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Matagalpa is the must visit city if you are interested in seeing the Nicaraguan mountain region. It is a good jumping off point for visiting the coffee, tobacco and cattle farms in the area, or hiking and witnessing what remains of the impact of German immigrants in Nicaragua.


If you like mountain hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, browsing for monkeys, ecotourism, agritourism, Indian villages, cigar factory tours, coffee farm tours, mountain scenery for photographs, temperate climate, polkas and Mazurcas music, and history, Matagalpa may be the place to visit.

Matagalpa is located in the north highlands that make the water shed division of the Caribbean and Pacific rivers, it was called "The Frontier of the Jungle" by the Spanish Conquistadores because it divided the historical Mosquito Kingdom and the Colonial Spanish towns. It has mountain resorts with bungalows, youth hostels, regular hotel rooms, B&B's, and a vast array of shops, boutiques, cafés, restaurants, bars and discotheques. Many local businesses and residents speak English, due to the overwhelming surge of tourism (300%) during the past 3-5 years, as well as the increasing number of expats who now call Matagalpa their home.

Get in[edit]

The city of Matagalpa is just 2 hours from Managua International Airport; you can get there in 2.5 hours by public bus or renting a car. Matagalpa was an Indian town before becoming the destination of Central European settlers when gold was discovered in the 1850's. That is the reason that one sees people of lighter complexion than in Managua, Granada or Leon. Life is more like in the old days, so it is nice to get pictures of ox carts, cowboys, and loaded mules. Nowadays it is the so called "Production Center" of coffee, cattle, flowers, and vegetables, as well as an ecotourism center, and is recognized as one of Nicaragua's largest and fastest growing commerce and trade centers.

Get around[edit]

Once outside the Airport, to get to the city of Matagalpa you take Carretera Norte going north. You will cross little villages like: Tipitapa, San Benito (this is the intersection of roads either going to Matagalpa or going to Bluefields). Then comes Ciudad Dario at kilometer 86 (Ruben Dario´s birth place. He is one of better poets of Spanish language, the "Walt Wiltman" of Spanish literature. Then comes Sebaco ("Serpent Woman" in Indian language, at kilometer 102). Finally you get to Matagalpa, at kilometer 127. This is the Capitol of the province of the same name. Once in Matagalpa you can look for local hotels. Most desirable hotels and B&B's are inside the city limits, although there is a couple of prominent resorts in the mountains just north of the city.

Matagalpa is a historical Indian city of 100,000 inhabitants, where you can find restaurants and cyber cafes. Many Central Europeans (German, Brittsh, French and Italian) famlies settled here since 1848, after they changed their minds about reaching the Californian gold mines. in stead they decided to stay here, and others soon followed. One of them was William Richardson, grandfather of Bill Richardson, the former Governor of New Mexico, USA. William senior is buried in the well known "Matagalpa Foreing Cemetery" a few blocks south of town.

The province of Matagalpa has 12 different protected forest areas, which preserve a great variety of birds and orchids, all kind of wild life; Mountain lion, deer, howler monkies, quetzal, toucan birds, sloth, ocelot, and wild pig, etc.)

See[edit][add listing]

  • There are three historical Catholic church temples, few blocks apart: the Cathedral, Molaguina and San Jose, they have nice interior architecture and you can take pictures and talk to the parisioners. Saint Peter´s Cathedral is the major building of the city, it was built by the Jesuit fathers starting in 1874, and finished in 1895.

In the Bishop´s Palace (Calle de lso Bancos), there is a small Chapel called "El Ateneo", there is a big 5x 10 feet famous oil painting named Sagrada Familia, it is believed to be painted by Bartolomeo Murillo, a classical Spanish painter of the year 1640`s. It shows Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga. Pay a visit to it, if it is Murillo´s, it must be an invaluable painting, local people don´t realized its value. According to a legend, in 1881, the Jesuit fathers, before they were expulsed by the government, gave it "in deposit" (to take care)to the local family Baldizon, that´s the reason "El Lienzo" (the canvas) still is in Matagalpa, because members of that family has not allowed it to be sold or translated to other destiny.

  • Coffee Museum, a Carlos Fonseca Birth Place museum (Founder of the Sandinista Front), the House of former Nicaraguan President ( 1970-1936) Bartolome Martinez (Period 1923-24).

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Castillo de Cacao, (located just outside of the city limits), [1]. This tiny chocolate factory manufactures high quality chocolate, and if you call ahead, you can arrange a factory tour for 150 Cordoba. A taxi from the city costs 20 Cordoba per person. If you want to buy lots of chocolate for souvenirs (or for yourself) it's cheapest at the factory.  edit
  • Library. Matagalpa has two public libraries, the Municipal, and Vicente Vita, the last one in located in the main street (la calle de los Bancos) this one is very comfortable, has many computers & free Internet access.  edit
  • Matagalpa Spanish School, +505 2 772 0108.
  • Photographing. Matagalpa is a nice town to walk and take photos. You may visit and take pictures inside historical churches, like the Cathedral, built in 1874, the San Jose, started in 1750, formally called San Felipe, the Molaguina, built in 1805 and formally Dolores Church. The colonial Santa Ana church disappeared in the 1850s, but you can see its old foundations just across the Escuela de Parvulos. Also the old brick and adobe walls of the Jesuit Fathers Convent, now Cancha del Bridadista. Museo del Cafe, Casa Cuna de Carlos Fonseca Amador (1936-1975), the old house of former President Bartolome Martinez (1870-1936), and also the house of the Comunidad Indigena, can all be enjoyed in Matagalpa. Walk around town and take photographs of oxen carts, cowboys, loaded mules, women wearing their chals (rebozo), men with hats, and musicians playing guitar, trumpet, violin and accordion (Polkas and Mazurcas). Pay them a tip to play you a song. These are not performances being put on for the tourists, these are actual real-time expressions of the local culture that is their way of life, and legitimate sources of income. ~ experiences not likely found in your place of origin. In many ways, life here is as it was 100 years ago. Tradition is definitely alive and well here in Matagalpa.  edit
  • Salsa classes, +50586454487. weekdays 18:00 or 19:00 at Arabesco Academia de Matagalpa. taught by Marcos Valle  edit
  • Viva Spanish School, +505 2 270 2339.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Matagalpa is known for its sizable indigenous Indian Community, which are based mostly in El Chile, 18 kilometers from the city on the way to the town of San Ramon. They make their own cotton fabric and leather articles, and sell them there, as well as in the city at open markets. In Matagalpa you can also find black ceramic unique to this region. Handcrafted specialties such as cowboy boots, fine leather shoes, hats, jewelry, guitars and violins, as well as hammocks, fine wood furniture and metal work, are all big attractions.

Close to the prominent white Cathedral at the north side of town is an oil painting workshop inside the University where you can buy, at reasonable prices, oil paintings with local accents such as: Nica coffee farms, ranches, oxen pulling carts, mules with side satchels overflowing with coffee beans, campesinos, and mountain cloud forest scenery, including exotic birds and wildlife.

At each of the open-air markets, locally grown fruits and vegetables are plentiful and cheap. Treat yourself to a fresh banana, pijibay, jocotes, orange, grapefruit, nisperos, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, coconut and plantain. Or indulge yourself with fresh locally grown broccoli, sugar beets, tomatoes, avocados, cucumber, carrots and unique squash, etc.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Try the guirila. It's a thick tortilla made from young corn (which gives it a sweeter taste than normal tortillas) that resembles a Colombian corn arepa. Excellent with a fresh, salty cheese called "cuajada". Nacatamal, it is a banana leave wrap upfilled with boiled Indian corn dough, a piece of meat(pork o chicken), flavored with olives, raisin, tomatoes, onions and chili. These are easy to find on the weekends, and can be bought from street vendors or even private homes. Platanitos con frijoles molidos, this is fried banana slices with smashed fried red beans. You should add chili to it for they are very tasty.

  • Deliquesillos, Matagalpa, +50527728477. Restaurant  edit
  • Guirilas la Milpa, NIC-3, Matagalpa, +50583535190. Restaurant  edit
  • La Casona, Avenida Jose Dolorese Estrada, +50586303944. Restaurant  edit
  • LaVita Bella, +505 2772 5476. Authentic Italian cuisine. Chef creates both a charming environment as well as a savory menu that will sooth, yet titillate even the hardcore critic who understands what great Italian cuisine ought to be. The lasagna here is hands down to die for. Careful tho, this might possibly be the most popular dinner destination in Matagalpa. This is made clear by the number of people waiting in line for a table. It's also made clear when you realize that LaVita Bella does no promotion, not even a sign above its door or in its windows. No, this success story is what it is, strictly because people spread the news by word of mouth. It's that good!  edit
  • Pescamar, Matagalpa, +50527723548. Restaurant  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

You can have a fresh roasted Matagalpa coffee cup cooked in a French brewer, in places like Selva Negra Mountain Resort, Cecocafen, etc.

Matagalpa is also called "Capitol of Coffee", coffee growing was brought to Matagalpa by a woman, she was from the Black Forest in Germany, her name was Katharina Braun Elster, she was traveling in 1852 with her husband Ludwig Elster and 2 years old child (Wilhelm) from New York to San Francisco, but they changed plans and came to this mountainous Matagalpa country and bought a little farm (La Lima) from the Indians, she planted the first coffee seeds in this region, once harvested their coffee came to be of the country the best quality, they exported it in oxen carts to Granada and from there in boats to Greytown port in the Carbbean and from there to Germany. Very soon many people followed their steps, and after 150 years "Matagalpa Washed Coffee" has become known world wide, thanks to a brave and intelligent woman.

  • La Fruttelada, Matagalpa (In front of Hotel Caoba, on the road), +50589054170. Ice cream  edit
  • Latinos bar B°, Matagalpa, +50527722764.  edit
  • Mokali Cafe Matagalpa, Matagalpa (Northwest side of San Pedro cathedral), +50527732005. Cafe  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Matagalpa is a major city in the Northern Highlands of central Nicaragua. Because of the diversity of visiting tourists, vacationers and business/trade travelers, this bustling city offers an equally diverse array of lodging alternatives, each priced to satisfy the niche travelers might be looking for.

  • Bermudez, (2 block east of parque ruben dario). Old Budget hotel. Maybe the best deal in town for whom are not searching for something in condition. Nothing beautiful but clean and rooms have private bathrooms. Nice cold shower. Choose the front room which is larger and with more light.  edit
  • La Buena Onda Matagalpa, One block North and three blocks east of Parque Morazón, +5052772-2135 (), [2]. A great new hostel in central Matagalpa, with dorm rooms and private rooms at very affordable prices.  edit
  • Martina's Place Hostal, Cancha del Brigadista 1 1/2 c al este, +505 27723918 (). checkin: 12; checkout: 10. Nice new hostel in the center of the town (only 3 quadras east from cathedral). With five private rooms and a very big dorm. All with hot water. A very big indoor patio with a community kitchen can use free. Free wi-fi and pure water for drink. Cofee of cortesy free.  edit
  • Montebrisa Boutique, From Morazán Park, 3 blocks East, Matagalpa, Nicaragua (Del Parque Morazán, 3 cuadras al este, Matagalpa, Nicaragua) (In North downtown near El Parque Morazàn), +505-2772 4292 (), [3]. B&B Montebrisa is located in a stylish urban oasis surrounded by lush tropical gardens with over 45 different ornamental species, 18 types of fruit trees, 5 types of precious woods, and over 460 coffee trees. A wide variety of tropical birds and butterflies are daily visitors. You can stay at Montebrisa to relax, enjoy the gardens and the delicious French Press coffee harvested from the property's own trees, located in the cooler northern highlands of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. A walker’s paradise, conveniently located only 3 blocks from the Cathedral and Central Park. A perfect base to explore the spectacular Peñas Blancas Massif Natural Reserve where you can explore waterfalls, an abundant array of flora and fauna.  edit
  • Ulap Yasica, Puma Las Marias gas station 300 mts east. (In the outskirts of the City. Road to San Ramón, Km 133.), +50527726443. checkin: Flex; checkout: Flex. Ulap Yasica Hostel is located in the outskirts of the city of Matagalpa, just 8 minutes away from city center. It is a family owned business conceived to have a low impact in the environment using local resources and recycled materials. Ulap Yasica offers private ensuit rooms and mixed dorm beds with shared bathrooms. Menus include vegetarian options, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other provided services are laundry, free Wi-Fi, hot water showers, free parking, night security, movie nights, beautiful gardens, table games, shared spaces and all kind of assistance to help you to discover the amazing north of Nicaragua!  edit

Get out[edit]

Getting Out of the City, You can visit the neighboring town of San Ramon(15 minutes by car) see the old adobe church, on weekends you can see the campesinos playing polkas y mazurcas local music. Visit the tomb in the local Cemetery where Katharina Braun Elster is buried(She was the first person who planted coffee in Central and Northern Nicaragua. A few miles in the same direction is the Indian Community of "El Chile" where Indian do their own fabric in an old "rueca" (spinning wheel).

If you take the Highway from Matagalpa to Jinotega you will see the "most panoramic road" of Nicaragua, altitude of more that 5000 feet, you can see the horizon as far as the Momotombo Volcano, temperatures ranges here from 55F to 70F, you will find mountain hotels where you can practice horseback riding, mountain hiking, bird watching, coffee and farm tours. Keep going, buy local fruits(strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, bananas)- In 1 hour 15-30 minutes you will get to the city of Jinotega, where you can eat, and buy local "pupusas" (local pastry).

It's worth a trip to nearby Selva Negra, a supposedly virgin forest on the way to Jinotega that offers an assortment of lovely hikes ranging in difficulty. Take the bus (12 Cordoba - as of April 2016 price is 13 cordobas) toward Jinotega and tell them to drop you off at the entrance to Selva Negra. It's an easy 1.5 km walk to the gate. Entrance is 50 Cordoba, but for 100 Cordoba you get a ticket than can be used for credit at the restaurant (as of 1st April 2016 price is 100 cordobas for entry only, 200 cordobas for consumables ticket which also includes entry) Ask for a free map of the trails from reception.

On the way back to Managua you will see tenths of Coffee Processing facilities, they dry, dehusk and package the coffee green beans ready for export, from here they take coffee to the ocean ports and then to overseas markets.

There are two bus stations in Matagalpa, one in the south and one in the north. The following itineraries are posted there and are for the one in south, that serves the long destination travels (Nov 2013):

  • To Esteli: buses depart every 30 minutes starting at 5:15am. The last bus leaves at 5:45pm.
  • To Jinotega: buses depart every 30 minutes starting at 5am. The last bus leaves at 7pm. 25 Cordobas (as of Mar 2015 / April 2016).
  • To Managua:Express buses depart every 60 minutes starting at 5:20am. The last bus leaves at 5:20pm. Regular busses depart every 30 minutes starting at 3:35am. The last bus leaves at 6:05pm.
  • Other destinations may also be available. There was one sign at the end of the terminal that listed a bus to Leon departing at 6am and 9:30am. Also to masaya - 2.00pm and 3.30pm (April 2016).
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