Joan Weber and husband Will founded Journeys International in 1978. Here, Joan explains why Nicaragua is one of her favorite destinations.

Nicaragua is my new love. This is not meant as a demotion for Nepal, who was first, or for Japan, Australia, Costa Rica and Guatemala, which all have special places in my heart and all have pulled me back into their arms multiple times.

It’s a matter of feeling. The mix of nature, culture and scenery is, of course, part of the satisfaction. But here are my ten personal reasons why Nicaragua and I are a great pair…

1. Nicaragua is unpretentious, and I’m a fan of understatement. No huge resorts and tourist complexes. No bureaucracy-heavy rules for things like money-changing, which is done in the open on street corners by approved money changers.

2. Nicaragua has no sense of entitlement. When Nicaragua made it onto the New York Times 2013 list of new top destinations, she was unabashedly thrilled. When Will and I visited shortly after the article appeared, we were asked by waiters, horse cart drivers, boatmen, and passengers seated next to us on the plane if we’d heard the news.

3. León and Granada both call to me. These are beautiful cities, manageable in size, oozing history, art and color. León comes right up to the Pacific. Granada is on the shores of gorgeous, enormous, Lake Nicaragua. “Hermanas y Rivales”— sisters and rivals—was the heading of a magazine story on my recent visit. It’s fun to “get it.”

4. Nicaragua loves poetry and I love poetry. Cities have parks and statues that honor poets. The country’s biggest annual festival is a poetry festival in Granada every February. Every Nicaraguan knows Rubén Darío, and even non-poetry-loving visitors get to know him, too. (Everyone also knows the poet Peréz who became a national hero for assassinating the dictator Somoza.)

5. Nicaraguans love baseball. I happen to love it, too, but all Americans can claim a connection. Know the name of one U.S. baseball team? There’s a conversation starter. Nicaraguans credit the U.S. Marines for bringing them the game in the early 1900s, and for this they are grateful to the U.S. military!

6. Even more than their poetry and their baseball, I love Nicaraguan pottery. Nicaraguan pottery is among the most beautiful I’ve seen in all my travels. The tradition is literally thousands of years old. The colors are deep, the designs inspired by nature, the techniques mix etching and burnishing. Every family in the town of San Juan de Oriente has a kiln.

7. Nicaraguans love to tell their story. And their story is painted on huge murals on city streets. From Somoza to the Sandinistas to the 1987 Peace Accords, it’s all there. Excellent museums and National Parks Visitors Centers also offer up gorgeous murals. I love murals and I love stories.

8. So much beautiful sweet fruit! Fruit + drink = a direct route to my happiness. Once I discovered refrescos, Nicaragua’s blended fruit drinks made with agua pura (pure water), I was hooked. What better lunch? Or pick-me up midday? Or dessert after dinner? Passionfruit, dragonfruit, strawberry, etc. etc. etc. I returned to the Garden Café in Granada three times for their pineapple/lime/coconut refresco. Words don’t do it justice.

9. Nicaraguans make eye contact. They even smile big, and appreciate and forgive our stumbling attempts to try a few words of Spanish. They also graciously, welcomingly, accept our presence without accosting us for sales.

10. Nicaragua isn’t far! It’s close enough to the USA that visits need not be very long or very expensive. Return trips are not only desirable but very possible!

The people of Nicaragua will surely leave an impression on you.