TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN NICARAGUA
Should you ever decide to leave Bahia del Sol and San Juan del Sur (many would wonder why you would want to!), there are many interesting historical, cultural, and just plain wonderful places to see. Here are just a few:
Granada: Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city that has existed in its current location in the continental Americas. Granada is located on the west coast of Lake Nicaragua, about 29 miles from Managua.
Some 350 little islands, or isletas, were created many years ago when nearby Mombacho volcano erupted. Boat tours of the isletas are available.
Visitors to Granada will be treated to colonial architecture, a bustling city square, a wide variety of restaurants and internet cafes, and accommodations to fit every need and budget.
One of the earliest and most important colonial buildings in Central America, the Convent and Church of San Francisco, is located in Granada. Founded in 1529, the convent is now a museum and contains part of the pre-Columbian statuary of Nicaragua.
Other activities you may want to plan while visiting Granada include taking a horse drawn carriage from the Parque Colon, experiencing the Noches de Serenata (Serenade Nights) that include local cuisine and a variety of musical groups, or touring the Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve.
Masaya: If it’s folklore and crafts and a big dose of Nicaraguan culture you’re looking for, Masaya is a great place to visit. Located about 12 miles from Managua, Masaya is the home to the largest craft market in the country. Every Thursday, a folk fair offers native music and dance and showcases many traditional crafts and folk art items such as hammocks, embroidered dresses, leatherwork, and pottery. Visitors may also want to stop by the crafts workshops in the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbo, where the skilled craftspeople will show you how they create their works of art.
Nearby tourist attractions include the Masaya Volcano National Park, the Masaya and Apoyo Crater Lakes, and the El Chocoyero-El Brujo Reserve.
Ometepe: Ometepe is an island located in Lake Nicaragua across from the shores of San Jorge. Its size – 106 square miles – renders it the largest lake island in Central America. Another distinguishing fact about Lake Nicaragua is that it is the only freshwater habitat for sharks in the world.
The majority of Ometepe’s inhabitants are direct descendents of the Nahuas, or the indigenous people that populated Nicaragua before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers.
According to the web site of the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism, or INTUR, (www.visit-nicaragua.com) the name Ometepe, comes from the Nahuatl word “ometepetl” which means “two hills”. Two majestic volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, rise out of the island
Concepcion is 5,282 feel above sea level while Maderas rises 4,396 feet above sea level. They are united by a small isthmus called Istian. Water sports, fishing, and hikes that put you in contact with the island’s rich flora and fauna are some of the activities available on Ometepe. Visitors will find petroglyphs and statues on Ometepe that are an important part of Nicaragua’s pre-Columbian treasure.
You may reach Ometepe by taking a ferry departing from the port of San Jorge. Boats also depart from the pier in Granada. Once on the island, tourist may choose to travel by mountain bike or horseback on the slopes of the two volcanoes, climbing to the lakes within the extinct craters.
Managua: Managua is an often overlooked tourist destination. For foreigners living in Nicaragua, it is a virtual cornucopia of treasures that are difficult to find in some of the smaller villages. Managua also has a rich and colorful history and heritage that may be seen in today’s statues, landmarks, and festivals.
Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and has grown from a small city to a metropolis with an estimated population of one million people. Nicaragua gained its independence from the Spanish Crown in 1821; Managua became a city in 1846 and the capital of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1852.
The name Managua comes from the Nahuatl "managuac", and means “Surrounded by Lakes”; it is commonly know as “the Bride of Xolotlan” (the Nahuatl name for Lake Managua), according to the INTUR web site.
The following, which may be found on INTUR’s web site, provide some tips to tourists wishing to sightsee in Managua:
On the shores of Lake Xolotlan, Managua offers some interesting sights:
The Musical Fountain offers a spectacle of lights and Nicaraguan folkloric music everyday at dusk. It is bounded by the modern Presidential Building to the north and the Palace of Culture to the south. The latter houses the National Museum, as well as valuable murals. On the east side is Santiago Cathedral, partially destroyed by the 1972 earthquake. However, it is still possible to appreciate the architectural beauty of its interior.
A few steps away, you will find the handsome engraved marble fountain honoring the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario. Directly north and a few meters toward the lake, is the Ruben Dario National Theater, a place of intense artistic and cultural activity. Through the enormous glass windows of the hall, you can appreciate the beauty and immensity of the lake and the Momotombo and Momotombito Volcanoes. To the west is the statue honoring the “Liberator” Simon Bolivar and to the east is the Parque de La Paz, (Peace Park) with its large obelisk.
The Loma de Tiscapa (Tiscapa Hill) is an interesting site to visit, offering a fabulous view of the city and the lake, especially at dusk. To the west are the famous Huellas de Acahualinca (Footprints of Acahualinca), testimony to the flight of thousands of animals and the first human inhabitants more than 10,000 years ago, during the eruption of a volcano in the area.
To the south of the Tiscapa Crater Lake, along the Avenida Ruben Dario, are most of the modern buildings of Managua, including the new Catedral de la Purísima Concepción (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) and the Ruben Dario Fountain, splendidly illuminated at night, along with large shopping centers, hotels and offices.
The high quality of artists means that visitors should not miss the art galleries and the Central Market, also known as the Roberto Huembes Market where there is a great selection of national crafts.
The “Festival of Music and Youth” is celebrated in February, the festival of Managua’s patron saint, Santo Domingo de Guzman, is held in August, and the Feast of La Purísima (the Immaculate Conception of Mary), patroness of Nicaragua, is celebrated in December. See calendar.