El Castillo de la Imaculata Concepcion, located on the San Juan river of Nicaragua, was built in the 1670's 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 industry.
The town has about 3000 inhabitants and must be one of the most friendly places in an already welcoming country. Sights include the old castle (well worth a visit), a butterfly farm (fading a little but great staff) and of course visits into the pristine rainforests of the nearby Indio Maiz reserve. It's a must-see for intrepid travellers!
You can get in from San Carlos at the south-east corner of the Lago Nicaragua by boat (Cordobas $75 pp = $4 US).
Boats leave San Carlos at 6:30 am, 8 am, 10:30 (high season), 12:30, 2:30, 4:30
Reading a book in the library which is right inside the castillo. Listen to the sounds of the village and the water running down the river while reading Edouardo Galleanos book Las Venas abiertas de Latinoamerica.
Nena Tours treks in the Indio Maiz reserve, see below. Nena tours are great. They work with the local co-op of guides. They do 4 or 5 hour treks. Our guide was called Orlando and we was very good indeed - he knew all about medicinal plants, spoke good English and was a genius animal spotter. We saw monkeys, caimain, bullet ants, agoutis, toucans and more. Worth knowing that, if you can arrange a boat, you can pitch a tent for free at the ranger station at the mouth of the Rio Bartola. If you are lucky, the rangers will also take you into the reserve. Remember to take food and drink enough for your stay though, as otherwise you'd have to eat in the lodge opposite (which would be pricey and could involve swimming in caiman infested river!) as there are no shops nearby.
Nena Lodge, Main Street (East end). Lovely place in the east end of town not far from Hotel Victoria. This place is basic but clean and the staff are lovely. Rooms have mosquito nets and fans. They also run tours which are potentially much cheaper than if you go through the tourist office by the dock (Nena was $72 for a 5 hour trek for up to 4 people, $18 each assuming you can rope in others, which is half the charge elsewhere). Ask for Orlando as your guide - he was exceptional. $10 dbl.