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- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Chinandega, a provincial capital grown out of the agriculture business is the last major town before the Güasaule border with Honduras, and also the gateway to Nicaragua’s distant corner of the Gulf of Fonseca.
It’s a town you’ll get to know well if you are stocking up for a visit to the desolate coastline or the unvisited crater wall of Volcán Cosigüina. It’s also the undisputedly hottest corner of the nation.
The same threatening volcanoes that loom over the city of Chinandega and its surrounding plains are also responsible for the high fertility of the soil. This attracted the Nahuatl, who called their new home Chinamilt (“close to cane”).
Chinandega suffers the same poverty as the rest of the nation, but also boasts a prosperous community of old and new money, based primarily in sugar, bananas, peanuts, sesame, soy, and shrimp.
Cotton used to be the number-one cash crop in the 1960s, but the deforestation and agro-chemicals essential to its production caused monumental environmental damage, like poisoned aquifers and toxic soil, still affecting life to this day.
The agricultural activity of the region and proximity to the northern borders and Port of Corinto make Chinandega Nicaragua’s most important agribusiness center.
Did we mention that it’s hot in Chinandega? It’s so hot in Chinandega, expect to break a sweat in the shower. This is what it feels like to be a rotisserie chicken.
You can easily see Chinandega’s colonial churches and central market in a couple of hours before stopping to catch your breath. Keep your wits about you, as the areas south of center can be a bit dangerous due to the presence of pandillas (street gangs).
For dancing, especially on Saturdays, the Dilectus Disco (located just east of town on the road to León) is popular with well-off locals, but also overpriced and ridiculously loud. If you prefer a looser, younger crowd and still want air-conditioning, try Montserat on the highway to Guasaule (Wednsedays are mariachi nights) or better still, La Terraza (on the road to El Corinto), which has an open-air rancho; it’s very pleasant, with dancing on the weekend, decent food, and a clean swimming pool!
Stop by the office of Fundación COEN (tel. 505/2341-2906, www.fundacioncoen.org), half a block south of INISER, where arrangements can be made to work with children with disabilities or with chemotherapy patients. For other local volunteer opportunities, contact Vittoria Penalba in Managua (tel. 505/2266-5401 ext. 115, vpenalba [at] fundacioncoen [dot] org).
Getting to Chinandega
The main bus station is at Mercado Bisne, just past Rotonda los Encuentros. From La Rotonda, highways run north to Somotillo and the border with Honduras at Guasaule, southeast to León and Managua, south to Corinto, and three daily buses to Matagalpa. Service to Managua, León, and the border runs 4 a.m.–7 p.m. daily. A second bus station located at El Mercadito (just north of the central park) provides service to all points north: El Viejo, Jiquilillo, Potosí, Cosigüina, and Puerto Morazán.
Car rentals starting at $35 a day are available at the Avis office in the Hotel Cosigüina and Budget in Hostal Las Mañanitas. There is also a Dollar office at Casa Pellas.
Even though there is a TicaBus agency in town, those traveling north into Honduras or El Salvador will have to go to Managua to catch the bus, which no longer stops in Chinandega. Be advised: Any foreigner who enters El Salvador must have a visa. Get yours at the Salvadoran Consulate. Contact your companies in León for the latest.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition