Chinandega is the fourth largest city in Nicaragua, with a population of 86,000 in the city and 133,000 in the municipio (2012). It is a commercial and manufacturing center located in the rich agricultural area between the volcanos in the Cordillera de Los Maribios and the Pacific ocean. The chief crops in the region are sugar cane, cotton and bananas. It is considered to be the hottest city in Nicaragua.
Chinandega was one of several towns that existed in Nicaragua before the arrival of the Spaniard. The Spanish priest Francisco de Bobadilla visited Chinandega in 1528. In 1548, at the time of the first census in Nicaragua, Chinandega had 660 inhabitants. When Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa visited Chinandega in 1613, he described it as a Native American town that was a little piece of paradise, with an abundance of maiz and many different fruits.
In 1835, Chinandega was elevated from a pueblo to a villa, and in 1839, it became a city (ciudad). In 1885, Chinandega suffered a devastating earthquake that destroyed the churches and many buildings. Rebuilt, many of them were destroyed again during the civil war in 1927, when the city was set on fire after being bombed by the U.S. marine airplanes fighting for the conservatives.
In November 1998, the city was severely hit by hurricane Mitch. Around 50 people died, and thousands of people lost their homes. The hurrican also damage a lot of the city infrastructure.
- From Managua: Take a minibus or bus from Huembes Market. The costs US$3 and takes 2.5 hours.
- From León: Busses leave from the León main bus terminal every 15 minutes. This costs C$23 cordobas (US$1). The direct bus takes about one hour. Avoid the buses that stop in Chichigalpa, as they take considerable longer.
- From Honduras: There are regular buses to Chinandega from Guasaule on the border to Honduras.
The best way to get around in the center of the city is to walk. Local buses run between the Parque Central, Bisne (the large peripheral market), the old market, and other points. Taxis are abundant (8 cordobas), as are the more charming and agile bicycle taxis (5 cordobas). If driving, take into account the fact that most streets in the center of the city are crowded and one-way.
The four main sights in the city are the Central Park, the Santa Ana and El Calvario churches, and the excellent archeological museum.
- 1 Central Park (Parque Central) (Central Park). The center of the city, and a good place to cool down and people watch. The park fills with strolling families taking their kids to the well-lit play areas, and a row of food kiosks sells food and fruit shakes at good prices.
- 2 Santa Ana Church (At the norther side of the Central Park). A colonial 17th century church, painted in bright yellow. The altarpiece is original and one of the most beautiful in Nicaragua. Notice the two antique wooden doors facing north and south.
- 3 El Calvario Church (Iglesia Dulce Nombre de Jesús) (Six blocks east of the Central Park.). Beautiful church surrounded by a park.
- 4 Sanctuary Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (Three blocks east and four blocks south of Central Park.). Built in 1855, the first sanctuary church in Central America, designated as such by Pope Pío IX.
- 5 Chorotega Nicarao Archeological Museum (At the eastern edge of the city,). An archeological museum with over 1,200 precolonial artifacts, the most extensive collection in Nicaragua. Founded in 2006, the museum is a celebration of the ancient people of the country.
Going to the central park is a good past time. There are many carts selling hamburgers and milkshakes. You can also take the famous "bus pelon" for a ride around the town - for just C$3. It is a way to enjoy the cool night air.
Chinandega lies below the Cordillera de Los Maribios, a mountain range with multiple volcanoes, including San CRistobál, the tallest one in Nicaragua. and it is possible to hike most of them. While it is possible to climb the volcanoes on your own, it is recommended to go with a guide or an organized tour.
The central market is located four blocks east of the Central Park.
The best casual food is found at the various vendors in and around the Central Park. There is also great food at the many fritangas located on the side of the streets. For pizza, try Pizza Don D'Erick, one block south and one block west of Central Park.
- 1 Dilectus. The major night club in Chinandega. Everyone is dressed up. They play a mix of salsa, merengue, reggeaton and hip hop. The crowd ranges from 14 year olds to 40 year olds - the majority in their mid to late twenties. C$50 cover..
- 1 Hotel Plaza Cosiguina, Calle Central (1 1/2 blocks east of the southeastern corner of Central park), ☏ . Centrally located nice and friendly hotel with A/C rooms and wireless internet. It has its own restaurant "Fumarolas" with room service available. for US$40/night.
- 2 Los Volcanes Hotel, Km. 128 1/2, Carretera León - Chinandega (On the road towards León.), ☏ . A high quality business hotel with conference facilities, a few kilometers east of the city. Good food. Swimming pool. Nice place to relax. The patio has an excellent view of three volcanoes: San Cristóbal, Chonco and Casita. US$46-93.
- Corinto On the Pacific Ocean, this is the principal harbor in Nicaragua. The town has a relaxed atmosphere with old wooden houses, beautiful beaches and some nice seafood restaurants overlooking the ocean. Buses leaves frequently from the main bus terminal.
- El Viejo Just a few kilometers northwest of Chinandega, with the important and beautiful Basilica and National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of Maria. Buses leave from the El Mercadito bus terminal. In El Viejo, try the famous rosquillas (cheese crackers).
- The northern pacific beaches of Aposentillo, Juiqilillo, Padre Ramos and Mechapa, for swimming, surfing and kayaking in the Padre Ramón nature reserve.
- León The neighboring colonial city that is a little less hot, with an enormous cathedral and an excellent art museum. About an hour away, buses leave every 15 minutes from the main bus terminal.
- Honduras - There is regular bus service to the El Guasaule at the border with Honduras.
- El Salvador To avoid Honduras, take a bus to Potosí on the Gulf of Fonseca. From there you can take a boat to La Unión in El Salvador.