Masaya (population 90,000) sprawls over a tropical plain nestled against the slopes of the volcano by the same name; at its western edge, paths carved by the Chorotegas trace the steep hillside down to the Laguna de Masaya. Twenty indigenous villages of Darianes used to cluster at the water’s edge.
Masaya was officially founded as a city in 1819 and has grown ever since. Several centuries of rebellion and uprising—first against the Spaniards in 1529 and later against William Walker’s forces in 1856, the U.S. Marines in 1912, and in a number of ferocious battles against the National Guard during the revolution, earned the Masayans a reputation as fierce fighters.
Travelers find Masaya less picturesque than Granada  and it’s true the streets and building facades in Masaya are less cared for. But the Masayans are a creative people with many traditions found nowhere else in Nicaragua, such as their solemn, mysterious funeral processions.
Perhaps Masayan creative energy goes into its delightful arts and crafts instead of the architecture. Your best introduction to these delights is Masaya’s Mercado Viejo  (Old Market), which is so pleasant and compelling that many visitors choose not to stray beyond its stately stone walls. But it’s well worth the money to charter a horse-drawn carriage to carry you to the breezy malecón , to see the crater lake 100 meters below.
Nearly every southbound bus leaving Managua  from Roberto Huembes passes Masaya, which is right on the highway, only 27 kilometers from Managua. Faster still are the Masaya- or Granada-bound expresos from the UCA leaving regularly 7 a.m.–9:30 p.m., arriving in Masaya’s Parque San Miguel; from there, they depart for Managua 6 a.m.–8 p.m. The ride costs under $1.
Less recommended is the expreso service between Masaya’s Plaza de Monimbó and Mercado Oriental in Managua, first leaving Masaya at 3 a.m. and running through 7 p.m. Ordinary bus service leaves and arrives at the main terminal in the parking lot of the Mercado Nuevo.