Mercado Nacional de Artesanias or a "Factory": Hammocks from Masaya
Mercado Nacional de Artesanías is apparently Nicaragua's best craft market (but too touristy for my taste).
In Masaya, you can buy a lovely hammock directly from the producers too and it will be cheaper (10-40 dollars depending on the size and your negotiation skills).
What to buy: Hammocks
What to pay: Prices vary from 10 to 30$ depending on the quality of work. (very big hammocks 30-40)Related to:
- National/State Park
- Arts and Culture
Hammocks in Masaya
If you see a hammock anywhere in Nicaragua, chances are, it originates from Masaya. Everytime I asked about someone where they purchased their beautiful hammock, the answer was always the same. Masaya. Masaya. Masaya!
Although we didn't have a chance to visit, there are many "fábricas de hamacas" on the southwest edge of town accross from the old hospital.
Many different styles, sizing and quality are available.
What to pay: A nice one person hammock will set you back $10-25 USD (fits nicely in a small pack) and $50+ for the "Hamaca Grande" which you can fit a small family and dog on but will require considerable effort to lug around while you continue with your travels.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Guitarras Zepeda: Handcrafted Guitars in Masaya
The main reason we wanted to visit Masaya was not for the volcano or the hammocks but for the guitars! It's not surprising that in Nicaragua's "artesanía" center we'd find a whole slew of guitar builders. It seems that they're everywhere.
Sergio Zepeda's family has been building quality, handcrafted guitars for three generations and he more than welcomes you to come tour his small workshop.
What to buy: In 2003, guitars started at $60 USD (cedar w/cheap fret wire) and work their way up to $140 for a mahogany and rosewood guitar (imported fret wire) w/beautiful binding and meticulously inlayed mother of pearl. You have a choice of standard and short-scale (popular in C.A.) & regular and cut-away stylings.These prices have apparently risen considerably
Regardless, anyone who knows guitars also knows that you can barely purchase a mass produced peice of "chipboard with strings" in North America for under $300. Sergio also makes mandolins. Unfortunately he does not keep shelf stock of guitars and requires that you give him a two-week lead time (preorder) if you want one of these beauties.
Had I known, I would have put in a preorder but... I happily settled for a guitar crafted by another builder that was of lesser quality.
What to pay: Cost depends on wood, fret, inlays and other custom options.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Various factories: Cigars from Estelí
Estelí is the cigar capital of Nicaragua. If you have time, you can have the cigar box made with the picture you like and the cigars wrapped in the same design!
What to pay: 10$ for a box of cigars, 45$ for a huge box of cigars with your own design.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Markets in Masaya
At the Mercado in Masaya you can by a lot of different things. Here you find very nice cotton hamocks, baskets, paintings, pottery, jewelery and belts, purses and bags made of reptile skin (crocodile, snake and iguana). You can even buy stuffed frogs playing the piano and the guitarr....
Updated after the trip 2009:
Mercado Artesanias (Mercado Viejo)
Inside the black-basalt walls of the Old Market-building is the Artisans Market. Here you will find many booths full of Nicaraguan craft, things like hammocks, ceramics, leather products, paintings, hemp weaving and embroidered blouses. So if you are looking for a souvenir this is a good place to come. I don’t know of the prices though. I did not buy anything myself so I didn’t ask around, but I have heard it is more expensive here than at the other market, Mercado Municipal.
On Thursday nights there are cultural events like marimba performances and folkloric dances. Traditional food is also served.
The building was constructed in 1888, but was not used as a market until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1978 it was destroyed by Somoza’s National Guard and abandoned. Renovations began in 1994.
The market is open every day between 9 - 18.
Directions: Two blocks east of Parque Central (Parque 17 de Octubre) and four blocks west of the bus terminal (where Mercado Municipal is).
Mercado Municipal (Mercado Nuevo)
As Mercado Artesanias is quiet and well set up for tourists the Mercado Municipal is where you should come for the real local market experience. Here it is more chaotic and colourful and you can find almost anything. Everything has got its own section so there is one place to go to for fruits and vegetables, another for meat and fish and at other sections you will find clothes and shoes, toiletries, handicrafts and much more. You can also find cheap eateries.
If you arrive to Masaya by bus this is a good place to start your sight-seeing, as Mercado Municipal is situated just by the terminal.
The market was moved here after the old market had been destroyed in 1978.
Directions: Mercado Municipal is situated about 1km east of Parque Central (Parque de 17 Octubre).Related to:
- Arts and Culture
What to buy: Nicaragaua produces some very fine rum.
What to pay: A bottle of top quality Nicaraguan Rum costs around US$12.00 or at least it does in San Jose airport, Costa Rica. The same Rum was on sale in a Madrid Airport duty free shop priced 24.00 Euros! Tip buy the rum locally!Related to:
- Food and Dining
Mercado Roberto Huembes
Mercado Roberto Huembes is also known as Mercado Central. This is a huge market where you can find a lot of different things. In the huge hall you have a lot of stalls selling fruits and vegetables. In another part you can by meat, and in another one bread.
Many small boutiques: Elegant Ceramic Earthenware, San Juan del Oriente
San Juan's fame in ceramics is an old one and the local clay has been used to make hand-shaped pottery for at least 1000 years.
The ceramics sold in the village are real pieces of art. Not just any ceramics you can buy elsewhere in Nicaragua. Don't miss your chance to shop there because you ain't gonna find it elsewhere.
What to buy: Ceramics
What to pay: 5-40$Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Metrocentro Mall: Local Malls
Metrocentro Mall proviedes with a very Large variety of shops , American style, also has a food court and movie theathers just like in The United States.
What to buy: clothing, shoes, fragances, and Nicaragua cofee.
What to pay: a bit expensiveRelated to:
- Luxury Travel
Masaya Market: Masaya Market: Shop to your hearts content
If you have to save one day to do all of your souvenier shopping do it during a visit to the city of Masaya where the largest craft market is located. The market is a labyrinth of small stores and long aisles stocked with hand crafted Nicaraguan goods like hammocks, pottery, leather, toys, jewelry, etc. You could spend a few hours here at the market. You may want to combine your visit to Masaya market with a trip to the Volcanic National Park in Masaya.
What to buy: We came here to buy a hand woven hammock which is a specialty item. You'll have to bargain for your hammock. We paid about $25 usd.
What to pay: This place is all about bargaining.Related to:
- Family Travel
It is easy to get cash from a bank machine in any city if you have a visa card. I would suggest prepaying before you go to reduce charges. You can take out cash in Cordobas or US currency. If you take out cordobas try to take out an uneven amount so that you get 50 or 100 denominations of Cordobas. Business's do not have much cash on hand so getting change is always a problem if you are buying something small.
Buying Water in Nicaragua
Buying drinks in Nicaragua can be a very interesting experience! Water is sold in "bags" on the streets. People sell little "bags" of water on the street corners. Each "bag" cost less than 10 cents US. You simply bite off the top corner of the bag and then suck the water out. I didn't see any plastic water bottles like the ones Americans typically drink in the USA.Related to:
- Road Trip
Buying Drinks in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan stores typically do not allow customers to take drink bottles off the store premises. Nicaraguan stores recycle their bottles (that is why they aren't usually in very good condition). My understanding is that stores can only buy 12 bottles of soda if they return 12 bottles to the supplier. If you do not finish your drink at the store, you can request a little baggie (sort of a ziploc bag without the "zip"). They will dump the remainder of your drink in the baggie, stick a straw in and tie the baggie at the top. Be sure to hold the bag upright! :-)
Cristina: Treat yourself to a manicure/pedicure in Estelí
Cristina does an absolutely fantastic job with your feet and hands. I've had mine done in Finland too but it was never half as good. I highly recommend Christina's services. She can either attend you at her home (de telecable 1/2 cuadra al este, 10 varas al N. Esteli) or you can phone her on her mobile and ask her to come around your place tel: 08317605.
What to pay: 110 córdobas (1 dollar = 15 córdobas)Related to:
- Women's Travel
Nicaraguan banks are not very willing to change euros yet. So it's better to bring dollars with you. You can get your travellers checks changed but cash + credit card is the easiest option. You can also pay in dollars here if you like.
What to pay: 15 córdobas = 1 dollar (August 2003)
We stayed here in May 2011, very nice staff, arranged for safe secured parking for our truck and a...more
Esquina de los Bancos 1C al Este, Leon, 00000, Nicaragua
Good for: Business
It felt like staying at Home in Nicaragua. The rooms are nice, very comfortable beds, a great...more
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