Managua Travel Guide

An old church in Managua © Pablo H

Nicaragua's capital, Managua, is the perfect introduction to this Central American paradise and an ideal starting point for exploring the country, situated as it is on the banks of Lake Managua and midway between Leon and Granada. The city's name is derived from the indigenous Nahuatl language, meaning 'town surrounded by water'. In recent times, Managua has been dubbed 'the Venice of Central America' because of all the makeshift canals used throughout the city.

Managua is divided into what can be termed pre- and post-earthquake areas. Two major earthquakes devastated the town in 1931 and 1972, forcing residents to build businesses and residential areas outside of Managua rather than in the centre of town, which still contains older buildings not structurally designed to withstand earthquakes. The rebuilt Managua does not seem to follow a particular layout system, and shopping malls, residential areas and parks are scattered throughout the city. Zona Rosa and Metrocentro are the main tourist areas.

Managua is the cultural and political centre of Nicaragua. It is also central to trade and industry, which is evident in the frenetic activity and constant buzz of the city. Visitors to Managua will be delighted by the city's combination of old and new, and its natural beauty, surrounded as it is by volcanoes, lakes, mountains and lagoons.

Getting around in Managua can be tricky because of extensive earthquake damage. Years of major earthquakes and earth tremors have left many parts of central Managua without proper addresses or street names. Using the lake as a point of reference is particularly useful whether you're using a hired car, taxis or public buses.

Managua boasts a number of tourist attractions, including the National Museum, National Palace and the old and damaged Managua Cathedral. The town has a selection of quaint markets where tourists can buy everything from ethnic mementos and souvenirs to colourful hammocks and paintings. Visitors to Nicaragua will be charmed by its capital city and enthralled by the country's natural beauty and scenic surroundings.

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