Our half -day Excursion to the White Towns
Nestled in the hills around Masaya are the “White Towns” of San Juan del Oriente, Catarina, Diria, Diriomo, Masatepe and Niquinohomo. Surrounded by huge crater lakes and the Masaya Volcano, these picturesque villages lie around 500 meters above sea level. The climate here is more pleasant and the vegetation more dense and varied than in the nearby lowlands.
The nickname “White Towns” goes far back to the days when the adobe dwellings were mostly whitewashed. Today the houses are much more colorful. In the villages, deeply rooted Indian culture and traditions are very much alive. Along with folk dances and fiestas, traditional art and handicrafts are also passed down from generation to generation. The villagers are friendly, outgoing people who are happy to invite you into their backyards. Here you can watch how baskets and hammocks are woven, furniture carved, leather goods fashioned and high-quality ceramics and pottery ware created. Each of the villages specializes in a particular art form. On a day’s excursion, it is therefore advisable to visit several towns.
In spite of the labor-intensive work involved, these arts and crafts are not expensive and it could be difficult to decide on which particular souvenir you would like to take home. Once you capitulate, we are happy to help you with packaging and shipping.
San Juan del Oriente
As far as craftwork is concerned, San Juan del Oriente is the most interesting of the Pueblos Blancas villages. For generations, the mostly Indian population has perpetuated the traditional expertise for the production of finest ceramics and pottery. Today, this is a livelihood for over 90% of the villagers. In the backyards of private homes, whole families can be seen working on their specialties. Thus are skills and knowledge handed down from parent to child.
Catarina is a small, inviting village where the many garden nurseries are filled with palm trees, orchids, helikonias and cactuses. Also interesting are the furniture, lamps and baskets made out of bamboo. The surrounding countryside is filled with fruit orchards: mangos, bananas, papayas, avocados, medlar, mombins, soursop fruit or guajave – you won’t get them fresher than here. You will also find here a popular lookout site that offers a spectacular view of the magnificent Lagune de Apoyo, Granada, the Mombacho volcano and Lake Nicaragua. In any one of the little restaurants, you can relax, buy souvenirs and listen to marimba music.
Diria & Diriomo
These two small neighboring villages are mostly famous for the cult and legends surrounding the “sorcerer” – or so-called healer. They practiced alternative medicine and fortune telling and are said to have indulged in sorcery. In contrast, you may visit a well-preserved baroque church in Diriomo.
The people of Masatepe are well known for unique, handmade furniture and custom-made leather shoes. Here you can buy the famous rocking chair that is a must in every Nicaraguan household.
Niquinohomo earns its fame as the birthplace of Augusto C. Sandino, the rebel leader in the war against dictator Somoza. The present ruling party bears his name (Sandinista). A small museum in the house where he was born tells the story of his life and a huge bronze statue in the Central Park commemorates this national hero.
What we offer:
Our ½-day Excursion to the „White Towns“
Along the way we make a stop at various vantage points looking over the Lagune de Apoyo including the lookout in Catarina.
In San Juan del Oriente we introduce you to several private workshops where you can watch how pottery is shaped and formed by hand or even try it yourself. Afterwards there is time to wander through the village and perhaps buy an exquisite ceramic souvenir.
We will also visit shops where stone masons are at work and where furniture and baskets are made out of bamboo.
Not to be missed is the information centre of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.
At the end of the half-day tour, we stop in Niquinohomo – the birthplace of the national hero, Augusto Sandino, who led the rebellion against the dictator Somoza. Here we will visit the house where he was born and which is now a museum.