With an area of about 57,000 square miles, Nicaragua is a bit larger than North Carolina (~54,000 sq. mi.), though less densely populated. The country is divided into three general regions. The Pacific coastal belt is where the majority of the population lives, and is also the main agricultural area. The central highlands are more sparsely populated, and are home to Nicaragua’s coffee industry. The Caribbean lowlands make up nearly half of the country, but since this region is characterized by a humid, tropical climate and unfertile soil, less than 10% of Nicaragua’s population lives here.
Because of Nicaragua’s proximity to the Caribbean, hurricanes are a potential danger. The central highlands contain active volcanoes, making volcanic eruptions and earthquakes a possibility. In recent times, Nicaragua has suffered from a major earthquake in 1972 and a major hurricane (Mitch) in 1998.
Although the seismic activity can be dangerous, it has also begun attracting tourists in recent years. The chain of volcanoes that runs from north to south through the country contains many peaks that can be climbed, and several dormant volcanoes have crater lakes. In addition, Nicaragua’s numerous lakes and rivers, its miles of beaches (both Pacific and Caribbean), and its abundant animal and plant life have sparked a growth in ecotourism and adventure travel (snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, jungle tours, bird watching, etc.).
Use this section to explore some aspects of Nicaraguan society - from culture to history to economics.