In the Rivas department of Nicaragua, on the stunning Ometepe Island, is the quiet town of Altagracia. This is the ideal destination from which to explore the remarkable features of the island and there are some lovely, inexpensive accommodation options for a comfortable stay.
Altagracia was once known as Astagalpa in the Nahutl language, a name meaning ‘house of the herons’. Although there is not a vast collection of tourist attractions for travelers to visit in the town, there are a few interesting sites to keep you busy when not exploring the rest of Ometepe. Amongst these is a cathedral dating back to 1924. Beside the cathedral is a new sculpture park called Parque Central. The sculptures making up the display are fascinating pre-Columbian art works from the 19th Century. The large basalt statues are representative of human figures and such alter egos as the jaguar and eagle.
Also worth visiting in Altagracia is the Museo de Ometepe. This interesting museum is home to a fine collection of archaeological finds as well as ethnographic materials. Here you can learn more about the island of Ometepe as well as receive ecotourism information. It is also possible to purchase art works from the museum. Museo de Ometepe is open daily from 08h00 to 17h00.
You may wish to book your trip to Altagracia during the Fiesta de San Diego, which takes place from 12 to 18 November each year. This week-long festival celebrates the local patron saint of San Diego de Alcala. The main feature of the festival is the Baile del Zompopo, also referred to as the dance of the leaf-cutter ant. This celebration has incorporated elements of the dance held by the Xolotl in pre-Columbian times. The event begins with the community gathering to carry a statue of the saint around the island to symbolize his pilgrimage. During the parade, participants dance to traditional drum beats with tree branches held in the air to represent the local leaf-cutter ant. The image of San Diego is then returned to the local church the following day. Another festival takes place in Altagracia each April to honor San Pedro Martir, who is said to have expelled an evil force from the area. Festivities include feasting, drinking and guitar playing.
Altagracia is a popular destination amongst those journeying to Ometepe, and with good reason. Why not consider stopping here during your visit to Nicaragua.