Located at the yawning mouth of the Río San Juan, the Caribbean port of San Juan de Nicaragua, formerly known as San Juan del Norte, marks the end of a long, meandering trip on jungle-shrouded river. No roads connect it with the outside world and the surrounding rainforests – the ancestral home of the indigenous Rama people – are among the most pristine in Central America.
The diverse and hospitable communities of the Pearl Lagoon Basin, an hour outside of Bluefields by high-speed panga, are home to an intriguing blend of Afrodescendant and indigenous cultures. Creole, Garífuna and Miskito villages sit side by side and maintain a traditional lifestyle very much grounded in fishing and subsistence agriculture.
Perched on the banks of the mighty Río Coco, Waspam is the spiritual heart of the ancient Miskito Kingdom. As a trading centre for scores of remote communities up and down the river, it is just the starting point for a rare cultural odyssey that leads deep into a mysterious and extraordinary lost-in-time indigenous world.
A trio of old mining outposts – Bonanza, Rosita and Siuna – offer glimpses into a lawless frontier-land that’s more than a little reminiscent of the Wild West. Thanks to the rising price of gold, these towns are booming again after years of neglect, but still remain isolated with only rough airstrips and a long, painful dirt road (often washed out in the wet season) to connect them with the capital.
Alamikamba lies at the end of the road on the banks of the winding Prinzapolka river. It has experienced numerous episodes of boom and bust serving as an indigenous trading post, river port, ranching centre and hub for banana production. Today it is the seat of government for the local municipality and offers some of the best sport fishing anywhere.
Few places are as wild and untamed as the Reserva de la Biósfera Bosawás, the largest protected area in Nicaragua. The reserve can be accessed from the remote highlands of Jinotega or the equally remote environs of the mining triangle, but neither journey is easy. However, few destinations are so rewarding – the wildlife, forests and scenes of rugged natural beauty are nothing short of spectacular.