The North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) is the largest department in Nicaragua. It comprises a large jungle that goes from the mountains and valleys of the Northern and Central region of the country to the elongated coast of the Caribbean Sea, which is a sequence of deltas, swamps, beaches and coastal lagoons. There are diverse natural and cultural attractions in this sparsely populated region, such as old indigenous communities, rain forests, pine forests, white sandy beaches, keys and much more.
Just as the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), this is an interesting multiethnic zone with a variety of indigenous communities of ancient origin, who still preserve their own language and traditions depending on the contemporary influence of the inhabitants of the Pacific region. The major ethnic group are the 'Miskitos', followed by the Mayagna or Sumus and the Creoles (African origin). The 'Mestizos' come from the Pacific region and have a strong presence in the area.
The local administrative center is the city of Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas. This city-port has a rustic ambiance, but it represents a major fishing spot that also includes hotels, restaurants and nightlife establishments, in addition to a great variety of seafood. Bilwi is a good starting point to organize trips to some picturesque indigenous villages, beaches and wide coastal lagoons in wild state, which are common in the region. An important cultural event is the King Pulanka Festival, which is celebrated by the Miskitos.
The Miskito Keys, located about 50 kilometers from Bilwi (in open sea), are one of the major attractions of the region. This is a group of 70 small islands and islets featuring mangroves, coral reefs, algae banks, white sandy beaches and crystal waters, in addition to an incredible variety of marine life and sea birds. This area was also declared Marine Biological Reserve, and comprises a large area that extends to the mainland.
Other important reserves, constituted by the towns of Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza, can be visited in the mining area of RAAN, which is mainly inhabited by indigenous communities. The area is mostly used for gold mining. Moreover, the enormous Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, which is also shared with the department of Jinotega, is also located here, and features another interesting site: the Cerro Saslaya Reserve. Moreover, another interesting sites of virgin nature are the mountains of Cola Blanca and Banacruz.
There are many other destinations in this department of 7 municipalities. The area of Prinzapolka, Sandy Bay and the remote indigenous communities of Waspán are some of the examples. Due to the characteristics of the region (jungle), this is a destination for adventure and nature lovers. It is worth to mention that transportation is rather problematic because of the distance between communities, as well as the state of the routes. This is part of the reason why the Atlantic Coast was never colonized by Spain, but was always a territory for indigenous tribes and pirates.