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Altagracia

Altagracia is both the second largest town and second largest port on Ometepe – having fallen behind Moyogalpa in prominence since being the island’s former indigenous capital. The ferry from Granada usually stops by on Mondays and Thursdays (although the Monday service was briefly discontinued in spring 2009), bringing passengers who chose three hours on the water over the shorter ferry ride from San Jorge to Moyogalpa. At Altagracia, you can also catch a ferry to San Carlos (a 14-hour trip) or arrange hikes to Volcán Concepción through one of the area hotels.

Altagracia is a sleepy little town with a quiet central square (where you can buy snacks during the day and fritanga in the evening) and a smattering of mid-quality hotels. Set a few kilometers inland, Altagracia does not have ready access to beaches that you would find at Playa Santo Domingo, or the quality of services available in Moyogalpa. Altagracia only really gets going during Fiestas Patronales from Nov. 12 to 17. The town celebrates San Diego de Alcala with bull fights, sompopo dancing, and a heck of a lot of drinking. During the rest of the year, Altagracia is the place where most vistors spend a day or night before moving on to hotels along the beach or closer to the volcanoes.

The pride of Altagracia is the Museo Ometepe ($1.60; open from Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; morning hours only on Sundays), a three-room display of petroglyphs and ancient ceramic pots excavated on Ometepe. The exhibits are not particularly well labeled, and you can find more interesting petroglyphs in sites around Ometepe (Finca Magdalena has a set of stones that are particularly easy to reach), but the museum is a good starting point for explorations into the history of the island.

Altagracia Hotels (505-2-552-8770), two blocks south of the central park, has both slightly grima rooms ($4) and, for two dollars more, spotlessly clean ones with a pleasant little balconies. For $16, you can rent your own “cabañta.” The hotel staff can also arrange island and volcano tours, as well as horseback riding trips. Best of all, Altagracia Hotels is one of the few establishments that accepts all major credit cards.

Hotel Castillo (505-2-552-8744, single with fan $7.50, double with air conditioning $30) is one of the few other locations that also accepts credit cards. The hotel has a friendly staff and is well-kept, although the rooms at Hotel Central (505-2-552-8770) are significantly nicer.

Hotal Posada Cabrera (505-8-820-4499), on the south side of the central park, is older but well-maintained with friendly staff and a family friendly atmosphere. The rooms are priced at C$80, which makes Posada Cabrera is a solid budget choice in Altagracia.

You can arrange tours at Hotal Posada Cabrera, Hotel Central or at Hotel Kencho (505-8-820-2246), half a block south of the central park, where you might have to shout to get the attention of the staff but where you can rent motorcycles or hire guides for hiking and horsebackriding tours.

The most popular beach near Altagracia is Punta Taguizapa, located 2 km east of the city (look for the path next to a billboard with a Canadian flag). Since Taguizapa is not as picturesque as some of the other swimming spots on the island, the brown-sand beach never draws a crowd. All that might change, though, now that owner Julio Guillen has oponed Hotel Taguizapa next to the beach. The hotel is new and features reasonably priced cabins (between $5 and $10) and, if you call ahead, Mr. Guillen (505-8-422-8917 / 505-2-606-6237, asguillenr@hotmail.com) will arrange for someone to pick you up in Moyogalpa.

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Other places nearby Altagracia: Playa Pie de Gigante, Las Salinas y Playa Popoyo, Tola, Rivas, Moyogalpa, Isla de Ometepe, San Juan Del Sur, El Astillero, Playa Santo Domingo and San Jorge.







10 Jun 2009

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