Madriz Department, Nicaragua
Named in honor of Jose Madriz, the 50th President of Nicaragua, the Madriz department consists of nine municipalities – Las Sabanas, Palacaguina, San Jose de Cusmapa, San Juan del Rio Coco, San Lucas, Somoto, Telpaneca, Totogalpa and Yalaguina. While not featuring prominently as a tourist destination, Madriz department is a very picturesque area of Nicaragua, consisting mountainous terrain covered in pine and oak forests and coffee plantations. Madriz is also well known for the many high-quality handcrafted items made by talented artisans living in the charming little villages scattered throughout the department.
Somoto is the capital city of Madriz and is a good place to use as a base for exploring the surrounding areas. Within the city are a number of attractions, including the Piedra Pintada Museum and the bakeries where visitors can watch Nicaragua’s favorite treat, rosquillas, being made using traditional methods. Outside the city limits is the awe-inspiring Somoto Canyon rising up either side of the Coco River to up to 200 meters in height at places and stretching over a distance of more than a kilometer. In the Cacauli area, a religious sanctuary was created after a young boy reported seeing an image of the Virgin Mary. This sanctuary is visited by thousands of people looking for a miracle or expressing their devotion. Somoto is also the host of the Patron Saint festival in May and a Carnival in November, which attracts people from throughout Nicaragua and beyond its borders.
Outstanding for their handicrafts and valued for their tranquil rural settings, the town of La Sabana, San Lucas and San Jose de Cusmapa welcome visitors with warm hospitality. San Lucas is home to the community of Loma Panda where visitors can view the creation of clay and pottery handicrafts, while in San Jose de Cusmapa visitors can watch skilled artisans at work creating hand crafted items from pine needles. La Sabana forms part of the Tepesomoto-La Pataste Natural Reserve which covers an area of both Madriz and Esteli departments.
Other attractions of the Madriz department include the La Gruta de la Virgen de Lourdes near the town of San Juan de Rio Coco, and the town of Totogalpa, also known for its superb handcrafted items such as dolls made from the leaves of corn.
Madriz was once the scene of conflict at the time when Augusto C. Sandino and his army fought for Nicaragua against U.S. domination, but today, Madriz department of Nicaragua is a picture of tranquility and rich in culture and tradition.