Managua, Nicaragua: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

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A typical gawdy chicken bus on the Managuan highwayManagua city highwayPanoramic view of the city of ManaguaEl Castillo de la Inmaculada Concepción (Fortress of the Immaculate Conception) along the southern banks of Río San Juan, built to defend the nearby city of GranadaLake ManaguaCatedral de Santiago: The Old Cathedral of ManaguaThe Old Cathedral of Managua undergoing restoration workPalacio Nacional de la Cultura, home of the National Museum of Nicaragua

Managua is the capital and the largest city in Nicaragua. It is the second most populous city in Central America, after Guatemala City, and the second largest city proper after Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Managua is also a department of Nicaragua. It is located on the southern part of Lake Managua, also known as Lake Xolotlán. Managua was given the nickname Novia del Xolotlán, or “The Bride of Xolotlán.

The name “Managua” comes from the Nahuatl word “Mana-ahuac”, which means site “surrounded by water” or “adjacent to the water”. Managua residents are called Managuas or Capitalinos. For thousands of years, the area occupied by the city has been inhabited by diverse cultures of indigenous peoples.

Managua was officially declared the capital of Nicaragua in 1852, after years of the capital being shifted between León and Granada by conflicting political factions. Its strategic location between the two old rival cities has contributed to the political compromise of turning it into the nation’s capital. In 1972, the Nicaragua earthquake devastated 90% of Managua. This disaster, followed by years of war brought on by the Nicaraguan Revolution, severely disrupted Managua’s economic growth and development. It was only in the mid-1990s that Managua was able to get back on its feet again and see a gradual resurgence of investment and infrastructural development.

Managua has naturally fertile lands, abundant water resources and rain, a tropical climate, and varied topography. All these factors combined contribute to the existence of a wide variety of flora. Managua is home to many endemic trees like ceibos, chilamates, genízaros, piñuelas, pochotes, royal palms, tigüilotes, and madroño, which is the national tree of Nicaragua. The rainy season is from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April. During the rainy season, Managua transforms into a lush, green city. Mean temperatures vary between 28°C/82°F to 32°C/90°F. The hottest month is April and the coldest month is December. Managua lies on deadly fault lines, and seismologists predict that the city will experience an average of one devastating earthquake every 50 years or less.

The city’s population is estimated to be at 2.5 million. Majority of the population are mestizos and whites of Spanish descent. A minority of the population include those with mixed European descent such as French, German, Italian, Russian, and Turkish. The city is home to a significant population of immigrants and expats mostly from the United States and Latin American countries.

Managua is also a cultural, economic, educational, political, and social hub in Nicaragua. It is home to the headquarters of many national and international companies and businesses. Main branches of Nicaragua’s major banks are located in Managua. The city also has many factories producing various products. Managua is primarily a trade-based economy. Local products include beer, coffee, construction materials, matches, pharmaceuticals, shoes, and textiles. Exported products are beef, coffee, cotton, and various crops. Many new hotels and shopping malls are being constructed in the city. New office spaces are also being constructed in response to demand for commercial real estate.

Managua, and Nicaragua in general, do not have major gang-related problems, unlike some Central American countries. The number of gang members, and gang-related crimes that occur throughout the country are lower than other Central American nations except Belize. That being said, there are still areas that are less safe in the city. Most crime that occurs is opportunistic in nature, and targets are often tourists or outsiders. It is better to avoid walking the streets alone at night. In the evening, it is better to take a taxi back to your hotel. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry to prevent being a victim of robbery. It is also recommended to use local currency in all local transactions, and avoid exchanging foreign currency with random individuals on the streets or in non-tourist areas.