Nature of Nicaragua

Nicaragua's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot. Nicaragua's physical geography divides the country into three major zones: 1) Pacific lowlands; 2) Wet, cooler central highlands (North-Central highlands or Amerrisque Mountains; 3) The Caribbean lowlands known as Mosquito Coasts.

Geophysically, the country is surrounded by the Caribbean Plate, an oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Cocos Plate. Since Central America is a major subduction zone, Nicaragua hosts most of the Central American Volcanic Arc.

The two largest fresh water lakes in Central America - Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua are located on the Pacific coast. Surrounding these lakes and extending to their northwest along the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca are fertile lowland plains, with soil highly enriched by ash from nearby volcanoes of the central highlands. The southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua lies within 15 miles (24 km) of the Pacific Ocean. Thus the lake and the San Juan River have been proposed as the longest part of a canal route across the Central American isthmus, and the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal remains a great topic of interest.

Nearly one fifth of the Nicaraguan territory is designated as protected areas like biological and nature reserves or national parks.

As many as forty volcanoes of the Cordillera Los Maribios mountain range punctuate the territory, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near León. The eruptions of western Nicaragua's volcanoes, many of which are still active, have sometimes devastated settlements but also have enriched the land with layers of fertile ash. The geologic activity that produces vulcanism also breeds powerful earthquakes. Tremors occur regularly throughout the Pacific zone, and earthquakes have nearly destroyed the capital city, Managua, more than once.

Temperatures remain virtually constant throughout the year, with highs ranging between 85 and 90 °F (29.4 and 32.2 °C). After a dry season lasting from November to April, rains begin in May and continue to October. Good soils and a favorable climate combine to make western Nicaragua the country's economic and demographic center.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific lowlands contains most of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial architecture and artifacts.

The central highlands are a significantly less populated and economically developed area in the north, between Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean.  This region has a longer, wetter rainy season than the Pacific lowlands, making erosion a problem on its steep slopes. Rugged terrain, poor soils, and low population density characterize the area as a whole, but the northwestern valleys are fertile and well settled. About a quarter of the country's agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region. Bird life in the forests of the central region includes Resplendent Quetzal, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanets.

Caribbean lowlands represent a large rainforest region irrigated by several large rivers. The area is sparsely populated, but it has 57% of the territory of the nation and most of its mineral resources. It has been heavily exploited, but much natural diversity remains. The Rio Coco flows here and it is the largest river in Central America (the Rio Coco forms the natural border with Honduras).  The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.

Nicaragua's Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is in the Atlantic lowlands, part of which is located in the municipality of Siuna; it protects La Mosquitia forest which covers almost 7% of Nicaragua’s territory, making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.

Siuna, Rosita, and Bonanza, known as the "Mining Triangle" are located in the Caribbean lowlands. Bonanza still contains an active gold mine owned by HEMCO. Siuna and Rosita do not have active mines but panning for gold is still very common in the region.

Generally, tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is tropical, with high temperature and high humidity. Around the area's principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official Spanish. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.

A great variety of birds can be observed here including toucans, eagles, turkeys, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of white-tailed deer, monkeys, tapirs, anteaters and other animals. Fishing boats on the Caribbean side bring shrimp as well as lobsters into processing plants at Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Laguna de Perlas. In the past, a turtle fishery thrived on the Caribbean coast before it collapsed from overexploitation.

Tourism in Nicaragua had become the second largest industry in the nation, as the country has seen positive growth in the tourism sector. The increase and growth led to the income from tourism is expected to rise with construction of the Nicaraguan Canal and surrounding infrastructures. The growth in tourism has already positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry.
Every year about 60,000 U.S. citizens visit Nicaragua, primarily business people, tourists, and those visiting relatives, and some 5,500 people from the U.S. reside in the country now. The majority of tourists who visit Nicaragua are from the U.S., Central or South America, and Europe. According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR), the colonial cities of León and Granada (the oldest colonial city in Latin America) are the preferred spots for tourists. Also, the cities of Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, El Ostional, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, the Corn Islands, and others are main tourist attractions. In addition, ecotourism and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua.

In the 19th century, Nicaragua experienced modest waves of immigration from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium immigrated to Nicaragua, particularly the departments in the Central and Pacific region. Also present is a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrians, Armenians, Palestinian Nicaraguans, Jewish Nicaraguans, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a total population of about 30,000. There is also an East Asian community mostly consisting of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese.

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A path in a natural park, photo by

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