La Oferta

September 28, 2023

Nicaragua’s El Castillo, ancient bastion vs. pirates, modern tourist draw

A 341-year-old fortress in southern Nicaragua that was formerly a bastion against English pirates is nowadays a growing tourist attraction.

The town of El Castillo, in southern Rio San Juan province, owes its name to the local fortress – “El Castillo de la Inmaculada Concepcion,” built by the Spanish in 1673-1675 and nowadays one of the little town’s main historical attractions.

“Here is a very quiet town, the people come and go quietly. They like it because they say it’s a safe place and that’s the truth,” the administrator of the El Castillo tourist office, Nubia Hernandez, told EFE.

The remote town is accessible only by small boat and has about 4,000 residents, who make their livings mainly from agriculture, fishing and tourism, the latter of which – little by little – has been picking up steam thanks to good management.

The homes are a little different from those in most rural towns, since in El Castillo they are built on pillars or posts above the river’s regular flood level during the rainy season.

Both domestic and foreign tourists come to the area to make night trips to see caimans on the riverbanks and experience the Indio Maiz nature preserve, more than 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) in area and designated as a biosphere preserve by Unesco in 2003.

It is virtually obligatory to see the local fortress, where – for just $3 – one can visit the museum to learn about the details of life, battle and the people who lived there during the colonial era, as well as to obtain a great view of the river and, in the distance, the nature preserve.

Between 400 and 500 tourists come here each month, mostly from Germany, the United States, Spain and Italy, Hernandez said.