Northeast Nicaragua

Puerto Cabezas

Puerto Cabezas, capital of the Región Autonomista Atlántico Norte, has a distinctly different atmosphere from Bluefields. It is principally a large Miskito village and offers an excellent introduction to the Miskito area. You can arrange to stay in small Miskito villages, for example near Haulover, a few hours by boat south of Puerto Cabezas. There are significant minorities of
mestizos
(referred to on the coast as
españoles
or the Spanish) and Creoles, many of whom came to 'Port' by way of Las Minas. Spanish is a second language for the majority of residents; many speak at least some English, and for some, English is their native language. The local name for Puerto Cabezas is
Bilwi
, although the name is of Sumo origin. The Miskitos conquered the Sumos to obtain the town some time in the last century. There are two main roads, the only paved streets, which run parallel to each other and to the sea. At the southern end of the town is the port area; a walk along the pier at sunset is highly recommended. The airport is at the northern end. The main market occupies the central part of town.

Waspám and the Río Coco

The Coco River (called
Waspán
in Spanish and
Wanghi
in Miskito) is the heart of Miskito country. There is a road from Puerto to Waspám; during the dry season the 130-km trip should take about three hours by 4WD vehicle, several hours longer by public bus. The bus can be boarded at several points in Puerto along the road out of town, to Waspám. The trip takes you through the pine forests, red earth, and north of Puerto towards the Coco River (the border with Honduras), and you will pass through two Miskito villages, Sisin
and
Santa Marta
. Hitching is possible; if you cannot get all the way to Waspám, make sure you are left at Sisin, Santa Marta or La Tranquera. You can take lifts from the military; never travel at night.

Parque Nacional Saslaya

Saslaya was the first national park in Nicaragua, located within the
Reserva Biósfera Bosawás
, and contains the largest tropical cloud forest in Central America. The
Proyecto Ecoturístico Rosa Grande
, supported by Nature Conservancy and the Peace Corps involves the community of
Rosa Grande
, 25 km from Siuna, near an area of virgin forest with a trail, waterfall on the River Labú and lots of wildlife including monkeys and large cats. One path leads to a lookout with a view over the
Cerro Saslaya
; another circular path to the northwest goes to
Rancho Alegre Falls
. Guides can be hired. You may have to pay for a camp guard while hiking. Tourism is in its infancy here and you may find little things 'added on' to your bill. Be certain you have enough supplies for your stay. Contact Don Trinidad at the
comedor
in Santa Rosa. In Siuna, contact
Proyecto Bosawás
. Groups of five or more must reserve in advance; contact the
Amigos de Saslaya
, by post or telegram.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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