This is a question we get asked all the time. When we talk to guests at the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and tell them about Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua, the first question is: Is it safe there? This is especially true for Baby boomers and Generation Xers that remember the TV coverage about Nicaragua during the US presidency of Ronald Regan. Iran-Contra, Oliver North, Sandinistas against Contras are things that come to mind. It has been almost 30 years, but for some reason; those images just don’t vanish from the memories of many potential travelers.
It is interesting how this works. While Croatia has become one of the prime tourist destinations in Europe, nobody seems to remember the civil war there – and this was less than 20 years ago. The same is true for other former areas of civil unrest or war such as Vietnam and Cambodia, which have become booming tourist destinations. Another country that is fighting hard to get rid of its image of the 80s and 90s is Columbia, but that is a different story.
So where is Nicaragua today? After a transition into democracy in 1990, there have been four democratically elected presidents and economy has grown at an annual rate of almost four percent in the past 10 years. Things have been improving for the Nicaraguans. More jobs, more food, more education, more health and more opportunities. We have been involved in the development and management of sustainable tourism projects in Nicaragua since 2000 and have seen that things have gotten much better for the people. Tourism has helped quite a bit.
So, the current government is a “Sandinista” of leftist government with Daniel Ortega as the president. We are not going to go into politics and ideology here and while the views of this government are probably not in line with the views of many citizens of the US and Europe, they do not represent a Venezuelan Chavez style model of government. This is an elected socialist government, similar to the ones in Ecuador and Argentina. There are a few questions raised about the election process and constitutional changes, but it not something that a visitor should be really concerned about.
From a tourism point of view, Nicaragua is a raw gem. Most areas are not touristy and it is easy to have authentic experiences. It is a heaven for the well-traveled tourist. Lots of opportunities to interact with the locals – that are by the way some of the friendliest people in Latin America. The cultural activities are not staged and the food still tastes real. And of course, the natural beauty of its beaches, volcanoes and lakes are stunning.
Nicaragua has been named Central America’s safest country. Especially the southern part that borders with Costa Rica is very safe from a tourism point of view. That is of course in total contrast to its image. It is important to be smart and avoid certain areas during certain times of the day or night, but you are probably safer in Nicaragua than in many parts of the United States or Europe. We invite you to give it a try. We will take great care of you.
And once you get back to your home country, you will have “bragging rights” when you talk to your friends. Be prepared to hear: “Wow, you were in Nicaragua? Isn’t that really dangerous? You are quite the adventurer!” Don’t show them this blog. Keep your legacy as an adventure traveler going and tell them that you might consider North Korea next – well… maybe not.
Article by Cayuga Online