A chronology of key events:
1522 - Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez de Avila names Nicaragua after a local Indian chief, Nicarao.
1523-24 - Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba completes conquest of Nicaragua.
17th-18th centuries - British plunder and extend their influence over the inhabitants of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.
1821 - Nicaragua becomes independent, but is incorporated into the Mexican empire.
1823 - Nicaragua becomes part of the United Provinces of Central America, which also comprises Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
1838 - Nicaragua becomes fully independent.
1860 - British cede control over the country's Caribbean coast to Nicaragua.
1893 - General Jose Santos Zelaya, a Liberal, seizes power and establishes dictatorship.
1909 - US troops help depose Zelaya.
1912-25 - US establishes military bases.
1927-33 - Guerrillas led by Augusto Cesar Sandino campaign against US military presence.
1934 - Sandino assassinated on the orders of the National Guard commander, General Anastasio Somoza Garcia.
Somoza family dictatorship
1937 - General Somoza elected president, heralding the start of a 44-year-long dictatorship by his family.
1956 - General Somoza assassinated, but is succeeded as president by his son, Luis Somoza Debayle.
1961 - Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) founded.
1967 - Luis Somoza dies and is succeeded as president by his brother, Anastasio Somoza.
1972 - Managua is devastated by an earthquake that kills between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
1978 - Assassination of the leader of the opposition Democratic Liberation Union, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, triggers general strike and brings together moderates and the FSLN in a united front to oust Somoza.
Sandinista revolution and US subversion
1979 - FSLN military offensive ends with the ouster of Somoza.
1980 - Somoza assassinated in Paraguay; FSLN government led by Daniel Ortega nationalises and turns into cooperatives lands held by the Somoza family.
1982 - US-sponsored attacks by Contra rebels based in Honduras begin; state of emergency declared.
1984 - Daniel Ortega elected president; US mines Nicaraguan harbours and is condemned by the World Court for doing so.
1987-88 - Nicaraguan leadership signs peace agreement and subsequently holds talks with Contra; hurricane leaves 180,000 people homeless.
1990 - US-backed centre-right National Opposition Union defeats FSLN in elections; Violeta Chamorro becomes president.
1992 - Earthquake renders 16,000 people homeless.
1996 - Arnoldo Aleman elected president.
1998 - Hurricane Mitch causes massive devastation. Some 3,000 people are killed and hundreds of thousands are left homeless.
2000 - FSLN win Managua municipal elections.
2001 November - Liberal party candidate Enrique Bolaños beats his Sandinista party counterpart, former president Daniel Ortega, in presidential election.
2002 March - Opposition Sandinista party re-elects Daniel Ortega as its leader despite his three consecutive defeats since 1990.
2002 August - Former president Arnoldo Aleman charged with money laundering, embezzlement during his term in office.
2003 December - Arnoldo Aleman jailed for 20 years for corruption. A year later he is transferred to house arrest.
2004 January - World Bank wipes 80% of Nicaragua's debt to the institution. President Bolaños says it is the best news for the country in 25 years.
2004 July - Agreement with Russia to write-off Nicaragua's multi-billion-dollar Soviet-era debt.
2005 April - Rises in fuel prices and the cost of living trigger weeks of sometimes-violent street protests.
2005 June - The government and an opposition alliance, which controls Congress, become embroiled in a power struggle. OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza tries to mediate, without success.
2005 October - Political crisis eases as Congress agrees to delay constitutional reforms, which will weaken the powers of the president, until President Bolaños leaves office in 2007.
2006 April - Free trade deal with the US comes into effect. Nicaragua's Congress approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) in October 2005.
2006 October - President Bolaños unveils plans to build a new ship canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
MPs approve a tough new bill that bans abortions, including in cases where the mother's life is at risk.
2006 November - Ex-president Daniel Ortega is returned to power in elections.
2007 October - The International Court of Justice in the Hague settles a long-running territorial dispute between Honduras and Nicaragua.
2009 July - President Ortega announces plans to change the constitution to allow him to stand for another term in office.
2009 October - Constitutional Court lifts ban on president seeking re-election.
2010 November - Tension with Costa Rica over their disputed river border.
2010 December - President Ortega's government was financed by proceeds of the drugs trade, according to Wikileaks' US diplomatic cables.
2011 November - President Ortega is re-elected for another five-year term with a landslide victory in presidential elections.
2012 September - The San Cristobal volcano erupts, prompting the government to order the evacuation of thousands of people northwest of Managua. A powerful earthquake strikes neighbouring Costa Rica at the same time.