Estelí is a city in the Northern Highlands of Nicaragua. Estelí continues to be a Sandinista stronghold and you can see almost as many murals bearing witness of this as in León. It is also a center of the coffee- and tobacco- growing industries of Nicaragua.
- From the Honduran border, you can take a bus to Ocotal, then from Ocotal to Estelí. As Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have a border agreement you should not have to pay for crossing the border; however, some officials will still collect a fee.
- From the south, there are frequent buses from Managua and other points. Buses from Managua every 30 minutes.
- From León : Also expressos (a regular one leaves about 09:30 from the north terminal).
- From Jinotega: The buses leaves at 05:00, 07:00, 09:00, 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00, C$50 (córdobas), every 2 hours.
There are two bus stations both on the Pan American about 100m from each other. The southern is smaller and better organised but more buses come and go from the north. Most main destinations are served by both though so you will need to check both for times, etc.
Both stations are a little out of the main town (C$15-20 in a collective to the Parque Central 2007). 20 minutes walking from the Parque Central. Turn left at the first paved road and then right about 4 blocks later - when you hit the main north/south street (with lots of shops, comedores and people around).
Local buses (C$4 to any destination) and shared taxis (C$12 in the central area and no more than C$20 within the city. Agree on the price before you get in). You can easily walk around the city center.
Lots of beautiful murals in various places around town.
- La Garnacha (Get off the bus at the La Garnacha sign and walk up the road about 2 km. From there, if you are still up for a hike, you can walk to and climb up Cerro Apaguají. It is on private property but open to the public. It's about another 1km hike from La Garnacha). A community consisting mostly of organic farmers plus an amazingly good cheese factory. To visit, you need to. From the cerro you can see Lake Managua to the south, the chain of volcanos along the Pacific and, on a clear day, part of El Salvador on the other side of the Gulf of Fonseca.
- Miraflor Nature Reserve (A couple of hours outside of Esteli in the mountains. To get there, take a bus from Terminal Norte. Buses leave everyday at 06:00, 12:00, and 15:45). An agricultural cooperative. There are a number of places at Miraflor where you can stay in cabins or with families, ride horses, meet farmers, looks at orchids, etc. Visit Hospedaje Luna for more information.
- Proyecto de Las Mujeres Ambientalistas (4 blocks west of the water tank located in the south end of Mercado de Alfredo Lazo in SW Estelí). These friendly women will show you how they make paper and will let you get your hands wet to make some paper yourself. The central core of their work is recycling paper mixed with plant-based waste such as banana stalks, corn husks, coconut shells, onion skins and other vegetable fibres. They make their own unique textured papers by hand. After sun-drying they artfully craft them into beautiful greeting cards and other items which they display and make available for you to acquire to take with you. They have three organic gardens: one for natural herbal medicines donated by Stanford University in 2010, one for organic vegetables, and one for indigenous tropical plants that you can stroll through during weekdays. This is an excellent photo opportunity, you can pose in front of beautiful rich colourful murals, painted on the outside walls that tell the history of the project and show the steps of the papermaking process. All this rests in a large, tranquil, park-like setting. Another building has a mural showing the development of the Ekokids from the surrounding barrios, especially Boris Vega. These underprivileged kids are learning good environmental and health practices. If you have the time, they encourage you to spend time volunteering and living with a family in the barrio for a week or month or longer to really learn the culture better. Some volunteers have stayed for a year or more.
- 1 Tisey (Take a city bus to the hospital, and then a local bus up the mountain or catch the bus to Tisey at the Cotran Sur on the Pan American highway). A nature preserve just south of Esteli. On the way up, you can stop in Estanzuela and see a waterfall. The water is very cold. But worth the trip. Buses leave everyday except Wednesdays from Cotran Sur at 06:30 and 13:30.
- The Esteli region is also home to many fine cigar companies, most of whom will allow a prearranged tour, and some of whom offer special package tours of their factories (Drew Estate, in particular).
- There is a public market called El Mercado Alfredo Lazo at the south end of town. Easy to find or just ask. Just north of that market are lots of leather shops. Good stuff at good prices. For example, you can probably get a custom made pair of boots for around US$50.
There are a number of Spanish schools in the town.
- CENAC, on PanAmerican Hwy near intersection with Calle 6 SE. +505 2713 5437
- Sacuanjoche Spanish School, about 7 blocks east of PanAmerican Hwy near Calle 1 SE. +505 2713 7580
- Spanish Conversation School of Estelí, ☏ . Two-hour classes for backpackers and short-timers. Otherwise, there are three distinctly different learning tracks. The most popular is Learning Spanish Like Crazy, In Person. It is a combination listening and speaking computer course that uses English together with a Spanish speaking teacher that challenges and helps people all the way through this fluency course. This school has a variety of afternoon activities and weekend tours available. 20 hours per week includes homestay and basic activity package. The other courses are Rocket Spanish, In-Person that uses English together with a Spanish speaking teacher and traditional full-immersion Spanish (with no English used). If you are not sure which track to take you are allowed to switch to a different track. They also take students into places that make horse saddles and other stores and vegetable markets so the students interact and practice their newly acquired Spanish with real contact with the local people to build confidence and work towards fluency. After finishing your classes you can continue to learn by taking classes from the same teacher by Internet using Skype at very low prices.
- 1 Spanish School Nicaragua (in front of University UPOLI; from gas station UNO, take a taxi), ☏ , email@example.com. 08:00 to 17:00. Popular Spanish language school. Study Spanish with a native Spanish teacher. Courses are tailored to your level. Teachers are experienced teaching Spanish over 17 years. They prepare food with Spanish learners and share to the poor people working in the dump in Esteli. US$165 per week, US$5 per hour.
- Viva Spanish Esteli (part of Viva Spanish Programs) ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cafe Luz (across the street from Hospedaje Luna). Excellent local and international food at reasonable prices in a great environment with friendly staff.
- Mocha Nana Cafe (3 blocks east of la Casa de Cultura). Brilliant waffles, cakes, bagels, batidas, and good coffee, mocha coffee drinks, fresh juices, light fare of sandwiches and sopas. Live music every Friday night starting at 20:00.
- Los Semáforos. Best weekend dance venue, Rancho bar, made of palm roof style, great live music, watch out for "Cafe", young group, mixed age clientele, good disco between live music. Thurs through Sun.
- Cigars Zone. Modern and upscale disco and lounge. Sells excellent cigars as well. C$100 (US$5) entry fee. Mixed local and tourist / business travellers clientele.
- Axis. Formerly the legendary Studio 54, fairly central on the Pan Am, much of the same beautiful people dancing reggaeton and Donna Summa. Karaoke inside too.
- Casino Las Vegas. Near market on calle central. Packed small karaoke bar, with cheesy carpets, sponge-painted Vegas surrounds the serious singers, smoke filled atmosphere that parties until dawn.
- Cafe Luz (Opposite Hostel Luna. One block from El Meson hotel). Great evening atmosphere with really excellent, well-priced food, local rum and Mojitos to challenge Cuba. Cold local beers and good Chilean wines too. Often has local musicians entertaining.
- Hospedaje Luna (from the rear of the cathedral, it's 1 block north on the left hand side). Gringo central with clean dorms and a few single rooms: clean, fresh, attractive and fun, with central garden, hammock and seating area, cable TV lounge and movies for all, with the cheapest rates for backpackers, couples and group, the dorms are US$8 per person. Good place to meet other travellers, and get information in English and Spanish. Has hot water, laundry facilities, free organic coffee and teas, bike hire, cigar factory tours, live music nights out tours, and more. Make reservations or be sure to be abundantly clear with your intended length of stay as they will not hesitate to give your bed away from under you if a larger group should require it. No lockers in the dorms.
- Casa Hotel Nicarao (on the east side of the main street a couple blocks south of the Parque Central), ☏ . Beautiful, clean hotel with simpatico staff, rooms are arranged around a central garden with tropical birds and a friendly duck. Double with private bath and TV: US$17.50, single with shared bath, and no TV: C$233/US$10.
- Hotel Sacuanjoche (1 block east of Pali Supermarket), ☏ . Pros: cheapest deal in Esteli (US$6 single, US$10 double), charming old hotel, nice lobby with reading area, courtyard, communal kitchen, relatively clean. Cons: bitter old prejudiced owners, jaded & inhospitable (the family who run it). They apparently have a grudge against Americans or Western tourists.) C$120-300.