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Introducing Managua

Sprawling along the silvery edges of Xolotlán, broad Lago de Managua, this is the nation's capital and nerve center, an admittedly unlovely urban expanse of unsigned, tree-lined boulevards and uninspired modern monoliths that almost never seduce visitors into spending more time here than is absolutely necessary.

Yet this sultry and seismic 'Daughter of War' and 'City of Peace' is beloved with a proud ferocity by its 1.4 million inhabitants, and its volcanic skyline and cosmopolitan charms have inspired a library's worth of poems. Aren't you curious as to why?

Start by ascending Loma de Tiscapa to Sandino's famous silhouette, with views from the ancient crater lake to monumental Volcán Momotombo (not to mention the wacky cathedral). And around you the city pulses, with great nightlife, excellent restaurants and, most importantly, thousands of families rebuilding their nation, poco a poco (little by little), into all that their poets and revolutionaries, campesinos and visionaries, once promised.