North of Matagalpa, the SELVA NEGRA is a stretch of dark blue, pine-clad mountains named by the area’s German immigrants in the nineteenth century after their homeland’s Black Forest, thanks to the physical resemblance and its spring-like climate. An amazing variety of wildlife flourishes in these pristine tropical forests, including more than eighty varieties of orchid, many birds, sloths, ocelots, margay, deer, snakes, mountain lions and howler monkeys.

The trails range from short strolls around the central lake to the thigh-burning La Mosquitia, which ascends to 1570m. It’s perfectly feasible to come up from Matagalpa early in the morning and pack most of them into a day’s hiking.

The owners of the Selva Negra hotel have grown coffee here since 1891, and the finca still produces some of the best export-grade coffee in the country; the estate employs 250 workers, most of whom live nearby. Various tours of the operation run daily, including horseback treks (US$10/hr), and there’s a small museum too.

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