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Midway between Managua and grand Granada, Masaya sits unobtrusively with its own volcano and lake. A city that fuses just a touch of colonialism of the town to the south with a dash of the urban energy of the capital to the north, it's a fine place to get stuck into buzzing markets, meet local Nicas and enjoy cultural exhibitions.
Most Masaya tour guides will begin on the vibrant Malecon (waterfront walkway. From there, delve into the center to browse through the colourful menagerie of woven wicker bags, rainbow hammocks, Mesoamerican cone hats and jangling jewellery that is the El Mercado Viejo – the old market. North of it is the famous fortress of El Coyotepe, which has been used as both a defensive post and a prison under Nicaraguan regimes and the Sandinistas.
Outdoorsy types are bound to prefer the draws of the Masaya Volcano National Park. It's just over the lake from the city, sprouting a hulking caldera that's pockmarked by pit craters and known for its continuous emissions of sulphur fumes.