Things to Do in Managua
Skip the hike and drive right up to the lava-spitting rim of Masaya Volcano (Volcan Masaya), perched between Managua and Granada. The active volcano’s famous lava shows at the Santiago Crater, combined with ridiculously easy access, have made it one of the most popular attractions in all of Nicaragua.
The Old Cathedral of Managua (Catedral de Managua) is a spectacular ruin whose gilded neoclassical facade still stands but insides were devastated in a 1972 earthquake that shook Nicaragua. Though visitors are not allowed inside, the cathedral’s striking beauty and historical significance make a visit worthwhile.
Combine a bit of nature, a sprinkle of history, and the best view of Managua on a trip to the Tiscapa Lagoon—a crater lake, park, and nature reserve right in Nicaragua’s capital. The area is perhaps best known for its massive Augusto Sandino statue, an iconic symbol of the city.
In a city infamous for a lacking cultural center, Managua’s National Palace of Culture stands as a testament to Nicaragua’s rich history. The complex houses the National Museum (Museo Nacional Dioclesiano Chávez), the National Archives, and the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional Rubén Darío) all under one stunning neoclassical roof.
A humble exterior conceals an elegant, velvet-swathed concert hall at the Rubén Darío National Theatre (Teatro Nacional Rubén Darío), Nicaragua’s premier exhibition space. The hall is a true homage to Managua’s cosmopolitan roots with Spanish chandeliers, American design inspiration, and the best of Latin American and other cultural performances.
A deep and narrow canyon formed by the powerful Rio Coco, Central America’s longest river, Somoto Canyon National Monument offers thrilling excursions for adrenaline junkies and scenic views of northern Nicaragua’s remote territory. The protected area covers 420 acres (170 hectares), including a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch of canyon.
A series of human footprints preserved by volcanic ash, the Footprints of Acahualinca serve as reminder of the early civilizations that lived in what today is Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. The Acahualinca archaeological site and museum showcases these fossilized footprints and teaches us about the people who left them behind.
A trip to Lake Managua (Lake Xolotlán, or Lago Xolotlán) is more about lakeside vistas than the (polluted) water. A quick jaunt from Managua’s city center rewards visitors with views of the towering Momotombo Volcano, as well as a glimpse into Nicaragua’s efforts to clean up and revamp its environmental attractions.
Don’t let the lack of spires and bell towers fool you—Managua’s modern Metropolitan Cathedral (New Cathedral, or La Nueva Catedral) is intended as Nicaragua’s preeminent church. A unique structure of a square base topped by 63 translucent domes built in 1993, the then-controversial cathedral is now an unforgettable sight.
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