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Sleepy, bedraggled SAN CARLOS, at the southern end of Lago de Nicaragua and the head of the Río San Juan, has to be one of the most unprepossessing towns in the whole country. Despite its position as one of the main transit towns for the lake area, and the odd bit of renovation work around the dockfront, an air of apathy pervades its ramshackle buildings and battered streets. That said, the people are friendly and most visitors end up spending at least one night here – generally en route to the Solentiname archipelago, to El Castillo and points further south along the Río San Juan or to Costa Rica via Los Chiles, although San Carlos itself is an access point to the wild and relatively untouched Los Guatuzos reserve.

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