Museo de Antropología e Historia

Museum in Rivas

If you have some time to kill in town, this 200-year-old house is the place to go. Inside you'll find some moth-eaten taxidermy, a wall of myths and legends and, best of all, a well-signed (in both English and Spanish) collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, many of them discovered by the Santa Isabela Archaeological Project.

This Canadian-Nicaraguan team is excavating what it believes to be Cacique Nicarao’s ancient capital of Quauhcapolca, just north of San Jorge. The site was occupied between AD 1000 and 1250, and the 400,000 artifacts they have uncovered there include tools, blow guns, jewelry, funeral jars and cookware, as well as a fertility-goddess complex and representations of the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl.

The building itself, Hacienda Ursula, is an 18th-century architectural treasure and the site of William Walker’s decisive defeat. After his troops, limping home following an embarrassing rout by the Costa Rican military, took control of the hacienda, schoolteacher Emmanuel Mongalo y Rubio set the fortress on fire. Most of the men were shot or captured as they fled the burning building.