El Castillo

Travel Guide Central America Nicaragua El Castillo

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Introduction

El Castillo is a town in Rio San Juan department of Nicaragua. El Castillo de la Imaculata Concepcion, located on the San Juan river of Nicaragua, was built in the 1670s to protect Lake Nicaragua and its ports, mainly Granada and Leon. Construction began shortly after an attempt was made by the pirate Gallardito to take control of the port of Granada and all the profits gained by its trade. A popular story told locally is of Rafaela Herrera, the fortress's commandant's daughter, that repelled an English invading fleet in her nightgown. A couple of years later a young Horatio Nelson tried to conquer the fort and initially succeeded but had to leave due to almost all of his soldiers (probably including himself) getting yellow fever (not a concern in this area any more). Shortly thereafter the Spanish took the empty fort back.

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Sights and Activities

  • Indio Maiz national park - This national park covers a large region ranging from just beyond El Castillo to San Juan del Norte (aka San Juan de Nicaragua) and northwards. Typically it is visited either in a day trip from El Castillo, or by staying at the Refugio Bartola on the edge of the park. There are plentiful guides providing such trips from El Castillo and the Refugio, who will provide you with the requisite rubber boots. Visitors will see verdant and varied rain forest vegetation, and are very likely to also see various types of monkey, leaf cutter ants, poison dart frogs, and plentiful bird life, with other wildlife sightings possible.
  • Rapids of the Rio San Juan (called raudal el diabolo) that made El Castillo a strategic place to build a fortress
  • Just a few kilometers downriver from El Castillo you can see Costa Rica (i.e. the Rio San Juan's right or southern bank; the river itself in a political oddity belongs to Nicaragua entirely). They are constructing a new road right next to the river which has been controversial because of its (very visible) impact on the environment.
  • Fortress (From the main road, head upwards (away from the river) and follow the signs). The fortress is crumbling a bit, but it offers great views of the river and the rapids that made this place a strategic location for a fortress in the first place Admission US$2, camera permit US$1.

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Getting There

You can get in from San Carlos at the south-east corner of the Lago Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca) by boat (C$75 pp = US$4).

Boats leave San Carlos at 6:30 am, 8:00am, 10:30 (high season), 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30. For the first boat, book the day before, as it might be full already if you are too late. You can buy tickets at the muelle municipal half a block from the market, which also serves as San Carlos' bus terminal.

From San Juan del Norte the boat to San Carlos (once weekly 6 or 12 hours, depending on type of service and season) also passes El Castillo and stops upon request.

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Getting Around

El Castillo is walkable and doesn't have any cars. The locals aren't used to cycling (though it is not explicitly prohibited) and there are none for rent.

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Eat

River shrimp (Camarones del Rio) are very popular and quite cheap. However, they are not available year-round, as the government protects them (usually from February to April).

  • Casa de Huésped – Restaurante Chinandegano, De la Iglesia Católica 190 metros al sureste, ☎ +505 83816493. doubles as a guesthouse.
  • Restaurante Ranchón Las Vegas de San Juan, Frente al Puesto Militar del Castillo, ☎ +505 86663679.
  • Restaurante Daryzu, Frente al Minisúper San Antonio, ☎ +505 84489170.

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Drink

Drink the natural fruit drinks at Border's Coffee. The owner (a Nicaraguan) is very proud to say that they are made without water or sugar, and they are very delicious.

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Sleep

Several Hotels in the area are actually somewhere along the river or in the town of Sabalos close by. Some have their own pier. If you know where you are going to stay in advance just tell the captain of the boat and (s)he will drop you off right at the doorstep.

  • Montecristo River Lodge, Frente Isla Sombrero de Cuero (Boca de Sabalos, El Castillo, Rio San Juan), ☎ +505 8649 9012. Check-in: anytime, check-out: anytime. All inclusive: Room, all meals, use of horses, canoes, kayak, trails, fishing gear. US$75.
  • Hotel Victoria, Iglesia Católica, 200 metros al Suroeste, ☎ +505 2583 0188, e-mail: hotelvictoriaelcastillo@gmail.com. single US$35 double US$60.
  • Posada del Río, De la Iglesia Católica 250 metros al sureste, ☎ +505 84059998, e-mail: hotelposadadelrio42@yahoo.com. US$20 incl. breakfast.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes can be found in most larger cities and popular areas, but even in smaller towns you will usually be able to connect somewhere.
Wifi is generally free at most hotels, with the notable exception of larger chain hotels, which generally charge between US$3 and US$8 per day.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international phone code of Nicaragua is 505. The general emergency number is 911, though you can contact police (118), fire (115) and ambulance (128) separately if you want.

Nicaragua's cell phone system utilizes GSM 1900 technology. So, if you have a GSM phone that supports the 1900 band you can either use your phone as is at international rates or if your cell phone is unlocked , you can purchase a SIM card for your phone and you will have a local cell number and be charged local cell rates. Both Claro and Movistar provide cell phone service in the country. Claro is run by the old national phone company (ENITEL) that has now been privatized.

Another option is to buy a cell phone locally. Disposable cell phones are quite inexpensive, usually costing about US$20.

You can also purchase local prepaid phone cards that can be used at pay phone across the country. The different pay phone systems each have their own phone cards, so pay attention to which type you purchase.

Post

Correos de Nicaragua provides postal services. It's fairly cheap but not extremely reliable or fast. Post offices are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 6:00 pm and Saturday from 8:00am to 1:00pm. Airmail postage for a standaard letter or postcard from Nicaragua to North America is US0.60 and US$1 to Europe. Mail takes on average between 7 and 10 days to get to the U.S. and Europe. Though it's fine for sending a postcard, you'd better use companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx to send parcels internationally.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 10:11 on Feb 9, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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