Masaya has been a center of art and culture since long before the Spanish arrived, its Chorotegan roots showing throughout its extravagant annual events calendar and at every religious event, not to mention in the residents' mastery of traditional indigenous handicrafts.
Most international visitors come for two reasons: Volcán Masaya, fuming madly overhead, and the Mercado Artesanías, a square-block, Gothic, Spanish-fortress-themed edifice built more than a century ago, and today packed with some of Central America's best souvenirs. Nicaraguan tourists, by the way, always make sure their visit coincides with one of Masaya's many spectacular festivals.
Despite the excellent shopping and perfect location (between Granada and Managua), Masaya isn't exactly a tourist mecca. Its authentic Spanish colonial architecture still shows wear and tear incurred during the massive 2000 earthquake, and the hotel and restaurant scene leaves a bit to be desired. Regardless, compared to Granada, Masaya's lack of pretensions and its cultural attractions make it a less glamorous, but perhaps more authentic, base from which to explore this rich region.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009