The capital of Nicaragua is often shunned for its lack of street names and districts shoved together like pieces of different jigsaws, but there is much to discover here. Natural disasters and conflict have led to a lack of distinct centre as the old city centre has been left in ruins (it is great for a visit though), and instead modern shopping malls are built next to large colonial buildings next to ruins. Despite its tumultuous appearance, Managua was named the first capital city in Central America to rid itself of illiteracy in 2007.
Managua is bordered on the north side by Lago de Managua, which though sadly is highly polluted, offers a beautiful waterside backdrop to the city. The Malecón (pier) includes a newly renovated tourist complex, Puerto Salvador Allende, which houses 20-odd eateries, playgrounds and walkways. It is worth a visit around sunset – the views across the lake are quite spectacular.
Managua’s most recognisable landmark, a statue of Sandino the Nicaraguan revolutionary, is to be found in Parque Histórico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa, a park from where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the volcano across the lake, Momotombo (don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted in over 400 years).
Nicaragua was inhabited as far back at 6000 years ago, and the Huellas de Acahualinca provide a window into this prehistorical age. In 1874 miners found the fossilised footprints of about 10 fairly tall people as well as some animal tracks. The nearby museum has some interesting artefacts including ceramics and human skulls!
Musical legends Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy have been performing live folk since the 1960s and are still bringing Managua’s night to life at La Casa de los Mejía Godoy, which also offers a restaurant and bar. Open late at weekends, reservations are advised for when the brothers take the stage.
On a hot day, stop off at the Arboretum Nacional, a public garden split into five zones. The entry fee includes a guided tour where you can see over 200 species of flora, including Nicaragua’s national tree and flower.
Free Walking Tours
A walking tour is the best way to see all you can in this mix-matched city. The following is free, so save your money for some water because it will be hot!
Posted by user Franco Prego, this route begins at Puerto Salvador Allende on the banks of the lake and finishes at Plaza Inter, a shopping mall in the centre of the city. Yes, it has a McDonald’s. A self-guided tour, it passes a theatre, museum, plaza and park, so you can stop off anytime for refreshments. It is less than 2km long so should take less than an hour at a leisurely pace. The author describes the route as, “safe and interesting”.
Posted by user Jenny, this self-guided tour should take around 3 hours. Starting at Dennis Martínez National Stadium and moving south through the city to the Monumento a Alexis Arguello (a 4-ton art sculpture), it is around 6.4km in length, and can be downloaded in the app to be used offline.