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Top Nicaragua

Northern Highlands

Nicaragua's lush Northern Highlands, full of blue mountains, historical murals and coffee tours provide the perfect antidote to the heat and crowds of the major cities. Matagalpa and Jinotega, with their famous cathedrals and coffee farms, recall the European ancestry of their early settlers. You can stop in one of the area bakeries for a pastry, buy one of Matagalpa's famous black ceramics or pick up some fresh-cut flowers from local vendors.

The region has seen its share of famous natives, including Rubén Darío, whose birthplace adopted the name Ciudad Darío, and Carlos Fonseca, Sandinista hero who was born Matagalpa. Both men have museums dedicated to them in their hometowns. The region contains a number of ecological reserves, such as Reserva Natural Miraflor or Tisey Estanzuela. Here you will find yourself in a land of quiet cloud forests and sparkling waterfalls. A hike along local trails will give you the chance to see toucans, howler monkeys or small wild cat known as a jaguarundi. Butterflies and birds can also be spotted flitting through the foliage.

For a cup of world-famous local coffee, head to one of the plantations that dot the mountain sides. Selva Negra Mountain Resort, in particular, is renowned for both its coffee and the owners' sustainable agriculture projects. Encouraged by the local government, other small plantations, particularly around Miraflor and Esteli, have begun welcoming visitors. You can now learn how coffee is grown and produced and then sit down for a taste of the local roast.

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...
24 Jun 2009

Things to See and Do in the Northern Highlands

Finca Esperanza Verde

In 2004, this 220 acre farm was named the world’s best eco-lodge by the Smithsonian Magazine. Finca Esperanza Verde was founded in 1998 by Sister Communities of San Ramón Nicaragua (SCSRN), a ...
Other Activity
Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Gallery of Heroes and Martyrs

130515This moving tribute was founded and is run by the mothers of widows of soldiers killed in the Sandinista Revolution. Although the displays are a bit makeshift, the murals, photos, articles of ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Northward Nicaragua Tours

This tour through the Nicaraguan mountains is ideal for those who like to hike. The tout take place in the country's largest natural reserve, Bosawás, an area of 730,000 square kilometers. The tour ...
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Reserva Natural Miraflor

Located 35 kilometers (22 mi) northeast of Esteli, this campesino-owned nature reserve became protected in 1990, and is a haven for exotic flora and fauna including hundreds of species of birds and ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Iglesia Catedral San Pedro

130606This blindingly white church is easy to spot in the distance, so makes a great reference point for navigating Matagalpa. After those in Granada and Leon, this is the largest cathedral in the country. ...
Historical Building
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Casa Museo Comandante Carlos Fonseca

130609In order to get a sense of the roots of the Nicaraguan Communist movement, you might want to visit the childhood home of FSLN founder, Carlos Fonseca. On display are photographs of Fonseca throughout ...
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Bosawas Biosphere Reserve

Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1997, Bosawas is the largest protected reserve in all of Central America. At 20,000 square kilometers, it’s bigger than Lago Cocibolca and comprises almost ...

Reserva Natural Cerro El Arenal

Twelve kilometers from Matagalpa on the way to Jinotega, this small, fertile reserve is home to organic coffee plantations, farms cultivating produce and flowers, artisan workshops producing crafts ...
Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Parque Ruben Dario

130614Providing leafy respite from the heat, Parque Ruben Dario, named for the premier Modernist poet in Latin America, is one of two small parks in Matagalpa. Grab a coffee at the snack shack, kick back ...
City Plaza
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Cigar Factory

130939Upon entering Nick’s Cigar Company in Esteli, visitors are immediately accosted by the overpowering scent of tobacco. The entrance room is covered in large portraits of owners Nick Perdomo Sr. and ...
Other Activity
Esteli, Nicaragua

Reserva Natural Meseta Tisey-Estanzuela

131175Less frequented than Reserva Miraflor is Reserva Natural Meseta Tisey-Estanzuela, also located outside of Esteli. Trails within the expansive forest offer views of Honduras and El Salvador, as well ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Northern Highlands Tours

Other tours

Other than Matagalpa Tours, there are no licensed tour companies in the city. However, independent guides can be contacted and hired through the Intur office, located one block north of Iglesia de ...
Tour Operator
Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Independent Tour Guides

There are no official tour operators in Jinotega, but there are many individual guides listed at the Intur office whom travelers are encouraged to call. Below is a list. Particularly recommended is ...
Tour Operator
Jinotega, Nicaragua

Northward Nicaragua Tours

138473Searching for a bit more excitement for your next vacation? We strongly believe that the only way to discover Nicaragua is outside the beaten path. We pride ourselves on our ability to create ...
Tour Operator
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Northern Highlands Places to Go


130819Population: 35,000. This tiny town, located 29 km from Ocotal, has over the past few years become a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts. This is due to its proximity to the stunning geological canyon, ...
Somoto, Nicaragua


130754Population 29,500. Most visitors swing by Ocotal on their way to the Honduran border at Las Manos, not realizing that it is a city rich with history. On July 1st 1927, Augusto Cesar Sandino gathered ...
Ocotal, Nicaragua

San Juan De Limay

130665Travelers usually come to dry, isolated San Juan de Limay for just one reason: soapstone sculptures. Intricately carved and impeccably smooth, these glowing figures range from tiny nativity scenes to ...
San Juan De Limay, Nicaragua


130651Population 3500. For a half-day’s excursion outside Matagalpa, consider heading to Chaguitillo. As this sleepy little town lacks restaurants and sleeping accommodations, you’re better off ...
Chaguitillo, Nicaragua

El Chile

130653To increase your handbag collection with some truly special pieces, head to the tiny village of El Chile located 30 km from Matagalpa. Any bus heading to San Dionisio can drop you off at the base of ...
El Chile, Matagalpa, Nicaragua


1311725 km north of Ocotal, this small village is best known for its production of ceramics, the sort of which can be seen hanging in homes and restaurants all over Nicaragua. Visiting a few makes a ...
Mozonte , Nicaragua


130657Population 15,000. 105 km north of Managua. On the crossroads between Matagalpa, Esteli and the south, Sebaco is largest city in the fertile Sebaco Valley, and a commercial hub where Nicaragua’s ...
Sebaco, Nicaragua

Ciudad Antigua

Ciudad Antigua’s prosperity in colonial times was also its downfall. Frequent looting by Miskito Indians, as well as the pirates Henry Morgan, Eduardo David and Lolonnois Tampaier forced many of ...
Ciudad Antigua, Nicaragua


Rosita itself does not have much to offer except for a glimpse at an authentic Old-West style mining town. However, it’s a good place from which the adventurous traveler can visit surrounding ...
Rosita, Nicaragua


An entire kilometer of the snaking Macuelizo River is naturally heated. These untouched hot springs, part of private farmland, are completely undeveloped for tourism and in fact are not suitable for ...
Macuelizo, Nicaragua


Tiny, isolated Jalapa is home to roughly 20,000 inhabitants, many of whom work in the production of corn, coffee and tobacco. Until recently there were no paved roads connecting the town to the rest ...
Jalapa, Nicaragua
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