Introduction

 

Fifty-six kilometers north-west of Managua, with one of the largest active volcanoes, Momotombo, as its backdrop, sits the artisan town of La Paz Centro (LPC). Established as a city in 1989, the name La Paz Centro comes from the signing of a peace treaty between, at the time President Fernando Guzman and Francisco Zamora to end the civil war in the occidental region of Nicaragua. The city once was a prominent stop for the trains carrying coffee between Matagalpa and Corinto, Chinandega (a major sea port for exportation). In November 2005, a commemorative artwork was placed in front of the old train station to celebrate the 36th anniversary of city hood.

Also, a good lil bit of trivia: the U2 song, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” was inspired by a trip to Nicaragua…which sort of gives definition to why there are no numbers or names, for instance, a typical address is de la Iglesia Catolica media cuadra al sur.

Activities

Locals, Nicaraguans, and tourists brag that LPC is the place to get the best quesillo, a delicious treat that becomes addictive after the first time eating it! A homemade tortilla filled with homemade cheese similar to mozzarella, sour cream, and chopped onions, it comes in a plastic bag with a knot tied at the top and you suck it out through a hole in the bottom (depending on how “pura Nica” you really are…) A quesillo paired with a refresco de cacao (chocolatey milk drink) is the best. For food, there are a string of restaurants on the north side of the highway, east of the main entrance to town; Guiliguiste (Gwee-willy-gwee-stay) is the most popular.

Nearby Momotombo has a number of things to do, including exploring the ruins of Leon Viejo. Leon Viejo was the first city to be colonized in Nicaragua, but abandoned in 1610 due to volcanic activity. It costs U.S.$2 for travelers and is open 8am to 5pm Sunday through Saturday. It is possible to drive/walk or horse ride/walk to the top.

Between LPC and Momotombo is the Laguna de Asococa. It’s a small crater lake with views of El Hoyo and the surrounding chain of volcanoes. From LPC, catch the Momotombo bus; get off at the fork in the road where the “Pepsi Restaurant” is (and the bus turns right). Follow the dirt path to the left for 30-40min staying left. You have to cross private property, so be prepared to be asked for 10 cords per person, but you can pay what you want. It will be flat up to this point. Turn right through the private property, up to the plateau and then downhill into the crater. Don’t forget your swimming suit. It’s a refreshing dip after the hot climb down. In total it takes an hour each way. And if you get lost, the locals are super friendly and will help you find it, as they take pride in its beauty.

Holidays and Celebrations

La Paz is particularly famous for its Fiestas Patronales (to celebrate the patron saint of LPC, San Nicolas de Tolentino) on Sept 10th-Sept 21st). There are fair rides in the park, art competitions, actos & folkloricos, or folk dances, a bull run through the city and bull riding events, hipica, or horse parade, and local fiestas & dances at the local disco, Jay’s Disco

Fiestas Patronales (Independence celebrations for the whole country) take place on September 14th and go through that weekend.

Dia de los Muertos, November 2nd, is followed by Anniversary of City Hood on November 4th, usually celebrated with parades and general shenanigans.

The Sauce

Volcano boarding. Featured on CNN this year, they ranked it the second most thrill-seeking activity after skydiving. And it is. You go really fast and you get really dirty, but it is completely worth it! Two options: there are companies in Leon that charge U.S. $20-30, or you can rent boards, usually for U.S. $5 for the day! Ask around in LPC at Jarro’s, a local bar, or in any bar in Leon city and then hitchhike to any number of volcanoes in the area. Cerro Negro is the most promising.

How to Get There

From Managua, Monday through Saturday, buses leave every 15 minutes, starting at 4:30am to LPC from the Mercado Israel Lewites. The last bus is at 6pm. On Sunday they run less frequently and last bus is at 5pm. The buses cost between 15-20 cordobas (~$.70). They usually take an hour to an hour and a half to get to La Paz Centro.

From Leon, buses leave about every 40 minutes and cost 15-20 cordobas. Buses start at 5am from Leon and last one to leave for LPC is 5pm.

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Artisan Goods

The Mercado de Artesania is right on the highway at the main entrance and open from 8am to 6pm, 7 days a week. They sell local ceramics and brightly colored guinea, a cross between a chicken and a pidgeon, which is what they are known for. La Paz Centro is the hub for brick making for the whole country of Nicaragua as well as the clay deposits used in clay water filter manufacturing in the department of Masaya.

The Parque Central offers homemade, custom-made Rosaries, which are pretty cool.

Lodging

Really the best options are homestays, which would include three authentic home cooked meals, a tijera, or cot to sleep on, and plenty of conversation. Otherwise, nearby Nagarote has a wonderful hotel (although a bit on the pricey side). But again, Nagarote is a great day trip, complete with a lookout point where views of nearby Momotombo are ridiculously cool. If neither of those work, we recommend staying in Leon, where hostels with dorm beds run between U.S. $5-8 per night.

Dining

Jarro’s (de la Parque Central media cuadra arriba— northside of the church, half block down) is a bar/restaurant known for its 3 beers for 50 cords deal (3 beers for U.S. $2, can’t be beat!) The food is good too! U.S. $2-6

Jorgitos (de la Parque Central, 2 cuadras al norte, media cuadra abajo—2 blocks north of the park, half block west) They offer everything from fried chicken to Mexican style tacos and traditional Nica food: rice and beans, enchiladas, tacos. The food is always great and fresh. U.S. $2-6

Tamy’s Pizza (de la Ferreteria Paiz, una cuadra arriba, media cuadra al sur) Awesome pizza, even by North America standards. No salsa de tomate as sauce, here. The ladies who work here are super friendly and make the dough and sauce fresh (we’re talking oregano and basil, here). Kinda reminds us of a Nicaraguan Mystic Pizza setting. They also offer fried chicken and hotdog combos.  U.S.$2-6.

El Asador is the best restaurant in LPC. They offer chicken cordon bleu, which is hella good and filling. There is no skimping on portion size here; you get what you pay for! U$2-8

There are many other restaurants and fritangas, or little food stands, that sell enchiladas deep-fried tortillas filled with shredded beef and rice and served with sour cream and ketchup, U.S. $ 1-2. Don’t forget a side of tajadas, fried plantain chips with chopped onions & cabbage marinated in vinegar, U.S. $.25. ‘Frescos come in plastic bags, all types of flavors, U.S. $.20-.30

Community Contacts

Currently, there are 2 Peace Corps Volunteers who live in the community and are more than willing to show you the sites!

PCV Julie North +505-8338-4589 northjul@gmail.com

PCV Skyla Jackson +505-8711-0488

This local family sells cheese and rents chairs and tables for parties. They’re good contacts to find a home stay option and are really friendly people that will welcome you to La Paz Centro with open arms and free cheese: Juan Ramon and Olivia Mondragon +505-8708-5221

Works with German NGO, can help with home stay options: Don Ramon Casa Mujer (de la Iglesia, 2 cuadras al sur, media cuadra arriba)

Local youth group organizer. Works with Sister Cities Amherst in US. Friendly fellow will help you find home stay or any thing else: Julio Carranza +505-8681-5947

 

People are extremely friendly in La Paz and are really curious about foreigners & tourists (in a good way). Super tranquilo city. Sit in the park and someone will come up to you to ask,” Idehay? Que te parece La Paz Centro? Le gusta quesillo?” And you’ll be in, like Flynn.