Global Mark : 15.43

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 5 5 3 4 2 5 2 3 14.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 100% 100% 100% 12 to 20 16.36

Description : The souvenir center of Nicaragua

Comments : There aren't too many things to do in town beside shopping for souvenirs but it is not an unpleasant place.

What to do ? Walk the town from Iglesia de San Jeronimo (nicer from a distance, apparently possible to get up the bell tower) to the Parque central. There, you will find the Cathedral de la Ascuncion and a few nice colonial buildings. Then head east toward Mercado Viejo & Mercado de Artesania by the bus terminal. Or west toward the laguna / Allow about one hour / Bargain hard for your souvenirs / Find the hammock of your dreams / Travel by horse-drawn carriage / Loose money at slot machines / Walk from an instinct volcano (Masaya) toward an active volcano (Santiago) / Visit the small museum of Nindiri / 

What you may not like ? Having actually little to see in town / The pickpockets at the bus station market / Not bargaining hard enough for your souvenirs / The polluted laguna / The need to get a ride up to the volcano / The apparently nothing too special villages around 

How long ? A few hours would be just fine, except of course if you wish to visit the volcano or the pueblos Blancos (white towns) nearby.

Where to stay ? Although most people come here as a day trip from Granada, a few places are convenient for the excursions around :

  • Hotel Montecarlo (5222166), on the main road in the north of town, near the iglesia / without shower 80(1) or 100(2), w. shower, AC & TV 350 / Small & basic rooms so expensive.
  • Hotel Madera's Inn, S of the above / A new hotel, still in construction when I passed. Should not be too cheap
  • ® Hotel Regis (5222300), S of the above / without shower $5 or C60 p.p. / Go there for the nice clean rooms & atmosphere at correct prices
  • There should be another cheap option, west of the Parque central. Leaned about it a bit too late...

Where to eat ? If staying, ask locals about the dining scene. There should be something to your taste.

Internet ? At least one place in town, next to Hotel Regis, but expensive at C50 per hour. 

Change ? Good rate for cash but very poor for TC at Bancentro (but no commission) : C12 instead of C13.33. ATM reported at the Mercado de Artesania (not CIRRUS)

A shopper's paradise ? The choice at the two markets is indeed quite wide and you will certainly find your dream souvenir alongside the many kitschy horrors. Hammocks are definitively the stars here (do not pay more than C100 for the basic ones) but there are many other ways to spend your money : paintings, wooden, terra-cotta or stone objects, jewellery, leather products, ti-shirts, mobiles, vases, old currency, cigars... You name it ! The quality looked good but the prices before negotiation is quite high. There are also some real rip-off : the 4 centimos bills that you can get at any bank for 41 centimos were offered here for US$4 ! That is 130 times their real price ! As usual, divide the quoted price by two or three (or whatever you feel like paying) and walk away. If they do not call you back, maybe it was too cheap. Never mind, you have plenty of shops selling the same products ! Mercado Viejo, inside its nice fortress-like walls, is more tourist oriented and therefore more expensive. Mercado de Artesania, by the bus station, looks more like a traditional market, with a few souvenirs shops only. But beware of pickpockets there...

A volcano adventure ? Wandering around Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya could be a good reason to spend a night in town. The entrance to the park is at km23 on the highway. There is an entrance fee of about $2. The annoyance starts from here : you need to get a ride for the following 16km or so up to the crater of extinct Masaya. It should cost around C20. Once up there, you can walk toward the active crater of volcano Santiago and smell the sulphur. Look also for the chocoyos del crater, the small green parrots that leave inside the crater. All the above info are second hand. Contact 5225415 or ask a local for more details.

Backpacker's Tips : Anthony Asael (March 04)
« Very surprising and impressive market, comparable to Kumasi (Ghana) or reaching even Istanbul market… really very surprising. One of the highlight of my trip! / Internet cost 12C / Cost to go to the volcan: 60C » 

Leaving ?
Very frequent buses to Granada (C5, normal, 45mn) and Managua (C5 normal, C6 direct, 45mn). 

The trip to Granada : SS / L&R / C5 / 45mn
The bus was real packed when I arrived and even more when I finally decided not to wait for the next one. I therefore could not see much of the view. Nothing special apparently. We arrived West of the market on C. 14 de Septiembre, 10mn walk N-E to the Cathedral. 

See also the trip from Managua