- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Masaya is a city of artisans, metalworkers, leatherworkers, carpenters, painters, and musicians. In fact, no other region of Nicaragua is as blessed with a sense of artistry and creativity as Masaya and the surrounding villages, called the Pueblos Blancos. Many of the handicrafts found in markets throughout the country are Masayan: handwoven hammocks, terra cotta pottery, musical instruments, and more.
“The City of Flowers,” as Rubén Darío christened the town a century ago (he was talking about the girls, not the flora), rarely garners more than a brief afternoon market visit for most travelers. It is a city relatively devoid of monuments, historical buildings, and traditional sights.
As a market-place however, it is unsurpassed, and wandering through the cool alleys of the crafts markets is a cultural tour through Nicaragua, a vivid expression of this people’s vitality, passion, and creativity. If you are eager to come home from your trip with something special, this is the place to find it.
Adjacent, and an inextricable part not only of the landscape but of the culture is Volcán Masaya. One of the world’s most accessible volcanoes, one of only two on earth where you can drive up to the crater lip and look inside, and Nicaragua’s most thoughtfully planned national park, Volcán Masaya is extremely active. You’ll smell the sulphur when the wind is right. As such it’s a rewarding and memorable experience well worth your time, and possibly one of the top three things to do in Nicaragua.
To the south and west of Masaya the charming Pueblos Blancos are artisan villages whose craftspeople produce what you find in the markets. It’s easy to spend a day visiting their workshops or just enjoying the casual, friendly atmosphere of each town. In particular, the village of Catarina, perched on the crater lip above Laguna de Apoyo enjoys one of the most spectacular vistas in all of Nicaragua.
The Pueblos run into Carazo, another group of small towns, closer to the Pacific, with a pleasant climate and somewhat middle-class feel in a country of economic extremes. Its cooler temperatures favor coffee production, often under the shade of beautiful hardwood trees. The towns of Diriamba and Jinotepe make delightful lunch stopovers on your way through from Managua to Masaya, but both have nice places to stay and Jinotepe’s open-air market is more manageable than most.
A regional turquoise jewel, the Laguna de Apoyo is probably the most pleasant freshwater swimming hole in the country, imbued with both a sense of tranquility and isolation that make more than just the cool lake water refreshing. It’s an easy day trip from Granada, but many choose to stay the night as well, and a growing number of hotels and restaurants make that possible. Unless you are truly water-averse, this delightful place should not be missed.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition