A map of Nicaragua Nicaragua is the largest country by area in Central America. In the east, an area of hot, swampy rainforest fringes the Caribbean coast, known as the Mosquito Coast. Inland, the land rises to the cooler highlands. Western Nicaragua, bordering the Pacific, is made up of flat lowlands and scattered volcanoes. Most of the country’s people live here; the rich volcanic soil and warm climate provide ideal conditions for farming. Also in this area are two large freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua. Nicaragua lies at the point where two of the Earth’s tectonics plates meet, making it prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Its capital, Managua, was almost completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 1972.
A large number of Nicaraguans are mestizo—of mixed Spanish and Native American descent. Along the Caribbean coast, many more people are descended from Africans who were brought to the Caribbean ports as slaves from the 17th century onwards. These people speak English or Kriol, often with Spanish as a second language.
Lakes Nicaragua and Managua were once bays of the Pacific Ocean.
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