Nicaragua just might be the perfect place to defrost from winter. Not only can you climb colonial church towers and hike volcanos but you can also eat your weight in papaya. I kicked off 2016 with a trip to this gorgeous country—here are the top five must-see places.
1. OmetepeIf you want to wake up to the sound of howler monkeys and climb volcanos, then head straight to Isla de Ometepe (pictured at top)—a mystical island with twin volcano peaks in the middle of a fresh-water lake. Ths island is located in Lake Nicaragua and, while a good portion of the island is undeveloped with unpaved roads, the lake is the rumored site of a proposed (and recently postponed) Nicaragua canal funded by a Chinese businessman. Get there while you still can and book one of the handmade cottages at Finca Mystica, and be sure to stop for lunch at Café Campestre.
Iglesia la Recolección (pictured above) is the most beautiful of León’s many churches. Another highlight of the city is the roof tour of León's cathedral (Basílica de la Asunción), which is the largest cathedral in Central America. In addition to offering an amazing view of the city and surrounding volcanos, the maze-like rooftop itself is stunning. Shoes are not allowed because the roof was recently painted bright white. Art lovers should not miss the Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Gurdián, one of the finest contemporary art museums in Central America. Housed in two beautiful old homes, the museum is filled with the works of Latin American masters including Diego Rivera and Fernando Botero along with a few big names like Picasso and Chagall.
5. Cerro Negro