A day trip from Campeche to the Edzna Mayan ruins

I love a good Mayan ruin. If they’re of the lesser-visited variety like Edzná, so much the better. With a few days in the colourful Mexican city of Campeche on the western side of the Yucatán peninsula, a day trip to the Edzná ruins was too big a draw to resist.

Edzna Mayan ruins Campeche main plaza

Look up!

Getting from Campeche to Edzná

Being fans of independent travel and public transport, a tour wasn’t an option for us. However, our outdated Lonely Planet guidebook (note to self: buy the new one – details in the box below) sent us in the direction of a bus stop that clearly hadn’t seen a bus for quite some time. Plan B came into force …

[box type=”info”]Don’t make the mistake we did: Get the up-to-date Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico before you go. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Undeterred, and with the knowledge that Mexico is a country that DOES public transport and that there would be SOME way of getting to Edzná from Campeche, we did the only sensible thing possible: followed the collectivos (combi vans). A short bout of out-of-breath-ness later, this led us to a collective of collectivos all painted in red and white, parked up on Calle Chihuahua near Campeche’s market.

Collectivos are a wonder of Mexican transport, and for me, one of my top tips for travelling in Mexico.

Collectivo drivers are pretty helpful, and a few words of Spanish to explain we were going to the Edzná ruins saw us directed to a Bonfil-bound collectivo for the 55km (approx. 1 hr) journey, departing at 11am.

The ruins are a few hundred metres from the main road, but our driver detoured to drop us right at the entrance once we’d conveyed that’s where we were heading. The journey cost 45 peso per person each way (less than £2).

The Mayan ruins of Edzná

Safely dropped off, we paid the 60 peso per person entrance fee (about £2.50) and began our explorations.

The Mayan city of Edzná was a big deal in its day, particularly between 400 and 1000 AD, when it was the powerful regional capital of the western Yucatán. It was eventually abandoned around 1450 AD.

Its buildings reflect its former grandeur, and we happily hauled ourselves up and down the steep steps to towering platforms for a view over what used to be the main plaza.

Edzná's main plaza, Campeche, Mexico

Edzná’s main plaza

The highest structure is out of bounds for climbing, but the rest were fair game, so we gave our hamstrings a good workout as we posed for photos.

main pyramid, Edzna, Campeche

posing in the foreground of the main pyramid

The early buildings at Edzná are typical of the Petén architectural style (Petén nowadays is a region of northern Guatemala), with later structures showing influences of the Tardíos, Chenes and Puuc. Back in the day, the main limestone structures were often painted dark red. Others had facades adorned with the faces of gods and the mythical animals of the Mayan world. You can read more here on Edzná’s history and architecture here.

The Old Sorceress at Edzná

After the main plaza, we ventured off to the Old Sorceress around a ten-minute walk along a grassy track. But not before having acquired impromptu new hairstyles from the surrounding flora!

Reaching the Old Sorceress was Andrew’s excuse to go full-on Indiana Jones, as he scrambled off up the steep and jungle-covered un-restored pyramid.

Overall, we spent about 2 hours at Edzná, although if you’re less photo-happy than us then an hour-and-a-half would be plenty. Although not completely untouristed, most visitors to Edzná were Mexican, and we spotted a grand total of zero tour groups 🙂

Getting from Edzná back to Campeche

For public transport back from Edzná to Campeche we headed to the main road, and hung out under this road junction sign to flag down a collectivo.

how to get from Edzna to Campeche

you can hang out under this road sign to catch transport back to Campeche

The road isn’t too busy and waiting here meant transport options coming from two directions. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a collectivo coming from Bonfil back to Campeche but you may get an offer of a lift whilst you wait.

[box type=”note”]In our case, a guy in a pick-up truck stopped and offered us a lift back from Edzná to Campeche before the collectivo arrived. From prior research, coupled with my previous experience in this part of Mexico, this didn’t seem out of the ordinary. However, I politely declined as I wanted to make sure the public transport option worked so I could write this article 🙂 On a previous trip to Mexico, after a public transport fail at Uxmal caused by my then sub-par Spanish skills, I gladly accepted the offer of a lift to Mérida, resulting in a very entertaining journey with some delightful Venezuelan puppeteers!

I’m not recommending hitching with strangers. On the rare occasions I have accepted a lift (typically due to a public transport fail!) my hitching safety factors include: travelling with someone, being confident that accepting lifts is fairly “normal” wherever I am, and having a “this is ok” vibe when a vehicle stops for me. Obviously the latter is subjective, but I have turned down lifts when it hasn’t felt right. This is entirely my personal take on hitching. You’ll have your own view as to what’s right for you. If you do take up a lift in this part of Mexico, it’s customary to offer to pay the equivalent of the public transport price.[/box]

Practicalities of visiting the Edzná Mayan ruins

column at Edzna, Campeche, Mexico

silly photo-taking optional 🙂

Location: Around 55km from Campeche

Transport to Edzná: 45 peso collectivo from Calle Chihuahua in Campeche, tour or drive

Entrance fee: 60 peso

Food and drink: There’s no food at Edzná, although there is a vending machine for soft drinks. You can pick up cheap eats at Campeche’s market before or after your journey – we had yummy pork rolls for the grand sum of 20 peso each.

Take with you: Water, sunscreen, insect repellant in the rainy season, change or small notes for the collectivo and entrance fee (avoid 500 notes if you can).

To learn more about Edzná: Check out the museum under the Baluarte de la Soledad and also at the Fuerte de San Miguel in Campeche. Both have archaeological exhibits.

Where to stay: We bedded down at the Hotel Socaire in Campeche, in a room so large you could’ve had a football game in there (we didn’t). It was a fabulous place to stay.

[box type=”info”]Prices, info and exchange rates researched in January 2018. Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission and a big smile if you use them to make a purchase. There’s no extra cost to you for doing so :)[/box]

If you’re in this part of the world, I’d highly recommend the Edzná Mayan ruins as a day trip from Campeche. Have you been, or are you going? Share your experiences below.

How to visit Cacheuta hot springs from Mendoza

Thermal waters + relaxation + mountain backdrop = a recipe for bliss. Here’s how to visit Cacheuta hot springs from Mendoza and what to expect when you get there.

There are hot springs near Mendoza – who knew?

That was my thought when flicking through my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. The hot springs at Cacheuta are around 30km from Mendoza – perfect for a day trip or an overnight jaunt.

What’s at the Cacheuta hot springs?

The hot springs are located on two different sites 1km apart, the Parque de Agua and the Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta. Here’s me getting muddy at the Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta.

 

How to visit the Cacheuta hot springs

Option 1 – a day visit to the Parque de Agua, Cacheuta

A public complex, you pay for the day for access to all the hot springs, pools and lazy river. Everything else, such as food, is extra. It’s popular at the weekends with families from Mendoza, so if you’re after peace and quiet, come during the week.

Prices:

Mon-Fri: AR$ 275.00 / approx. £14 per person
Sat, Sun & holidays: AR$ 295.00 / approx. £15 per person

Option 2 – a day package to the Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta

The Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta is open to the public for pre-booked day packages. There are hot spring pools, a natural cave steam room (yup!), thermal mud, a large pseudo-infinity-style pool and relaxing gardens to enjoy.

outdoors pools at the Termas de Cacheuta hot springs

Outdoor pools. Sun. Mountains. Sigh.

The day package includes a rather fine lunch (carvery, salads, veggies and more; excluding drinks). You can book the day package in Mendoza (hotels/travel agents or directly with them). The package includes a bus shuttle transfer from your central Mendoza accommodation at 8.30-9am.

Price: AR$ 865.00 / approx. £45 per person (may vary slightly by tour company)

Option 3 – a 24-hour spa package at the Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta

As well as the yum-fest lunch, the 24-hour package at the Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta includes an en-suite room, a 30-minute massage, 3-course dinner, breakfast, and a pre-dinner aperitif of wine and nibbles. Other drinks are excluded. You check in before lunch (they’re pretty flexible about arrival/departure times if needed).

We opted for this 24-hour spa package. Hell, it was our honeymoon, so we treated ourselves.

[box]You can reserve your stay at the Hotel & Spa Thermas Cacheuta through booking.com. The price was approx £175 for two. You’ll need to take a wad of cash, or pay or in advance by Visa (a bit of a faff as you need to fill out a form) – the Hotel doesn’t take credit cards on their premises. By booking through the link here I get a small commission and a big smile on my face, and there’s no extra cost to you. Thank you :)[/box]

honeymoon at the Hotel & Spa Termas de Cacheuta hot springs

honeymoon hot spring bliss

Although not cheap, we felt it was VERY good value. The spa complex itself is gorgeous, there are fluffy robes on demand, and the lunch buffet in particular is not to be missed. You also get a choice of three or four dishes for each of the dinner courses – someone will come and find you in the afternoon to run through the options with you. Some staff speak English.

[box type=”info”]Inflation in Argentina runs around 25-40%. Quoted prices and the Argentinian Peso/GBP exchange rates are based on Spring 2017, but could change at any moment :)[/box]

How to get to Cacheuta hot springs by bus

Public buses to the Cachueta hot springs (both the Parque de Agua and the Hotel & Spa Termas de Cacheuta) run every couple of hours from the Mendoza bus terminal with the functional-if-not-fancy Buttini buses. Go to their vending office by stand 56 to buy your tickets and check out timetables before departure. Buses themselves depart from stands 47-49.

The Hotel & Spa Termas Cacheuta is about 1km before the Parque de Agua. Don’t make the same mistake we did by missing your bus stop and having to walk a kilometer back in searing heat with your luggage 😉

[box type=”info”]We used the Lonely Planet Guide to Argentina for our trip. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

We adored our honeymoon treat at the Cacheuta hot springs. It was even better for not having previously known it existed! Which hot springs would you recommend?

How to buy Copper Canyon train tickets

Since March 2016, you can no longer buy Primera (first) class tickets on Mexico’s Copper Canyon train – boo! This post gives details on how to buy your Copper Canyon railway tickets before you travel, without having to pay a USD $100 tour operator premium.

Andrew and I travelled on the Copper Canyon railway in October 2016, from El Fuerte to Creel. Here’s how we managed to get Primera tickets in advance, and some pitfalls to avoid.

copper canyon railway tickets - all aboard!

All aboard!

Do you mean I can’t buy Primera Class Copper Canyon train tickets on the train any more?

That’s right, you can’t. According to our train conductor, the rules changed in March 2016. Previously, you could buy your Copper Canyon railway Primera tickets at the Viajes Flamingo office in Los Mochis, or purchase them on board the train. Advanced purchase was only really seen as necessary during the high seasons of Christmas, Easter and during the Summer.

All of that is no more. Since March 2016, you can only buy Economico class tickets on board the Copper Canyon train.

How not to buy tickets on the Copper Canyon train

Andrew and I journeyed on the Copper Canyon railway (aka El Chepe) from El Fuerte to Creel in October 2016. It was Andrew’s birthday on the day of our trip, and – despite our belief at the time that we didn’t need tickets in advance – we none-the-less wanted them in our hot and sweaty palms to avoid any unexpected birthday surprises!

Oh, how glad we were we made that decision!

copper canyon railway tickets - boarding the train at El Fuerte

Glad, very glad!

How not to buy Copper Canyon train tickets #1 – Email

One week to go: I emailed the address on the El Chepe website (this link is to their new website, which launched in April 2018) in my best patchy Spanish, to ask if you could buy tickets at El Fuerte station or if we could only get them on board. I never got an answer.

How not to buy Copper Canyon train tickets #2 – Turn up at the Viajes Flamingo office in Los Mochis

One day to go: After six hours travel from Mazatlán on an early  morning bus, we stumbled with our backpacks through the near 40oC heat from Los Mochis bus station to the town’s Viajes Flamingo (travel agent) office.

Arriving (slightly sweatily), we were told they no longer sold tickets. Ah! Apparently the only place to get them was at Los Mochis train station, a few miles out of town.

How we (finally) bought our tickets in advance

We found a man with a taxi, who did us a round trip from Los Mochis town centre to the train station for MXN$200 (you could probably knock MXN$20-$40 off that if – by that point – you could be bothered to bargain. I couldn’t. Plus, the taxi driver was very helpful!).

You’re then at the mercy of Los Mochis train station’s opening times (not all day every day and slightly random, from what we could piece together – best to call and check!).

If the ticket office is open, buying them in person at Los Mochis station is easy. You will need to show photo ID, and you can buy tickets for any start/end point station on the Copper Canyon railway.

Two Primera class train tickets one-way from El Fuerte to Creel cost MXN$2509 (about £100 as at February 2017).

Relieved, we got our taxi to drop us off at Los Mochis 2nd class bus station to hop on a bus to El Fuerte for the 2 hour MXN$50 journey. The Copper Canyon train departs from Los Mochis at 6am and from El Fuerte at around 8am, so this option gives you an extra 2 hours in bed! Plus, El Fuerte is really pretty.

[box type=”info”]Our bed in El Fuerte was at the rather lovely and very reasonably priced Hotel la Choza. It’s very centrally located, with a tasty restaurant menu to boot. If you use this link to book the hotel, I receive a small commission and a big smile, at no extra cost to you. Thank you :)[/box]

copper canyon railway tickets - El Fuerte

Pretty El Fuerte – literally “The Strong!”

Other ways to buy your Copper Canyon railway tickets before you travel

By phone – here’s the page with the numbers. You need to call at least two days before your journey. According to the train conductor, and another couple we spoke to, this option works! If we were to travel again, this is what we would do.

By internet – not really. There’s (currently) no online booking facility on El Chepe’s website (yes, their new website says there is, but … where?). If you want to pay USD$100 extra per reservation, however, there are tour agencies who can help you out.

By email – as described earlier – don’t bother!

What if I haven’t bought my Copper Canyon train ticket in advance? Can I blag it?

The short answer: Maybe. But don’t count on it!

The longer answer: If you sweet-talk the conductor they MAY let you buy a Primera ticket on board. This is more likely during low season – see the info box below. However (having seen a couple negotiate to do this over more than an hour during our October trip), this was only because the rules had recently changed and hadn’t / still haven’t been well publicised. Now more time has passed, the helpful conductors may not have the latitude to be this accommodating.

If you fail, you’ll be moved to Economico class.

[box type=”info”]March 2018 update: A reader rode the Copper Canyon railway this February. They travelled Economico (aka Regional), but said they spoken to passengers in Primera who had been able to buy tickets on board because it was low season AND the train wasn’t fully booked. If you are 100% set on travelling Primera and would be upset at being moved to Economico, you may decide this isn’t worth the risk. If any reader tries this option, please do let me know how you get on in the comments below so I can amend the article and keep future travellers updated. Thank you 🙂

The newly relaunched Chepe website (April 2018) only talks about buying in advance – up to four months beforehand in high season for both Primera and Economico. The relevant pages for the small print are here and here.[/box]

The day we travelled, Primera and Economico classes were two parts of the same train, so you could try your luck blagging a Primera ticket and then move to Economico if you aren’t able to buy one on board.

However, on other days (here’s a schedule) the Economico train is a completely different train that runs an hour or more behind the Primera train. You may have a fair wait if you get kicked off!

What’s the difference between Primera and Economico classes?

Primera Class on the Copper Canyon Railway

Primera Class

In Primera you get a bit of commentary from the bilingual conductor. You also get more leg room.

Primera has a dining car serving breakfast and lunch (I can recommend the breakfast chilaquiles). Prices for food are inflated, but not stupidly so. Breakfast dishes were around MXN$100-130 pesos, coffee MXN$30.

The downside of Primera is that you’re not allowed to take your own food on to the train. However, you can grab a quick late lunch snack in the short stop from the food vendors at Divisadero station. In Economico you can bring your own food on board.

An advantage of Economico is that locals using the train for public transport purposes aren’t so fussed about stunning views – they’ve seen them all before! It’s therefore easier to grab an inter-car vestibule and snap those all-important out-of-window-train-moving pics!

taking pictures from the Copper Canyon railway

Takin’ a picture takin’ a picture of the world outside the train

And … Copper Canyon train tickets are about half the price in Economico.

After all that effort, is the Copper Canyon railway worth it?

Absolutely! It’s a wonderful experience. And stunning! But that’s a story for another post …

Have you travelled on the Copper Canyon railway recently? How did you buy your ticket? If you know of any updates on ticketing, do share your tips in the comments below 🙂

How to visit volcanoes in Nicaragua without breaking (much of) a sweat

If you’re after large dose of volcano without an overdose of activity, here’s how to visit volcanoes in Nicaragua without breaking (too much of) a sweat.

If volcanoes are your world then Nicaragua is your oyster. Situated where the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates collide, the country is home to some 19 volcanoes, at least three of which have erupted since 2007!1

As a visitor, your volcano-ventures can come as with as much or as little adrenaline as you want, all with a side-order of stupendous photo opportunities.

Volcano-lite: Admire the volcanoes of Nicaragua from a distance

Grab a view point and admire those smoking summits from a distance. Top locations for spotting volcanoes in Nicaragua from a distance include:

The roof of León cathedral (entrance fee $3)

visit volcanoes in Nicaragua - view from Leon cathedral

It’s a volcano-tastic view from Leon cathedral

The ferry from San Jorge to the twin-volcanoed Volcán Concepción and Volcán Maderas island of Ometepe (ferry cost $2-3), or cycling / kayaking around Ometepe (kayak rental around $5 p/hr or $15 p/day)

The flight from Managua to San Carlos with La Costeña (around $75 one-way)

Stretch your legs at Volcán Masaya

You can drive right up to the crater of smoky Volcán Masaya; and hike a further 20 minutes or so in a couple of different directions (one of which is steep) to see the crater from above. Time it for sunset for some monster vistas.

visit volcanoes in Nicaragua - Volcan Masaya at sunset

Volcan Masaya at sunset. Oh yes.

Sunset’s also the time for checking out the lava-tube caves, home to thousands of bats.

visit volcanoes in Nicaragua - Volcan Masaya lava tubes

lava tubes at Volcan Masaya. Pretty cool.

Tours (around $15) combine sunset and caves for a spooky and smoky adventure.

Workout in the dark at Volcán Telica

The Telica sunset tour (around $25-40, depending on number of participants) features some hiking, a spectacular sunset and red-hot lava. It’s a popular choice from León.

Telica’s road access could be generously described as a 4WD dirt road. Expect bumps. Large bumps.

After the spine-shattering journey, you’ll be ready for an uphill jaunt. 45 minutes of up on the exposed (read: hot) trail brings you to the smoking crater, with views out to other volcanoes in Nicaragua that make up the Ring of Fire.

A further 20 minutes hike and you’re at a stupendous sunset view point, with the orange and red light of the setting sun filling the valley floor below to the brim.

Then it’s back up to the crater (another 20 minutes or so) to see the distant glowing lava in the crater below, before completing a torch procession back down the path in the dark.

More active adventures

For more active escapades involving volcanoes in Nicaragua, you can summit the 1,700 metre+ Volcán Concepción on the island of Ometepe, volcano board down the black ash of Cerro Negro, or trek the 1,300 metre+ peak of Volcán Mombacho.

Whether your desire is to conquer or to photograph, between Nicaragua’s 19 volcanoes, there’s sure to be one for you!

1. Source: Wikipedia.

Have you visited an active volcano? Where was it, and what made the experience memorable? Share your story below.

My top 9 travel tips for Nicaragua

Grab a cuppa coffee – or a fine batido (smoothie) – and read my top 9 travel tips for Nicaragua, an often-overlooked slice of Central America …

Nicaragua has a spirit you can feel. World-class wildlife and a growing eco-tourism movement combine with a cacophony of noise, and locals who aren’t afraid to talk politics. It makes for a destination with more fire and passion than the country’s plethora of volcanoes.

The environment – travel tips for Nicaragua

1. Wildlife: embrace the wild side

There’s a whole lot of wildlife going on in Nicaragua, making it a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. Monkeys, colourful parakeets and magpies with long blue tail feathers, bats, random trees with spikes, cacti, something that looks like a giant guinea pig whose name I haven’t learnt yet …

Stop and listen for a while when you’re out walking. The forest is a magical place, full of life. I saw a skunk in the wild there. Or at least I think it was a skunk – I wasn’t getting too close to check 🙂

And let’s not forget the landscape for all that wildlife. Volcanoes abound!

my 9 top travel tips for Nicaragua - Volcan Telica crater - volcano Nicaragua

Yup, that is the smoking crater of a volcano – this one’s Volcan Telica, near León.

Who knew Nicaragua was such a wildlife and nature haven? Which brings me onto number two …

2. Show the eco-tourism movement some love

With a growing eco-tourism movement comes a choice of eco-friendly places to stay. Think solar panels, composting toilets, recycling practices, and filtered water refills; all coupled with blissful vista’d locations.

my top 9 travel tips for Nicaragua - Esteli

Eco-friendly fincas boast views like this!

In many respects, Nicaragua seems to be going through an upsurge in environmental awareness (aside from an annoying habit of lazily-tossing rubbish from bus windows). Whether this is the result of improved education, opposition against the environmental and social impacts of the Nicaraguan Canal project, or something else entirely, who knows?

As visitors we can lead by example, and stay in some truly unique places at the same time.

3. Pack earplugs

Nicaragua is a country that gets up early. After a month, the best lie-in I’ve managed is 7.45am. It messes with my “not a morning person” sensibilities, but I’ve learnt to embrace it. Cockerels (roosters), buses pomping their horns, parrots, dogs … all will do their best to wake you up before 7am. I can’t emphasise this Nicaragua travel tip enough – take earplugs 🙂

9 travel tips for Nicaragua - mind the chickens

Chickens. They may well wake you up.

Getting around – Nicaragua travel tips

4. Buses – catch ‘em from where they originate

Many inter-city journeys in Nicaragua are only a couple of hours long, so don’t discount the good old chicken bus. They’re also very handy for days out.

The attendant will collect your fare, and – if you’re travelling from the buses’ originating point to its final destination – will fix your luggage to the roof rack.

My top tip – catch a bus at its origin point if you can – doubly true if you have luggage. That way you’ll get a seat.

Popular inter-city destinations are also served by minibuses, which will cost a little bit more (we’re talking about $0.50).

The pros: you’ll definitely get a seat, and they don’t stop at every lamppost.
The con: they don’t all have luggage racks so your rucksack may end up on your knees.

5. Get ready to share your taxi

Taxis in Nicaragua are collective, and will pick up and drop off passengers heading in (vaguely) the same direction en-route. Don’t let the prospect of getting into/sharing a cab with complete strangers freak you out, although local advice would suggest avoiding it in Managua. Journeys are very cheap (10-20 cordobas, or around $0.40-$0.80 per city journey).

[box type=”info”]I used the Lonely Planet Guide to Nicaragua for my two-month journey through this beautiful country. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Food and drink – travel tips for Nicaragua

6. Eat the local food

OK, so you’re probably not visiting Nicaragua for the cuisine. But there’s some hearty local food to be enjoyed.

A “Nica” breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans mixed together), scrambled eggs, plantain and cheese is a top Nicaragua travel tip recommendation of mine, and makes a fine way to start the day.

You’ll find plenty of other typical local foods on offer, at a fraction of the price of more western cuisine: Roast chicken – goooooood. Fried plaintain crisps (chips) – gooooooood! Random sweet breads sold by ladies at bus stations – goooooood. Bags of unidentifiable fruit pieces served with a dash of chili, lime and salt – delish! Give the local food a go!

7. Get your smoothie on and/or relax in coffee heaven

You can always find a freshly squeezed fruit smoothie, known as a batido in Nicaragua.

You can get ‘em made with juice (jugo)/water, milk (leche), and sometimes with ice-cream (helado) too. In markets, street stands, juice bars, and on café and restaurant menus, fruity goodness is never too far away.

I now have a serious batido addiction.

Nicaragua is also home to some damn fine coffee. My best cup so far? At the Coffee Museum in Matagalpa, the northern highlands.

my top 9 travel tips for Nicaragua - drink the coffee

Selva Negra near Matagalpa is a working finca, complete with coffee plantations

Local people – Nicaragua travel tips

8. Learn some Spanish

Here’s a plea from the heart: For the love of God, learn some Spanish (the country has plenty of Spanish language schools such as La Mariposa, where I spent two weeks). English isn’t widely spoken, although some guides / accommodations will speak it.

Be warned though, slang is prevalent. Even the newspaper had words that confounded my dictionary. “Chele/chela” is used a lot to describe pale skin, of anyone or anything. I met a guy with a gorgeous white horse called La Chela.

In a nutshell, knowing at least some “tourist Spanish”, particularly if you’re travelling independently, is pretty much essential.

9. Say “hola”, have a chat and maybe even meet some former revolutionaries!

Being friendly costs nothing, and a quick “hola” can go a long way. For the most part, people are friendly, although solo female travellers may be on the receiving end of random declarations of love from men they haven’t even had a conversation with (I just ignored these).

my top 9 travel tips for Nicaragua - meet some revolutionaries!

These guys, in the Museum of the Revolution in Leon, are more than happy to talk politics!

A good natter isn’t hard to come by. People here are good conversationalists – they have opinions about politics, the Nicaraguan Canal project, different countries, and aren’t afraid to discuss them. You might even meet some former revolutionaries! This all helps to get under the skin of Nicaragua a little more, and to confound a few perceptions.

From the coffee-picker who had studied English via a correspondence course with the University of Birmingham in the UK, to the retired biologist expressing his views on Margaret Thatcher before picking me some fresh mandarins, just two more examples of how the spirit of Nicaragua is very much alive and kicking.

What would you add to these 9 travel tips for Nicaragua? Have you travelled there, or considered it?