Northern Highlands

The lush cloud forests, fields of coffee plantations and brightly coloured flower farms of the northern highlands stand in stark contrast to the parched plains of the south.

The highlands are peaceful and lush: a patchwork of forests and farmlands, tiny hamlets, and small towns with a church, a square and a market. It's a very peaceful and welcoming region. In the late 19th century German immigrants to Nicaragua were offered 350ha of land and 25,000 coffee trees free. This ensured the large-scale cultivation of coffee in Nicaragua at a time when Central American beans were considered the best in the world. Today, most of the nation's coffee is grown here and some of the coffee farms now operate as agrotourism lodges.

In the heart of this region lies Selva Negra, a mountain resort with a private cloud forest and sustainable coffee plantation on the way to Jinotega. Here coffee husks are converted to bio-gas that is used for cooking, and worm-rich humus is grown to replace chemical fertilizers. There are a number of trails through their 70 year old secondary cloud forest, which is home to agouti, howler monkeys, dear, sloth, puma and ocelot, quetzal, toucan, trogon and hummingbirds.

Birding is in its infancy in the highlands, but the auguries are good.

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Other parts of Nicaragua