The largest town in the north, at first sight ESTELÍ can seem downtrodden. But this low-key city is an engaging place and a hotbed of political activity. Notorious for its staunchly leftist character, Estelí saw heavy fighting and serious bloodshed during the Revolution. Somoza bore a particular grudge against the town’s inhabitants, and waged brutal offensives on the city. The scars have not really healed, either on the bombed-out buildings that still dot the streets or in people’s minds, and the region remains a centre of Sandinista support.
Estelí’s relatively rural setting makes it a good base for trips. El Salto de la Estanzuela – a secluded waterfall within walking distance of the centre – makes for a great day out, while the wonderful Miraflor nature reserve is just under 30km away.
Although Estelí lacks the stunning mountain views of Matagalpa, the centre of town is a nice place to wander, and the climate is refreshingly cool. Much of the pleasure lies in soaking up the atmosphere, particularly along Avenida Central, whose southern end sees shops’ wares spill out onto the street, including cowboy boots and the local farmers’ favourite, Western-style hats.