Masaya & Los Pueblos Blancos

Nicaragua's Meseta Central (Central Valley) offers a picturesque patchwork of lagoons, volcanic peaks and sleepy colonial villages. Few visitors head here for more than a short day-trip from nearby Granada, leaving plenty of room for exploration and singular encounters with the region's remarkable natural, cultural and artistic imprint.

Head out to the Pueblos Blancos, where each village has its own specialty, from exquisite pottery to handcrafted wooden furniture. The villages also hold exuberant religious festivals.

Towering over all of this is cantankerous Volcán Masaya whose recent activity briefly pelted the surrounding countryside with rocks, and whose crater bubbles restlessly with molten magma.

Sloping down from the meseta are the Carazo towns – home to some of Nicaragua's oldest coffee farms and pleasant stopovers on the way to a stretch of coast with several low-key fishing villages.

At the time of writing, political unrest in the country has turned Masaya, a popular destination known for its artisan market and aficionados of traditional craftsmanship, into the center of political strife and violence.

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