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Population: 57,512

Altitude: 580 meters

Fiestas Patronales: San Sebastian, January 17 to 27.

Distance from Managua: 41 km


A wealthy city before the Nicaraguan revolution, the Diriamba of today still bears marks of the former prosperity: Basilica Menor de San Sebastian, the public clock, and streets lined with the swirls of 19th century architecture (featured in both well-kept homes and the shells of decaying buildings).


Diriambians claim indigenous chief Diriangen as the city’s ancient founder and honor him with a brightly painted (if slightly tacky) statue. Both the local stadium and baseball team are named after the famously courageous warrior, who long resisted Spanish conquest and, according to some accounts, also founded Diriá and Diriomo.


In the Chorotengana tongue, the city’s name means “grandes cerros o colinas” (large hills or heights), although, despite the hype, you'll find few hills in the city.


Diriamba is known for hosting one of the most authentic fiestas patronales, with distinctly pre-Columbian overtones. San Sebastian, who is said to have once appeared on the Pacific Coast, is carried through the city streets every year during the celebrations between January 20 and 27. Amid fireworks and drinking, locals also perform traditional dances such as the Toro Huaco, el Gigante (based on David and Goliath), las Inditas and el GĂĽegĂĽense o Macho RatĂłn.


During the rest of the year, you can find statues of poor Saint Sebastian, stuck full of arrows like a pin cushion, in the marketplace rotunda, on top of the basilica and to the right of the church’s altar. Take a moment to walk inside the Basilica Menor de San Sebastian. Among the stunning biblical murals on the ceiling, you'll find works by Rodrigo Peñalba, recently restored after decades of being hidden away (church officials weren't huge fans of the Nicaraguan painter's figurative style). Also worth noting are the elaborate wood carvings (check out the lecturn) that date from the 1950s.


Diriamba still lags far behind the art-filled Pueblos Blancos, but you can find a solid, if small, collection of local artwork for sale at Artesanias Ixchell (505-2-534-3023/ 505-2-532-1194/ 505-8-837-8383, The famous El GĂĽegĂĽese is well represented in everything from key chains to wall hangings and wooden statues.


Diriamba’s family friendly ecological museum is also worth a visit. Museo Ecológico de Trópico Seco (505-2-534-2129;; has informative plaques in Spanish, a small collection of butterflies, glass cases full of stuffed critters. The museum was founded in 1996 to teach Nicaraguans about protecting the environment, such as conserving endangered sea turtles. Tours are only available for groups, but most of the exhibits (except for a few random science experiments) are fairly self-explanatory and a visit can make for an informative half hour. The museum is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon; the entry fee is C$15 for nationals, C$20 for foreigners and C$10 for children under 12.


Caddy corner to the museum is Mi Bohio (505-2-534-2437; The restaurant portion of the enterprise (Mains: C$70 to C$120, open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.) has an impressive local reputation, as much for an atmosphere of upscale dining as for the huge plates of meat, chicken or seafood. Waiters speak English and are prompt, although bamboo strips woven over the walls and ceilings can make you feel like you’re eating inside a wicker basket. At the front of the restaurant, Mi Bohio sells local peanut butter and other goodies.


The owners of Mi Bohio recently expanded into the building next door. Hotel Mi Bohio, while still under construction in May 2009, was shaping up to be Diriamba answer to luxury accommodations. The seven initial rooms (seven more are planned), will have WiFi, cable TV, phones and private bathroom. Also under construction were the hotel’s gym and spa; wrought iron rails outside all featured an MB logo.


Across town, Hotel La Viña (505-2-534-2162/ 505-8-478-6941; matrimonial C$300, double C$400, triple C$450) is a decent alternative, something along the lines of a Motel 6, but cleaner, even if the mirrored headboards, flowered bedspreads and tasseled curtains leave the impression that you’re on the set of a soft porn video.


Jardín y Vivera Tortuga Verde (505-2-534-2948/505-8-905-0313,, located just outside of the city, wins Diriamba’s hidden gem award. Owner Roberto Rappacccioli has cultivated a jungle of gardens, where small paths can lead you to a tropical flower the size of a cabbage, an iron statue hefting a spear, a stand of giant bamboo or goldfish swimming around inside a bathtub. The five rooms, tucked among the green, are just as full of unexpected surprises: vivid paintings, stained glass in the windows and twisting wood balconies. Rooms start at $25 for a single (there’s space for up to 22 people), but Roberto Rappacccioli is always willing to negotiate prices. Ask him to tell you about his experience in Managua, where he started one of the city’s first discothèques, La Tortuga Morada, in the late 1960s.


Cyber cafes are sprinkled throughout Diriamba. On average, access costs C$15 per hour (C$8 per half hour), which are slightly more expensive than surrounding towns, where an hour of computer time costs between C$10 (Masaya) and C$12 (Jinotepe). One of the easiest to find is Café Internet Roma, on the south side of the Diriamba basilica. The café has a large bank of computers and also offers national (C$5 per minute) and international (C$1.50 per minute to U.S. and Canada) calls. The café is open from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.


Diramba is not a major hub, like Jinotepe, but still offers transportation to major locations. Microbuses leave from the central park to Jinotepe from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every 10 minutes for C$5. You can find buses to other major locations, including La Boquita/Casares, Managua and Masaya, leaving from near the public clock (the clock is also where groups of mototaxis park). Buses depart both from the local gas station and from the municipal terminal across the street.


Other places nearby Diriamba: Niquinohomo, La Boquita, Catarina, Centro Ecoturistico La Máquina , Nindirí, Masaya Town, Masatepe, Casares, San Marcos and Diriomo.

By Rachael Hanley
A sometime newspaper journalist with a heavy side of wanderlust, Rachael moved to Quito in November to work on the V!VA staff. She is currently...
23 Jun 2009

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