24 interesting facts about Nicaragua

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From violent volcanoes to immense lakes and fascinating history, these are the most interesting facts about Nicaragua.

Interesting facts about Nicaragua include its volcanoes
Interesting facts about Nicaragua include its volcanoes (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Nicaragua
Capital city: Managua
Population: 6,203,441
Area: 130,370 sq km
Major languages: Spanish, Miskito
Major religions: Christianity
Time zone: UTC-6 (Central Time Zone)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Nicaragua

1. Nicaragua is a country located in Central America bordering Costa Rica and Honduras.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

2. Nicaragua may have been inhabited since around 12,000 BCE. Evidence of one of the Americas’ earliest human encampments was discovered marked by clamshells.
(Source: Harrell et al. (2019) Central America Travel Guide. Lonely Planet: London)

3. Equally impressive, was the discovery, at the site of the present-day capital, Managua, of footprints in volcanic mud left by a family around 6,000 years ago.
(Source: Harrell et al. (2019) Central America Travel Guide. Lonely Planet: London)

A map of Nicaragua
Nicaragua borders two nations (Shutterstock)

4. Spaniard Pedro Arias Dávila was the first European to lead an expedition to what is present-day Nicaragua.
(Source: Britannica)

5. Nicaragua gets its name from a local Indian chief, Nicarao, and the Spanish word for water (agua). It was named by Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez de Avila in 1522.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

6. The Spanish colonisation of Nicaragua reduced the indigenous population from an estimated one million people to just a few tens of thousands within three decades of the coloniser’s arrival. Introduced diseases and slavery were the main cause.
(Source: Britannica)

7. Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast was colonised by Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries. This remained under British control until 1860.
(Source: BBC News)

A Caribbean beach in Nicaragua
A Caribbean beach in Nicaragua (Shutterstock)

8. In 1821, parts of Nicaragua became independent but were incorporated into the Mexican empire. Then in 1823, Nicaragua joined the United Provinces of Central America, which also included Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
(Source: BBC News)

9. Finally, in 1860 Nicaragua became fully independent.
(Source: BBC News)

10. Nicaragua’s flag descends from the flag used by the United Provinces of Central America. It consisted of blue-white-blue stripes with the national coat of arms in the centre. The countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica all use permutations of the design in their flags.
(Source: Complete Flags of the World. (2014). DK: London)

Nicaragua's flag
Nicaragua’s flag (Shutterstock)

11. Nicaragua’s coat of arms includes a triangle for equality, a liberty cap for freedom and five volcanoes between two oceans, symbolic of those five original Central American countries located between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
(Source: Britannica)

12. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western world when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). It is the third poorest country in the Americas, after Haiti and Honduras.
(Source: World Bank)

13. In terms of area, Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America.
(Source: World Bank)

A map of Central America
Nicaragua is Central America’s largest country (Shutterstock)

14. As Nicaragua is located along the narrow Central American isthmus, it is possible to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) and the sunset over the Pacific Ocean in the same day. At its narrowest, the distance between the Pacific and the Caribbean is around 200km.
(Source: Britannica)

15. In 2014, Nicaragua unveiled plans to build a canal linking the two oceans. The 173-mile (278km) waterway was conceived to rival the Panama Canal. However, construction work has still not begun.
(Source: The Guardian)

16. The city of Granada is the oldest Spanish-built city in the Central American isthmus. The city was founded in 1524 by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba, who named it after his hometown in Spain.
(Source: Rough Guides)

The city of Granada
The city of Granada (Shutterstock)

17. Nicaragua is home to approximately 1,800 vertebrate species, including roughly 250 mammals and about 30,000 species in total. This also includes 764 bird species of which 551 are resident and 213 are migratory.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

18. Around 25% of Nicaragua is made up of forest with over 10,000 sq km of that classed as virgin forest (old-growth forest ecosystems where nature survives in its purest form).
(Source: CIA World Fact Book, Lonely Planet, WWF)

19. Nicaragua also has the two largest lakes in Central America: Lago de Managua (1,064 sq km) and Lago de Nicaragua (8,264 sq km).
(Source: Harrell et al. (2019) Central America Travel Guide. Lonely Planet: London)

A map showing both lakes in Nicaragua
The two largest lakes of Central America (Rudyologist: CC 4.0)

20. Nicaragua is also home to 23 volcanoes of which 19 are still active.
(Source: Volcano Discovery)

21. In 1972 Nicaragua was hit by a devastating 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Over 10,000 people are thought to have died when the earthquake hit the city of Managua.
(Source: BBC News)

22. Nicaragua is home to a region called the Mosquito Coast which spreads along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. It is not named after the insect, but instead, after the Miskito indigenous people, for whom the region is home.
(Source: Britannica)

Volcanoes seen from a lake
Volcanoes seen from Lago de Nicaragua (Shutterstock)

23. The region inspired the 1981 best-selling book by Paul Theroux and later the 1986 film starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren.
(Source: Penguin)

24. Nicaraguan, Violeta Chamorro, was America’s first elected female head of state. Two other female American leaders pre-date her, but Eugenia Charles of Dominica was prime minister and not the head of state, and Isabel Perón of Argentina was not elected.
(Source: CNN)

We corroborated these interesting facts about Nicaragua using only primary sources. However, if you notice an error or have any questions, please contact us.