Explore San Juan de Limay

Located in the Esteli department of Nicaragua, San Juan de Limay is best known for its soapstone sculptures and Pre-Columbian ruins. Though not a mainstream tourist destination, this beautiful town amidst the mountains is well worth the visit.

San Juan de Limay stands 195 km from Managua, near the border of Honduras, and is located at an elevation of 281 meters above sea level. The surrounding mountains reach up to 1,400 meters. Due to its location, travel between Esteli and San Juan de Limay can be challenging, taking about two to three hours, but it is worth the effort. With a tropical savanna type climate, this is a more arid region, with temperatures from 24°C to 34°C. The local economy is based largely on crafts, small businesses, baking and the growing of grains.

Lining the main road of San Juan de Limay are a number of large statues made of soapstone (marmolina), for which the town is famous. Soapstone sculpting was introduced to the town by Eduardo Mejía, a priest, in 1972. He trained the locals in this fascinating art to assist them in making a living and improving their lives. Following the revolution, Ernesto Cardenal, the Minister of Culture, assisted these sculptors to form a cooperative, though it only lasted for a brief time.

Soapstone for the carvings is collected from Mount Tepiscayán (or Cerro del Tucan Ulua). Visitors to the town of San Juan de Limay can watch these talented artisans as they carve amazing designs out of the soapstone. Sculptures include images of birds, iguanas and voluptuous female figures.

Other attractions in the area include the Rio Los Quesos, a beautiful river that meanders through the valley. Spectacular views abound for those who travel up the mountains. Also worth a look is the Poza La Bruja swimming hole, which boasts a number of pre-Columbian petroglyphs. Celebrations taking place in the city include the San Juan Bautista procession on 25 June, as well as the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on 29 June.

It may be off-the-beaten-track, but a visit to San Juan de Limay while touring the department of Esteli is an unforgettable experience.