Estelí has a multifaceted soul: it's both a university town with a large number of progressive students and the main center of commerce for the rural farming communities that surround it. On weekdays you can wake up with sunrise yoga before Spanish class; on Saturday you can mingle with farmers at the massive produce market, then see them again at midnight, dancing like mad in a ranchero bar.
Set on the Panamericana close to the Honduran border, Estelí was a strategic gateway that saw heavy fighting and helped turn the revolution and, later, the Contra War. It's no surprise, then, that Estelí has remained one of the Sandinistas’ strongest support bases. While it's not a particularly attractive place, its character and easy access to the surrounding mountains make it a popular place for backpackers to base themselves.