Managua is one of those cities often overlooked by travellers and only used for the airport as a thoroughfare to other cities such as San Juan del Sur, Leon and Granada. While the city isn’t exactly pretty, or exciting, I found some interesting things to do close by.
During my short stay we hired a car with some new friends we had met in Peru and ventured out of the city to explore. With four of us in the car I figured there was safety in numbers so we couldn’t get too lost. Thank you also to offline satellite maps – I think any traveller can appreciate how essential they are, especially when out of wifi and trying to drive in a foreign country. We survived driving on the wrong side of the road in a country where road rules are only there as a ‘guide’ and in some areas had more chance of being run off the road by pushy locals on horses than another vehicle, which we did experience.
It’s normal to have a horse pull out in front of your car whilst people jump onto a moving bus in front of you right?
A 45 minute drive from the center of town is the beautiful Laguna de Apoyo (Apoyo Lagoon). It was a once in a lifetime experience to spend hours swimming in the balmy, crystal clear waters of this lagoon, which is actually a dormant volcano. I’m assuming the volcanic rocks, which also line the bottom of the lagoon act like a filter making the water so pristine. I did question why the water was so balmy and what the random occasional bubbles were, hoping it was just my friends and not the volcano about to wake while I was there. I will never know the answer to that one.
On the way driving back to town we discovered the Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya (Masaya Volcano National Park). The volcano is best viewed at night to see the full effect of the lavas glow. After waiting in an entertaining procession of cars for 1.5 hours, groups were able to drive right up to the volcano and allowed to only stay 15 minutes (to avoid toppling over from sulphur exposure). The security guard seemed easily swayed, so with a few smiles we loitered around additional minutes after our group was flagged away. I was able get crowd free pictures and have a more personal experience enjoying the serenity of the mesmerising lava which resembled waves crashing on rocks. Boys this technique to gain extra time may not work for you.
Finding good food in Managua is difficult however, if you like battered deep fried chicken you’ll be just fine. It’s available at petrol stations, food courts, restaurants, from street vendors and even the airport. Coronel Sanders has stiff completion in this country, as KFC is replaced with a chain that has an overly chipper looking yellow chook as a mascot. For the rest of us who seek more than fried chicken, it was a was a relief to find the restaurant Don Candidos to get a good steak to accompany all the rice and black beans in Managua. If you like a little free entertainment with your dinner, you’re in luck. A lot of the bars and eateries in Managua are outdoors and have a pretty fun atmosphere to enjoy a drink with the locals and watch them salsa. It’s even more fun if you join in.
My Instagram account ‘Belindaness’ has pictures of all the other places I visit in South and Central America.