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Masaya, a city of 75,000, is Nicaragua's capital of arts and crafts. Located 28 kilometres south of the capital, Managua, its Arts & Crafts Market (Centro de Artesanías) is a worthwhile stop for shopping for bargains and colorful souvenirs.

Two artisans show off their ceramics in Masaya Handicraft Market.
Two artisans show off their ceramics in Masaya Handicraft Market.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Local craftsmen make beautiful string hammocks that sell for $20 to $50 (all prices in US dollars), depending on quality and size (single, matrimonial and family). Colored hammocks are more expensive than beige ones.

Handmade rocking chairs are also popular and sell for $20 to $25. Vendors will dismantle the chairs so they're easy to carry back on the plane.

Traditional Nicaraguan clothing

The three dozen shops also sell leather purses, shoes and belts, wooden toys and paper maché masks used for local festivals. Some shops sell only clothing, primarily the typical Nicaraguan white dresses and shirts embroidered with colourful designs. Others sell brightly woven mats suitable for wall hangings.

Handmade ceramics
Handmade ceramics
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

There are two types of pottery in the market: traditional pre-Columbian designs and colors and creative modern works depicting flowers, birds and scenery.

Bargain for good prices

Good-natured bargaining brings prices down by five to ten per cent. Vendors accept Nicaraguan cordobas and US dollars. It's best to exchange money in Managua before coming here. If you plan on bargaining with US dollars, it's a good idea to use small bills. Otherwise, vendors will give change in cordobas.

A covered walkway shades the shops. If the heat slows you down, you can relax with a cool cerveza (beer) at a corner café for less than a dollar.

On Thursdays, special cultural evening shows feature folklore dances and live music.


Careli Tours: www.carelitours.com

More things to see and do in Central America:

Masaya Volcano - Nicaragua National Park

Central America on a Shoestring by Lonely Planet