven wonders of the world." There are also a number of protected areas and nature preserves, including Volcan Masaya National Park, one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the region.

Though Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America, tourism can still be a bit rough around the edges because of limited (but improving) travel resources—hotels, transportation and quality roads—and occasional power and water outages. Nicaragua is not "the next Costa Rica," as some travel agents would have you believe, but is rather a unique, sometimes challenging, always immensely rewarding destination.

Paradoxically, the lag in tourism development is part of what makes this country so attractive. Besides being inexpensive, Nicaragua is unspoiled by the trappings of megaresort development.

Knowing at least a little conversational Spanish will help a great deal. Nicaragua is wonderful for independent travelers, and there are plenty of tour operators as well to help you get around.

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