Exploring Matagalpa, Nicaragua

November 15, 2018 5:56 am0 commentsViews: 148

Matagalpa, a busy and sprawling city in the north central region of Nicaragua, is located southeast of Estelí and approximately 15 minutes south of Jinotega. It is considered the coffee capital of the country and also functions as the nerve center for the industry. As active as the city is, the boundaries offer more peaceful settings such as a nature reserve, a mountain range with a peak of 4,730 feet, and an appropriately named river called the Río Grande de Matagalpa. All of these seem to create a wonderful balance for the area.

Founded in 1554 by the Spanish looking for a path to the north, the Matagalpa region rapidly expanded due to immigrants in search of gold and simply, a better life. In the 1880s, German immigrants arrived at the invitation of the Nicaraguan government to plant and grow the first coffee trees. Due to the fertile and rich soil, the coffee agriculture became a huge success that attracted many more immigrants to the region. Today, their descendants still manage the coffee plantations and the area retains its German heritage as seen in festivals, music, and the German-style chalets that are located in the 2,100 acre Selva Negra (Black Forest) Nature Reserve.

The city of Matagalpa is a comfortable and welcoming base for visitors. It provides some of the best climate in Nicaragua and maintains a wonderful blend of warm and friendly attitudes even within its bustling city center.

Things to See in Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Matagalpa has two main plazas: the Parque Rubén Darío to the south and the Parque Morazán in the north. Most directions in the city use these two points as a base so it is advisable to understand the location of these sites before exploring any of the following:

Iglesia Catedral San Pedro – Built in 1874, many consider the church to be one of the most beautiful in the country. A survivor of many of the former battles in the area, the church stands as a testament of perseverance and has the scars to prove it. It is located at the Parque Morazán.

Iglesia San José – Built in 1751, it has seen use not only as a church but as a jail for rebels in the late 1800s. It is located at the Parque Rubén Darío.

Casa Museo Comandante Carlos Fonseca – This museum honors the life of Carlos Fonseca, the philosopher and architect of the Sandinista Front, and eventual martyr. The display covers his life from his humble beginnings and transformation into a Sandino supporter to his murder by the National Guard in 1976. It is located near the Parque Rubén Darío.

Museo de Café – Although the title suggests that this is a museum solely about coffee, it actually covers the history of Matagalpa as well. It does offer free coffee samples, sells coffee by the pound and provides information about local coffee tours. It is located near the Parque Morazán.

Black Ceramic Pottery – Typical of Matagalpa, these smooth and black ceramics are prepared with volcanic clay. Near the cathedral is the Cerámica Negra Tradicional, where many items are sold. But keep in mind that there are other stores throughout the city and finding a bargain is worth half the fun.

Exploring Nature around Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Compared to other nature reserves in Nicaragua that require all-terrain vehicles or a full one-day hike up steep slopes, the nature reserve surrounding Matagalpa is simply accessed by a path at the city’s edge, approximately 10 minutes from downtown. For adventurous hikers, there are many scenic self-guided hiking trails in the area but guided tours are also available by Matagalpa Tours.

Reserva Natural Cerro Apante – Whether on foot or by vehicle, the goal is to reach the cool and misty summit at 4,730 feet with views of Matagalpa and the surroundings. The trek on foot is worth it since it provides views of beautiful streams and waterfalls that still function as the water source for the city below.

Ruta de Café – A hike that takes up to seven hours that includes travels through a number of organic coffee farms in the area.

Ruta de la Guerra 1978 – Trails that follow the Matagalpan escape route during the battles in 1978. The trip takes between two and five hours.

Ruta Cerro El Toro – A three to six-hour hike that offers amazing city views and a rock actually shaped like a bull.

Each of these attractions and activities in Matagalpa offer a variety of experiences for the traveler ranging from the process of the fair coffee trade industry to the history of numerous conflicts in the area. For tourists traveling through this northern region on their way to Selva Negra or Jinotega, this busy city is a must-see destination.

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