Geography of Nicaragua

Learn the Geography of Central America's Nicaragua

Granada Nicaragua Images

Nicaragua is a country located in Central America to the south of Honduras and north of Costa Rica. It is the largest country by area in Central America and its capital and largest city is Managua. One-quarter of the country's population lives in the capital. Like many other countries in Central America, Nicaragua is known for its high levels of biodiversity and unique ecosystems.

Fast Facts: Nicaragua

  • Official Name: Republic of Nicaragua
  • Capital: Managua
  • Population: 6,085,213 (2018)
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Cordoba (NIO)
  • Form of Government: Presidential republic
  • Climate: Tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
  • Total Area: 50,336 square miles (130,370 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Mogoton at 6,840 feet (2,085 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

History of Nicaragua

Nicaragua's name comes from its native peoples that lived there in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Their chief was named Nicarao. Europeans did not arrive in Nicaragua until 1524 when Hernandez de Cordoba founded Spanish settlements there. In 1821, Nicaragua gained its independence from Spain.

Following its independence, Nicaragua underwent frequent civil wars as rival political groups struggled for power. In 1909, the United States intervened in the country after hostilities grew between Conservatives and Liberals due to plans to build a trans-isthmian canal. From 1912 to 1933, the U.S. had troops in the country to prevent hostile actions toward Americans working on the canal there.

In 1933, U.S. troops left Nicaragua and Nation Guard Commander Anastasio Somoza Garcia became president in 1936. He attempted to keep strong ties with the U.S. and his two sons succeeded him in office. In 1979, there was an uprising by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the Somoza family's time in office ended. Shortly thereafter, the FSLN formed a dictatorship under leader Daniel Ortega.

The actions of Ortega and his dictatorship ended friendly relations with the U.S. and in 1981, the U.S. suspended all foreign aid to Nicaragua. In 1985, an embargo was also placed on trade between the two countries. In 1990 due to pressure from within and outside of Nicaragua, Ortega's regime agreed to hold elections in February of that year. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro won the election.

During Chamorro's time in office, Nicaragua moved toward creating a more democratic government, stabilizing the economy and improving human rights issues that had occurred during Ortega's time in office. In 1996, there was another election and the former mayor of Managua, Arnoldo Aleman, won the presidency.

Aleman's presidency, however, had severe issues with corruption and in 2001, Nicaragua again held presidential elections. This time, Enrique Bolanos won the presidency and his campaign pledged to improve the economy, build jobs and end government corruption. Despite these goals, however, subsequent Nicaraguan elections have been marred with corruption and in 2006 Daniel Ortega ​Saavdra, an FSLN candidate, was elected.

Government of Nicaragua

Today Nicaragua's government is considered a republic. It has an executive branch made up of a chief of state and a head of government, both of which are filled by the president and a legislative branch comprised of a unicameral National Assembly. Nicaragua's judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court. Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two autonomous regions for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is considered the poorest country in Central America and as such, it has very high unemployment and poverty. Its economy is based mainly on agriculture and industry, with its top industrial products being food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, and wood. Nicaragua's main crops are coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, and beans. Beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products, shrimp, and lobster are also large industries in Nicaragua.​

Geography, Climate, and Biodiversity of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a large country located in Central America between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its terrain is mostly coastal plains that eventually rise up to interior mountains. On the Pacific side of the country, there is a narrow coastal plain dotted with volcanoes. The climate of Nicaragua is considered tropical in its lowlands with cool temperatures at its higher elevations. Nicaragua's capital, Managua, has warm temperatures year-round that hover around 88 degrees (31˚C).

Nicaragua is known for its biodiversity because rainforest covers 7,722 square miles (20,000 sq km) of the country's Caribbean lowlands. As such, Nicaragua is home to large cats like the jaguar and cougar, as well as primates, insects, and a plethora of different plants.

More Facts About Nicaragua

• Nicaragua's life expectancy is 71.5 years.
• Nicaragua's Independence Day is September 15.
• Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua but English and other native languages are also spoken.


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Nicaragua." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Briney, Amanda. (2023, April 5). Geography of Nicaragua. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Nicaragua." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).