5 Happening Places to Hit Up in Estelí, Nicaragua

by Sasha A. Rae on 19 November 2010 1 comment
Photo: Adam Baker

With all of its mountains and volcanoes, its beaches and big waves, its awesome people and fascinating culture, Nicaragua rocks. It’s less developed, less touristy, and more interesting than some of its other Latin American counterparts, which is why you should come check it out, especially the northern headlands closer to the Honduran border. This is where you’ll find Estelí, nestled close to the mountains, where the air is fresher, the landscapes more beautiful, and the activities more engaging. If you like a quieter town with less hustle and bustle, this is the place for you.

Rest Up and Chill Out

When you hit town, you can find a super place to stay in Hostel Luna, which functions not only as hostel, but also as a non-profit with a program to help improve and develop smaller communities outside of the city limits. The hostel sports private rooms and baths, as well as shared dorms and bathrooms. Across the street, the same owner runs a small café, Café Luz, that offers some of the healthiest food in town, like yogurt with fruit and honey and organic breads from a local bakery. Visitors at the hostel get free organic coffee from the café every morning and can even order breakfast in bed. The staff at the café will deliver it right to you in the hostel. Planning to stay longer? The owner also rents out rooms by the week and by the month in her house.

Take in the Local Sites

While you’re in town, you can also check out the local sites, like the museums and art shops, or you can get a super tour of local cigar making. Find out how the cigars are made, from the moment the tobacco is harvested in the field to the moment the cigars hit the retail floor. Or you can just catch it from the factory side of things where you can watch the workers roll cigars and learn how to roll your own. But whatever you do, you won’t want to miss these types of tours, especially when they’re done by local residents who know the process inside and out. A bonus is that you get free cigars at the end of the tour. For more information or to book a tour, call Leo Flores Lovo at (505) 8415-2428 or shoot him an email at info@tourdeltabaco.com.

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Get Your Nosh On

The food in Nicaragua is pretty good in general. But it’s also pretty fried, pretty much all of the time. Trying to find a good, healthy meal that doesn’t include something cooked in oil is very hard to do. Unless you eat at Monkey House Café, which serves up a range of dishes such as lasagna and spaghetti, steak cooked on the grill, or an occasional home-style soup. This laid-back café is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and to chill out after a long day of touring. Call the owners for more information and for directions: Jay at (505) 8366-3200 or Daniel at (505) 8360-6870.

Dig into the Dance Scene

Need to get your dance on? Wander on down to Sémaforos, a local dance club with live music on the weekends. They offer a mix of music from salsa and meringue to a few American dance mixes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. And the live bands change up every week, so you never know who’s going to be there. Cover charge is C$50, which is roughly $2.50 American, to get in. And beers run around C$25, which is a little over a dollar. Just tell the cab driver where you want to go, and they’ll know where it is.

Wander into the Nature Zone

The woods next to Estelí are not only beautiful, but also easily accessible and rarely, if ever, crowded. The best places to check out are Tisey and MiraFlor. Tisey is part of a natural reserve and offers spectacular views, nice hiking trails and good, homegrown food at the local restaurant. There’s also an art shop that sports carved marble statues and dishes. A little further up in the mountains is MiraFlor, which offers more rugged wilderness than Tisey. There are a bunch of small communities here, and they’re always happy to see visitors. Daily buses run to both. Check with the local bus stations or with Hostel Luna for more details.

So don’t miss out. Nicaragua is the final frontier of Central America and really worth taking a look at.

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Esteli is a cool spot ... for a few days. But Matagalpa offers a larger range of things to do, like hiking nearby, a few lakes, chocolate factory, free alternative movies every Friday night, theater events and live music. So I'd say pass through Esteli and then spend a bit more time in Matagalpa to really get into the highland culture.