Population: 11,000 (9,680 urban)
Altitude: 634 meters
Fiestas Patronales: June 29 to July 12; Virgen de San Parado on May 14
Distance from Managua: 44 km
DirĂa was once where the Chorotega council of elders met and, like the city of Diriamba across the street, widely celebrates Chorotega chief and Spanish bane Diriangen (who both claim as a founder, along with Diriamba). Cacique DiriangĂ©n is said to have met with his foes on the site where La Parroquia de San Pedro was erected in 1650. Perhaps the chiefâ€™s spirit came back to haunt the location; the church had to be rebuilt after being damaged by an earthquake in the 1700s and the congregation decided to put the bells in a separate tower. A modern renovation was completed in 2008; San Pedro, in a cowboy hat, presides over the congregation.
San Pedro may be the patron saint, but Cacique DiriangĂ©n is the obvious favorite. There is a statue of the spear-wielding warrior at one of the cityâ€™s five entrances and the Chorotega chief can also be found striking a pose in the central square and about to hurl his spear over the gorgeous view at Mirador el Boquete, the low key (and payment free) counterpart to the lookout at Catarina. The few restaurants here have been set back from the rim of the crater. A cobbled road at the far end leads the 1.5 km down to the shores of Laguna de Apoyo. Follow the road as it curves left and youâ€™ll find yourself on a steep, unpaved trail to a small green pool (the local pilar) with paths that continue to the lake.
The Perez Arevalo family has recently turned their home into Diriaâ€™s only guesthouse. The hotel (505-2-557-0221/ 505-8-485-0363) is charming, if not particularly formal, with family photos on the walls and clothing in the unused rooms. The seven rooms (USD$10 per person) have air conditioning, fans and shared bathrooms, with a billiard table and television downstairs. The family alsos rent out their finca, under the shadow of VolcĂˇn Mombacho. Donald Felix PĂ©rez Miranda (505-8-485-0363) provides tours of the area in either his motortaxi or, if you call ahead, a van.
The people of DirĂa are not shy about erecting statues to commemorate, well, anything. In 2007, they capped the new Avenida Central with a monument to the local game of la astilla where locals try and smack each other with wooden swords. Down the street is another monument: a volcanic rock dragged from the lake topped with a statue of San Pedro. The plaque below explains that DirĂa native and Miami transplant Alberto SĂˇndigo and his wife, Clara, donated the road.
If youâ€™re looking for a bite to eat, youâ€™ll probably be heading out on the Avenida Central. Not too far along the highway is Bar y Restaurante El Aguacate (Mains: C$90 to C$180; 505-2-557-0072/ 505-8-849-9241, open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily), a simple restaurant with a menu of exotic meats including rabbit, venison and, sometimes, baked armadillo. Of course, they also serve the more traditional beef, chicken and seafood.