Spread across a flat valley 800 meters above sea level, Estelí is an unassuming city whose 110,000 merchants, ranchers, artists, and cigar rollers are prouder than most.
In Nahuatl, Estelí means something like “river of blood,” an apt moniker for an area so saturated with Sandinista rebels in the days that led up to the 1979 revolution that Somoza carpet-bombed the city (ask locals where to find la bomba, a relic from the air strikes). But these days, most Estelíanos live a bucolic life of farming and commerce.
Express and ordinary buses for Estelí leave from Managua ’s Mayoreo terminal. Seven expresos per day pass Esteí bound for Managua, making stops along the highway. If you’re arriving from Honduras, buses leave frequently daily from Somoto  and Ocotal , the last one leaving at 5 p.m.
From Estelí, ordinario buses leave the COTRAN Norte at regular intervals for Ocotal, Somoto, and points north 4 a.m.–5 p.m.; they leave COTRAN Sur for Managua, Matagalpa, León , and Yalí. Ocotal expresos stop off at the Shell Esquipulas approximately every hour on the half hour.
From COTRAN Sur there are dozens of daily buses to both Managua and Mataglapa, leaving from the wee hours until 6 p.m.; three express buses to León depart before 7 a.m., plus a few daily microbuses to León (they leave when they fill up, and competition is fierce).