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Altitude: 455.41 meters

Population: 34,580 in municipality

Fiestas Patronales: SantĂ­sima Trinidad, 40 days after Semana Santa, starting with a Desfile HĂ­pico.

Distance from Managua: 44 km


Upon first arriving at Masatepe, you might be tempted to venture no further than the entrance. Nicaragua’s furniture capital puts on a magnificent highway display, with almost every home displaying some new way to twist wicker, wood, rattan and bamboo into furniture. The smaller displays culminate at the Mercado de Artesania (, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily), where 15 vendors offer every kind of locally made sofa, table, chair, lamp and hamper (as well as some decorative wooden fruits). On summer weekends, the market hosts singers and other acts.


Across from the market, you might spot one of the numerous stands selling samplers of sweet cajetas, a catchall term that for a soft candy that resembles marzipan in form (if not in taste). While the famous shops in Diriomo are more likely to sell packages of cajetas (the word literally means “small box”), Masatepe vendors mold their sweets into animal and fruit shapes.


Masatepe has as much going on around the center of town as it does on the outskirts. The wide, colonial streets will lead you to the baby blue Iglesia San Juan Bautista de Masatepe where you will find the city’s patron saint, El Cristo Negro de La Santísima Trinidad. The Fiestas Patronales in honor of the Black Christ are celebrated 40 days after Semana Santa, starting with a desfile hípico (equestrian parade) and featuring a range of traditional dances, such as el Baile de los Indios or el Toro Venado, and local foods like masa de cazuela. You don’t have to wait until after Semana Santa to celebrate, though, on Holy Thursday over 700 Masatepino dress up in masks and costumes to reenact the Passion of Christ as Jews and Romans.


From December 16 to December 24, young Masatepinos also flood the streets at 1 a.m. to rouse residents from their beds for 4 a.m. mass in honor of el Niño Dios. To make sure everyone is up in time, the teenagers blow whistles, bang tin cans, and shake rattles in a tradition known as latas.


Masatepe is known for the quality of its mondongo, or tripe soup, a regional dish that was brought to savory perfection by the culinary genius of resident Doña Néstor. The enterprising cook turned what had been a hearty stew for workers into a soup that drew hungry customers from all the surrounding cities. Doña Néstor passed away over two decades ago, but you can still taste her savory combination of cow stomach, fresh herbs and vegetables at the restaurants of her two daughters. Doña Néstor (open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; three blocks north of Iglesia San Juan) is low-roofed and basic, with huge, black cauldrons bubbling in the back, while around the corner, Mondongo de Veracruz (505-2-486-3145, open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends until 7 p.m.) has an open, more modern space and plenty of chicken, beef and fish on the menu if you decide that cow stomach is just not your thing. A bowl of soup in either restaurant costs around C$65.


The owners of Centro Ecoturistico Flor de Pochote (505-8-885-7576/ 505-8-617-2894,, closed their restaurant almost a year ago, due to a lack of custom, but the $1 mototaxi ride out to this working farm is still worthwhile, if only for the magnificent views of Laguna de Masaya and Volcán Masaya or a glass of sweet, homemade fruit wine. Flor de Pachote has three wooden cabins (singles and doubles $25; triples $30) and two dormitories ($5 per person) dotted among the finca’s rolling hills. The owners can also arrange guided trips to the lake, to local communities or to the volcano. With plenty of trails cut into the hills, you’re also welcome to take a stroll on your own.


Please note: although the local alcaldia still touts el Mirador Puerta del Cielo as a tourism attraction, the location is in private hands and is no longer open to the public.


Right by the highway, you’ll find Hotel Faleiros, which owner Luis Faleiros opened in April 2008 with the hope of eventually turning his enterprise into the local equivalent of a Days Inn. Mr. Faleiros plans to eventually add a pool, internet and 15 more rooms. The handful of existing rooms are cheerful (singles and doubles $25) and the hotel is convenient to the Pueblos Blancos, particularly Masatepe.


From the center of Masatepe, you can catch minibuses to Jinotepe (C$8), San Marcos (C$6) or Managua. Ordinarios also to these and other destinations regularly pass the Masatepe highway entrance.



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

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...
09 Jun 2009

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