The wonderful Miraflor nature reserve, 28km northeast of Estelí, covers 206 square kilometres of forest, part of which is farmed by a group of agricultural co-ops – more than five thousand locals currently produce coffee, potatoes, milk, cheese and exotic flowers in and around the protected area. One of the project’s main aims is to find sustainable ways in which farming and environmental protection can coexist; the emphasis is firmly upon community-centred tourism.
The reserve itself comprises several different ecosystems, ranging from savanna to tropical dry forest and humid cloudforest. To best appreciate this diversity it’s advisable to stay for at least two or three days, either walking or horseriding between the zones and staying with different families each night – a very satisfying back-to-basics experience. Guides can take you to waterfalls, swimming spots, viewpoints, flower gardens and caves once inhabited by the ancient Yeluca and Cebollal mountain peoples. In terms of flora and fauna, Miraflor is one of the richest reserves in the country, with over three hundred species of bird including quetzal, guardabarranco (the national bird of Nicaragua) and urraca, a local type of magpie, as well as howler monkeys and reclusive mountain lions. There are also over two hundred species of orchid.