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Altitude: 85.45 meters

Population: 49,100 (urban), 62,670 (total)


Chichigalpa is a colorful and charming city where the residents take as much pride in their parks as they do in their two famous factories, one for sugar and one for rum; their smoking volcanoes; and their over 500-year-old church.

Leading the Chichigalpa cheerleading squad is the city’s alcaldia, one of the most helpful in the country. Give community relations manager Maria José Santana-Vegas (505-2-343-2718) a week’s notice and she can arrange tours at both Ingenerio San Antonio, Nicaragua’s oldest sugar mill, and the Flor de Caña distillery. (The distillery’s two-hour tour ends with a taste of one of their 15 kinds of world-famous rum.)

The alcaldia can also arrange for guided tours to Parque Ecológico Municipal, where you can rent a horse for the trip up Volcán San Cristobál.

Four blocks from the alcaldia (which is used as a local landmark), you’ll find Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The church is still referred to as a “ruin” although walls were built between the two ancient, crumbling sections in 1984. The church is open for mass on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. and all day Sunday, but if you arrive on an off day, don’t fret. Staff in the tiny office to the left of the main building will let you in and show you around, a tower that is said to once have contained indigenous prisoners but now contains a 1856 painting of the Virgin de Guadalupe. The church holds a gastronomic fair on Nov. 11, followed a month later by celebration of the virgin and a procession on Dec. 11 and 12.

Chichigalpa has a couple of beautiful, surprisingly well-maintained parks. Parque Central Rubén Darío features a rainbow-colored acoustic shell, put to use during city festivals, and the baby blue Iglesia de San Bias.

On the road between the alcaldia and the Ingenio San Antonio is the Parque San Antonio, donated by the refinery in 2006. The park’s highlights are its enclosures: one with geese and ducks and the other where Juancho, the alligator, presides over 100 turtles. The park, including food a kiosk, opens between 5 and 9 p.m. (10 p.m. weekends).


Su Internet (505-8-445-0697), located across the street from the alcaldia, has telephones, basic computers and fast internet for C$12 per hour. The café is open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. or on Sundays until 5:30 p.m.


Hotel La Vista, one block east and 75 meters north of the alcaldia, has a monopoly on Chichigalpa lodgings. Luckily, the hotel is pleasant, clean and has all of the preferred amenities: hot water, cable TV, air conditioning, a parking garage and five breakfasts to choose from in the morning. Friendly staff can point you towards rooms one, five or six, if you want a view of the volcano. (505-2-343-2035, Single $35; double $45; triple $50, not including IVA).


Comedor Popular El Doctor (505-2-343-1052, Mains: C$30 to C$90) may look like a hole in the wall – because, well, it is a hole in the wall, complete with a line of laundry on the back patio. But the eatery, run by Dr. Juan Emulio Morales, has daily specials that are as tasty as they are economical, which is why the comedor is a favorite Chichigalpa lunch spot. The comedor, one block west of the police station, is open from Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; call ahead if you want dinner. On the weekends, the good doctor and his family play live music until 1 a.m.


Restaurant Rancho Tipico “Rincón Criollo” (505-2-343-3406/ 505-8-627-7231, Mains: C$65 to C$200) is a laid-back, local hangout with cow hide chairs and a strong smell of French fries. The aroma may have you thinking about whether you want beef, pork, chicken or fish as you walk in. On weekends, the dance floor comes alive with disco music. Open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

As a nice side dish, owner José Alfredo arranges guided hikes up the volcano and trips to the Flor de Caña plant through his organization, ChiTours. Call the restaurant to reach Alfredo.


Don’t be put off by the parked cars you find when you first open the door to El Almendro (505-2-343-2237 / 343-1071, Main: C$140 to C$260). Locals know the tiny, family run restaurant (eight tables in a living room) is their own home-grown version of gourmet food. Owner Xavier Somarriba Garcia won’t give away the secret of his pollo deshuesado but he somehow manages to take all the bones out of an entire chicken, without cutting the meat or skin, before covering the dish with a pineapple cream sauce. Open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.



Other places nearby Chichigalpa: Puerto Morazan, Playa Jiquilillo, Playa Aserradores, Corinto, Jiquilillo, Padre Ramos Estuary & Nature Reserve, El Viejo and Potosi.

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...
20 May 2009

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