Jinotega, known as the City of Mists or La Ciudad de las Brumas, is located in the north central department of the same name in Nicaragua. At an elevation of approximately 3,280 feet, the cooler mountain air combines with the warmer air from the lowlands in the south to form incredible mists that seem to hover around the mountain peaks. At times, the mists even flow down into the city’s cobblestone streets which only adds to its mystery. Since its tourist infrastructure is still young, Jinotega sits as a wonderful retreat from the more busy and popular tourist attractions in the south.
First settled by the Spanish in 1500s, Jinotega appears to be a quiet and peaceful city in the mountains. But evidence of bullet holes in many of its structures tell a different story. In fact, the region is the most war-torn in the country with some of the heaviest fighting during the 20th century. It is in this region where Augusto Sandino fought off the American occupation troops in 1927, the population battled Somoza’s troops in the 1970s, and the most brutal fighting occurred in the Contra War of the 1980s.
Today, adjectives describing the city of Jinotega are similar: peaceful, tranquil, mysterious, and cool. Cool it is, because the average temperature is approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit. So before exploring the city, it is advisable to bring along a warm jacket even during the summer.
Things to See in Jinotega, Nicaragua
Before exploring the city, begin with a great cup of locally grown coffee. The Jinotega department produces more than 80 percent of the country’s coffee and it is worth every sip. Afterwards, take a trip to the top of Cerro La Cruz for the view and to understand what the town is all about.
The Cerro la Cruz is the area’s top tourist attraction that consists of a cross placed on top of a hill by a Franciscan Fray named Margíl de Jesús in 1703. The easily accessible trail begins at the cemetery and winds its way to the summit. At night (based on varying opinions), the trek is either beautiful or eerie, since the cross is illuminated and surrounded by mists.
The area offers many other attractions worth seeing that include:
Cathedral San Juan – Constructed in 1805, it is one of the younger cathedrals in Nicaragua, but due to the long history of conflict, it stands as a survivor. Its interior is lined with a number of saints including a beautiful Virgin of Guadalupe.
Lake Apanás – It is the third largest body of water in Nicaragua. Impressive for two major reasons: 1) the other two bodies of water are Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua and 2) this lake is man-made. Formed in 1964, it actually consists of two lakes: itself and the smaller Lake Asturias. A popular activity at the lake includes fishing and eating guapote (rainbow bass).
Reserva Natural Dantalí-El Diablo – Within the nature reserve, visit either of the main ecological fincas (plantations) for guided tours, accommodations and a variety of activities in the area. The three are: Finca La Esmeralda, El Jaguar, and Finca Kilimanjaro.
Festivals in Jinotega, Nicaragua
For a town that appears to be tranquil, there are several must-see festivals that prove to be the opposite:
Fiestas de la Cruz – Held April 30 to May 16, it is the area’s largest festival where each person involved treks to the top of Cerro la Cruz under the threat of being shamed by the local elders.
Festival de Musica Vernacula – Held in mid-October, this folk festival invites musicians, bands and dance groups from all over the northern region. With the town’s proximity to the German community in Selva Negra, it is also a wonderful chance to witness traditional German dance and music.
Fiestas Patronales – Held in late June, it is a festival to celebrate the feast of San Juan Bautista with solemn religious processions, rodeos and beauty contests.
San Isidro Laborador – Held in mid-May, it is an interesting festival that honors the patron saint of farmers. Bring your camera, because community members build altars out of fruits and vegetables.
Many visitors to Nicaragua seem to skip much of the north central area of the country. If they do venture into the region, then itineraries include the Reserva Miraflor or the town of Estelí. But less than an hour east sits the quiet town of Jinotega with just as much to offer.