- 1 Managua – the capital of Nicaragua and its most important economic, religious, political and cultural hub
- 2 Masaya – famous for its handicrafts and the second-biggest city in the country
- San Marcos
This region consists of two parts: the capital and the pueblos blancos around Masaya. The pueblos blancos and especially Masaya are famous for their handicrafts. The capital is really one of a kind and has been slowly "eating away" at the surrounding countryside ever since that fatal seismic blow in 1972 all but leveled the historic center. While not graced by many picturesque places, it is not entirely devoid of sights and a great place to party and meet the locals (one third of Nicaraguans live in the greater Managua area).
Although more people than in other parts of Western Nicaragua will speak English, Spanish is still your best bet for communication.
Aeropuerto Augusto C Sandino (MGA IATA) serves Managua. From there you can take various buses (not advisable after nightfall) or taxis (there are licensed airport taxis that cost more or just "regular" Managua taxis that can't enter the airport parking lot, so you'd have to cross the street).
By international bus
Managua is connected to most other Central American capitals by frequent and (compared to a flight) inexpensive international buses. They are usually modern and equipped with air conditioning and many other amenities.
Apart from Laguna de Apoyo, buses frequently connect everything in this region. Most distances can be covered in under one hour.
- View from Loma de Tiscapa in Managua
- Laguna de Masaya — the crater lake visible from the malecon of Masaya
- Go see a theater-production in Managua.
- Swim in the crater lake of Laguna de Apoyo.
- Shop for handicrafts in Masaya and the surrounding pueblos blancos.
- Managua has an extremely wide selection of markets and also some decent shopping centers
If you just can't do without American fast food, this is the place to go. Generally speaking the selection is wider and more varied than anywhere else in the country.
You can go partying in Managua just about like you'd expect in a city of that size. This is also a place where rich Nicaraguans and expats gather for US$100 open bar extravaganza parties or the occasional concert of regionally or globally known artists at prices that are probably lower than they would be in Toronto or Paris.
Managua has a bit of a reputation (especially if you ask Nicaraguans from the countryside or small towns), but it's really not a lot more dangerous than some places in the US and a lot safer than some other Central American capitals. See the Managua article for details.
Masaya and the pueblos blancos are considerably safer than that
Although not in the geographical middle of the country this area is the main travel hub, which enables you to go on in every direction including:
- Northwest to León.
- Southwest to Granada San Juan del Sur and Ometepe.
- East towards the Caribbean on some of the worst roads of the country or on a smooth short plane-ride.
- Southeast to the almost forgotten Rio San Juan Region with its Spanish fortresses and pristine rainforests. A bus to San Carlos takes 6 hours and costs C$150 (córdobas).
- North to the coffee and mountain towns of Esteli and Jinotega