Masaya is situated approximately 14 kilometres west of Granada and 31 kilometres south east of Managua.
Masaya’s main claim to local fame is as “The Cradle of Nicaraguan Folklore”, and it truly is the heart of Nicaraguan handicrafts. The Mercardo de Artesanias is located inside what used to be the “mercado viejo” (old market). This 1900s structure is located near the center of the city and a couple of blocks away from the regular market. This mercado viejo has been revitalized and is a popular as a tourist attraction with crafts from Masaya and other areas of Nicaragua offered for sale.
The historical city centre has open plazas and two 16th century, baroque architecture churches, the Assumption’s Parish Church and St. Gerome’s Church. Other colonial structures are St. John’s, St. John Bosco’s, and St. Michael’s.
Not far from the city is Volcán Masaya National Park, a popular tourist site. It has a small museum and tourist information centre. Tour guides and proper equipment are provided for treks inside bat caves created by lava flows from past eruptions. Lava is often visible in the volcano’s crater, which is the most active in the region. Volcán Masaya is actually made up of 2 volcanoes, Masaya and Nindirí with a total of 5 craters.
The Spanish first described the volcano in 1524 and believed the belching lava to be melting gold. But when Fray Bartolomé de las Casas first saw it he called it the “Gates of Hell”. Since is was first discovered by Europeans, Masaya Volcano has erupted 19 times, and from 1965 to 1979 the volcano contained an active lava lake. The last reported eruption was in 2003, when the ash plume rose 4.6 kilometres into the air. Volcán Masaya is unusual for a basaltic volcano in that it’s had explosive eruptions. In 4550 B.C. Volcán Masaya erupted in what is believed to have been the planet’s largest volcanic eruption in the last 10,000 years.
Coyotepe Fortress is an old fortress located on a hill from where it gets its name. The fortress has been converted into a museum. Built at the turn of the 20th century by President José S Celaya, this site witnessed a fierce battle in, 1912 that took place from October 2 until the 4th. Nicaraguan rebel force, led by General Benjamín Zeledón, occupied Coyotepe and another hill overlooking the strategic rail line, Barranca. The rebels refused to surrender but were overrun by Nicaraguan troops aided by 2 battalions of US Marines. Dictator Anastasio Somoza rehabilitated the fortress in the late 30’s as a prison where political opponents were treated brutally or put to death. In 1990 Coyotepe Fortress was turned over to the Boy Scouts Association.
The Experience Nica Tour groups will visit the Coyotepe Fortress and Mercardo de Artesanias. Unfortunately there can be no guarantee the group will be able to visit the Masaya volcano crater. Access to the volcano is entirely dependant upon how active the volcano is and its safety status can change from day to day. Thus the group may or may not be granted access to the crater.
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