Masaya lies 29 km southeast of Managua, and is the folkloric and crafts centre of Nicaragua, home to more artisans than any other place in the country. The town is in almost constant celebration with religious festivals, including Central America's longest party, the
festival. Running for three months from 30 September, the festival includes traditional dancing, music and countless processions. Every Thursday the
Jueves de Verbena
is a smaller festival with dancing, eating and drinking late into the night. The
in the craft market near the music stage is helpful (mostly Spanish spoken).
Local handicrafts are sold in the market near the bus station and in the new
Centro de Artesanías
(closed Sundays) in the old market (also called the Centro Cultural Antiguo Mercado de Masaya). The newly restored 19th-century market was ruined during the Revolution. The 'new' market is very popular with Nicaraguans and sells excellent hammocks, leather work, colourful woven rugs and furniture. The artisan market has concerts every Thursday night with food, free admission and a range of musical and dance acts. This is the best place to see one of Masaya's more than 30 professional folkloric dance troops. The 'old' market, close to the bus park, is marginally cheaper but crowded, dirty and not recommended. Masaya is also the centre for Nicaraguan rocking chairs, which can be bought packed for transporting by air. The best place for local craftwork is the barrio of
. On Avenida los Leones you find several
, where you can order a tailor-made guitar.
Fifteen minutes from Masaya is
, named after its former chief represented by a statue in the Parque Central. Known as the city of myths and legends, it is one of the oldest settlements in Nicaragua with evidence of over 3000 consecutive years of habitation. It is so rich in ceramic history that its small museum, the privately owned
, has one of the country's most impressive pre-Columbian collections and Spanish colonial relics. It is run by the wife of the founder who will show you around. The town suffered in the Revolution of 1978 to 1979 and in Masaya you can visit the
. Another museum, 45 minutes' walk from Plaza Central (ask directions), is that of
Museo de Héroes y Mártires
, which has exhibits on recent history.
Laguna de Masaya
is at the foot of Volcán Masaya; water is too polluted for swimming, but there is a good view of the town.
is also nearby.
Just outside Masaya to the north, on the road from Managua, is an old hilltop fortress,
, also called La Fortaleza, built in the 19th century to protect Masaya. Once a torture centre used first by the Somozistas, later by the Sandinistas, it is now a clubhouse for the boy scouts. It is deserted and eerie (take a torch). Even if you don't want to see the fort, the view from the top of the hill is spectacular.
The nearby village of
is Sandino's birthplace, and the house where he lived from the age of 12 is opposite the church in the main plaza.
San Juan de Oriente
is a charming colonial village with an interesting school of pottery (products are for sale). Nearly 80% of the inhabitants are engaged in the ceramic arts. To visit an artisan family workshop walk from north entrance of the village towards the church. Just before the church and next to the women's co-op is the house of Dulio Jiménez, who is very happy to show visitors his operation. Buses are from Granada. It is a short walk to neighbouring
(famous for ornamental plants), and a 1-km walk or drive uphill to
, with a wonderful view of Laguna de Apoyo (Granada and Volcán Mombacho too on a clear day).
Laguna de Apoyo
is very clean, beautiful for swimming and well worth a visit. The waters are kept warm by underwater vents and the sulphur content keeps mosquitos away. It's quiet during the week but busy at weekends. Without your own transport it's probably easiest to visit the lagoon from Granada with transport provided by
. There is also accommodation on the lake shore.
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