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Population: 42,109 total

Altitude: 510 meters

Fiestas Patronales: St. Santiago, July 24 to 26

Distance from Managua: 46 km


As comfortably worn as an old sneaker, Jinotepe hides a surprising number of services behind its dingy façade. Unabashedly dedicated to the day-to-day needs of the working man (or woman), the city packs all things utilitarian into a relatively small area. In the streets around Parque Los Chocoyitos, you’ll find an open air, everything market (selling clothes, pans, vegetables, balls of string and the like), a Palí supermarket, a small artisan market, the city’s lone hotel, a handful of banks, Jinotepe’s post office and a small library/museum.


Jinotepe (whose rather utilitarian indigenous name means “windy hill where people live”) has a history of being knocked down and getting back up again, like a scrappy fighter. Jinotepe, once burned to the ground by pirate William Dampier and later destroyed during an attack by General Mateo Espinoza, managed to maintain much of the colonial characteristics it had as a center for coffee production.


The most impressive city landmark is La Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago (1878) with high vaulted ceilings, massive wooden doors and beautiful stained glass windows, including one pane of broom-wielding priest with a dog at his feet. Outside is a giant statue of Pope John Paul II erected in honor of his visit.


The city’s former central train station has not fared as well as the church and has fallen into a form of working disuse.The buildings, which can be found beyond the canary yellow UNAN offices, still bear the marks of their former life, Jinotepe is inscribed under the roofline, but are filled with junk metal and Tae Kwan Do classes. The local INTUR office (505-8-920-4236,, has started talking with the university about rehabilitating the old building, but it’s unlikely that the buildings will be used for storage any time soon.


In honor of his visit 100 years before, the Jinotepe alcaldia erected a monument to Ruben Dario on Dec. 7, 2007. You can see the plaque in honor of Dario’s brief 1907 disembarkation at the far end of the old train station. Look for a pedestal in aquamarine tile.


Jinotepe’s largest, and arguably strangest, attraction is the Hertylandia amusement park, located on the edge of the city and reachable by taxi (C$10). Behind white turrets, reminiscent of a medieval fortress, Hertylandia has both swimming pools and carnival rides. The entrance fee of C$90 grants you access to the water park, but rides in the dry park (which is geared toward children) cost an additional C$20 to C$30. Hertylandia (505-2-532-2156/ 3081/ 3082/ 3083) is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.


As with the rest of Jinotepe, Hotel Casa Mateo (505-2-532-3284, intl. 410-878-2252,, is well-worn and practical, but not particularly beautiful. The hotel, a block and a half west of BDF, was previously known as Hotel Casa Grande before new owners took over four years ago. As the only hotel of any size in town (aside from a few scattered love motels that charge by the hour), Casa Mateo is the best bet for accommodations in Jinotepe. The bathrooms are a bit dingy, with shower handles that appear still under construction, but the hotel has pleasantly tiled walkways, WiFi (in the lobby). Jardin de los Olivos conveniently located in the front. There is also hot water, laundry service and air conditioning in seven of the 37 rooms, although sadly no water in the swimming-pool-sized fountain.


Across the street from the hotel is the city’s municipal library and Central Escuela Regional de Bellas Artes de Jinotepe where you can see small student exhibits or take a class. Contact founder César Octavio Delgado (505-8-416-8229, for information.


Jinotepe makes up for disappointing accommodations market with a solid selection of restaurants, all located just north of BDF. Tele Café Xilotepelt (Mains: C$25 to C$45; 505-2-532-1305, open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and until 9 p.m. on Sundays) has pretty flower-painted tables, a faux Mexican colonial theme and a breakfast/lunch menu that includes delicious corn pancakes or juicy hamburgers.


Long known as the place to go for Mexican, Taco a Taco (Mains: C$42 to C$60; 505-8-474-7540,, open 5 to 10 p.m.) has been branching out into Middle Eastern food and now has shwarma as well. The hip little hangout is one of the few places that encourages customers to write on the walls and is extremely popular with the local college crowd.


The hole-in-the-wall that is Quesos La Granja (505-8-603-2952,, open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) can hardly be called a store, but is still a great stop if you want to try a hunk of delicious local cheese. La Granja also offers a small selection of organic products from Finca Santa Clara in Chontales ( and bottles of honey or jam.


Pizzeria Colisseo, the creation of Italian owner Faustino Delpanno, is known locally as the posh place for a night out. The savory, thin crust creations are arguably the most authentic (and some say best) pizzas in Nicaragua, although you might find yourself digging through your wallet to try one. Mr. Delpanno is so dedicated to his craft that he has no delivery service (the theory being that pizza quality declines if the pies are not served within the first 20 minutes). You may have to hock your knapsack to pay for the evening, but Colisseo’s pizzas are worth the sacrifice. The restaurant (505-2-532-2150/ 505-2-532-2646; from Bancentro 1 block north) is closed Monday, but otherwise open from noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.


Around the corner from Colisseo (and half a block east of BDF) is another solid entry in the pizza category. Pizza To Go (505-2-532-0754) has mechanical rides for kids, plastic tables and, as the name suggests, no qualms about sending their pies out of the building. While the restaurant is more Pizza Hut than piece of Italy, the Pizza To Go is more economical than Pizzeria Colisseo (although the prices increased recently if the neon menu stickers are anything to go by) with options that include slices (C$17), medium (C$70 to 90) and large (C$105 to 140). The restaurant also has hot dogs, chicken wings and a salad bar. The Jinotepe location is one of two, with the other being in Diriamba, and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except Tuesday.


Non-meat eaters get a welcome break from the usual struggle to find food they can eat at Tien Lan Zu Shi, an oriental vegetarian restaurant located a block and a half south of the UNAN turret (505-2-532-0102; 505-8-914-5270).



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

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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