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Top Nicaragua


Population 109,000. 700 meters above sea level. 130 km from Managua.








Named for the Matagalpa Indians, the city of Matagalpa was founded by the Spanish in 1554, who stumbled upon the indigenous community during their quest for a route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Upon hearing of discovered gold, enterprising Europeans arrived to the area in the mid-19th century. German settlers then began to grow Matagalpa’s now-famous coffee. Evidence of this European heritage is apparent in the lighter skin and green eyes of many locals. During the same period, Matagalpa became a safe haven for Nicaraguans seeking refuge from the invasion of American filibuster William Walker, who was later defeated by Jose Dolores Estrada, the hero for whom the main street is named. Estrada led a militia founded by Matagalpa’s residents to victory against Walker.


Matagalpa’s most famous citizen is without a doubt Carlos Fonseca, the founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). In 1967, an FSLN-run guerilla operation, in which men and women fought side by side, took place near Matagalpa. Although the operation was unsuccessful, it created widespread enthusiasm for the Sandinista movement.


Along with agriculture and cattle-raising, tourism is a burgeoning industry in Matagalpa. This is largely due to a successful partnership between the government-run tourism bureau (Intur) and a Luxembourg based development corporation, Lux-Development. Travelers will have no trouble finding food and lodgings here. Hotels in Matagalpa generally cluster around Parque Ruben Dario and are wallet friendly. Matagalpa also has a veritable dining scene, though not one that can sustain real foodies for very long.


Although it is of the largest cities in the northern highlands, Matagalpa is nonetheless too small for an illicit affair (stick around town for more than a day and faces will quickly become familiar). Thankfully, there are plenty of other activities to keep the intrepid traveler busy. Within the city limits there are a couple of interesting museums, including the ramshackle Museo de Café (bearing a distinct lack of info about coffee) and a museum honoring Carlos Fonseca. The gleaming white church flanking Parque Morazan is one of the largest and most impressive structures in all of Nicaragua, and the block party celebrating the city’s founding is one of the biggest celebrations to hit northern Nicaragua every year. The surrounding countryside also offers an abundance of activities for outdoorsy types, including excellent hiking and coffee tours (during the season). Within walking distance from the city is Cerro Apante, a peak easily climbed in a morning. Farther from the city is the Selva Negra Reserve and Coffee Estate, which offers hiking trails as well as agro-tours. Travelers can also visit the acclaimed Finca Esperanza Verde, an eco-lodge with extensive grounds, a butterfly breeding center and of course, coffee.


If Matagalpa’s shady parks, relaxed atmosphere and temperate climate seduce you into staying awhile, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to occupy your time. Of particular note are the profusion of women’s rights organizations and Casa Girasol, whose projects are of such broad scope as to include recycling, advocacy for the handicapped, and yogurt production.

Neighborhoods in Matagalpa: Matagalpa Activities,

Other places nearby Matagalpa: San Juan De Limay, Condega, San Rafael Del Norte, Dipilto, Jinotepe, El Chile, Jalapa, Ocotal, Chaguitillo and Jinocuabo.

11 May 2009

Top Places in Matagalpa

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

Matagalpa Activities

With stunning mountain ranges beckoning in all directions, travelers will likely want to spend more time outside of the city than in it. Still, Matagalpa is a great base for many excursions, and is ...
City Zone
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Rio Blanco

This protected national reserve, known to the Sumos people as the mountain of water, is actually an eroded volcano dating from Jurassic period. At 4,757 feet above sea level, it is the second highest ...
Rio Blanco, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

San Ramon

12 km from Matagalpa. This little town is home to once-active La Leonesa and La Reina goldmines which were established along with the town in the 19th century. Guided tours of the mines can be ...
San Ramon, Matagalpa, Nicaragua


Mulukuku was originally established for refugees of the Contra War. Following the war there was a period of rebuilding aided by the establishment of several cooperatives. Unfortunately, many of these ...
Mulukuku , Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Things to do in Matagalpa

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

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

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

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

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

El Castillo del Cacao

130617Chocophiles unite! A tour through El Castillo del Cacao takes the visitor through the process of chocolate production, from the roasting of beans to the packaging of bars. The small factory, shaped ...
Other Activity
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Hiking Cerro Apante

130615This short, easily accessed hike is a good way to stretch your legs and get your heart rate up during your stay in Matagalpa. A guide is not necessary as the hike is a well marked loop. Starting at ...
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Museo de Café

Perhaps surprisingly, the Museo de Café has very little about coffee. Most of the museum is devoted to pre-Columbian artifacts. There are stone and ceramic sculptures made by the Olmec, Toltec and ...
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

El Salto de Santa Emilia

Fifteen kilometers from Matagalpa this waterfall is easily accessible by car and is a popular destination for locals during the summer months. Take the road to El Tuma-La Dalia towards the town of ...
Other Activity
Matagalpa, Nicaragua


130618Matagalpa is home to two cemeteries. Historically, one was sanctioned for Catholics whereas the other was for foreigners. However, today they are integrated and the foreigner’s cemetery is largely ...
Other Activity
Matagalpa Activities, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
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