Discover Nicaragua’s Rivas Department

Nicaragua’s Rivas Department consists of the wide isthmus separating Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific Ocean. Featuring a host of natural, cultural and historic attractions, Rivas includes two of the country’s most visited destinations – the volcanic island of Ometepe and the coastal town of San Juan del Sur – the latter being world renowned for its spectacular beaches and superb surfing conditions. La Flor Beach Wildlife Refuge is another attraction within the jurisdiction of the Rivas Department, and it is here that thousands of turtles lay their eggs in the soft sand.

The city of Rivas, the capital of the department and the municipality of the same name, has some attractions visitors may enjoy, including the colonial-style city square featuring a park and the Iglesia Parroquial de San Pedro built in 1863. The fresco in the cupola of the church tells the story of a battle at sea, with Protestantism, secularism and communism depicted as burning ships, with the SS Catholicism sailing victoriously into the harbor. Other religious buildings in Rivas include the 1778 wooden church of Iglesia San Francisco, and the Nuestra Señor de Rescate. The historical and anthropological museum in Rivas displays some taxidermy animals, a display of well-known myths and legends and an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, a great number of which were discovered by the Santa Isabela Archeological Project on the shore of Lake Nicaragua.

Located in Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe Island is a fantastic destination for nature lovers to explore. The name of the island means ‘two hills’ in the Náhuatl language, and that is an apt description of the two volcanoes connected by a small strip of land that make up the island with its lush tropical landscapes, rich biodiversity and impressive archeological history. Judging by the archeological finds on the island, such as petroglyphs, statues and ceramics, it’s clear that over the centuries many different tribes occupied Ometepe at different times. Today, visitors are assured of a warm welcome and an interesting stay. In addition to being one of the oldest towns in Nicaragua, Moyogalpa is the main gateway to Ometepe Island, offering a variety of accommodation options, tour operators and restaurants/cafés. Natural attractions nearby include the Chico Largo Natural Reserve, Punta Jesus Maria lookout point and the Concepcion Volcano.

Internationally conservationists have voiced concern that the proposed Nicaragua Canal joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will negatively impact the natural beauty and essential resources of vast areas of Nicaragua. The proposed canal will take a route up a river from the Atlantic Ocean (precisely which river is still unclear) across Lake Nicaragua (the source of a large percentage of the country’s drinking water) and through a manmade canal across the Rivas Department. The latest news (March 2014) on the inter-oceanic canal is that the contract has been awarded to a Hong Kong-based company called the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND) that is very likely to start construction in 2015.