Sunday, December 12, 2021

[CHINANDEGA] Towards the Nicaraguan Border

But why are you going to Chinandega, it’s boring and there’s nothing to do there! Said every other person you told that you are heading to Chinandega after León. I understand the concern, people, but uncle here is getting too old to endure bus rides that last 5 hours or more, which is probably more than what a León to Tegucigalpa land transfer would be if you factor in the border crossing. And so, I decided why not just split the trip into several legs to avoid the long bus trip? León – Chinandega – Choluteca – Tegucigalpa.

But while it is true that there isn’t much going on in Chinandega the municipality other than being the last pit stop in Nicaragua for most tourists heading to either Honduras or El Salvador, this seems a bit unfair to Chinandega the region. Located at Nicaragua’s western border with Honduras, Chinandega the department has several beaches on offer along the Pacific Coast as well as some mountains and volcanoes here and there. The caveat is that they might require more effort to reach nowadays because of the pandemic.

The Cosigüina volcano, for instance, has a beautiful crater lake based on results from Google Photos. The vicinity takes around 2 hours to reach from Chinandega the town, and perhaps another hour or two to hike. It’s probably doable as a daytrip from the municipality of the same name, albeit a rather exhausting one at that. If you are aiming for something closer, I believe the beaches to the south are just an hour away by public bus. That’s the Pacific coastline waiting for you right there if you are the beach bumming type.

As for me, this was more of a pit stop, if anything. Two nights were spent working from midnight onwards and sleeping during the day. I only went out to buy food and dine somewhere from time to time. On my last day, I decided to take a short stroll and check out what is there to see. The town is sleepy alright but also crowded and tends to come alive at night. Some churches of interest include the pastel blue Iglesia Católica Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe as well as the more popular and yellow Parroquia Santa Ana.

The latter has the advantage thanks to being located right next to Chinandega’s parque central, which is one whole block of green space adorned with colorful lights and the giant letters spelling C-H-I-N-A-N-D-E-G-A for those who would like to have a souvenir selfie. The park is also flanked by food stalls on one side if your stomach decides to go hungry after the stroll or the mass.

Those aside, there was nothing else to see. There was a parade in honor of the Virgin Mary when I was there, but nothing fancy. It was just your normal religious convoy with little girls dolled up in their Sunday’s Best dresses.

If you are planning to head to the border, you have several options, but the nearest one is at the Somotillo – Guasaule bridge. An expreso can take you from downtown Chinandega to the small transportation terminal a few cartwheels away from the border for NIO60 (~PHP85). The trip is around an hour and a half. Ignore the touts asking you to ride their rickshaws unless you have baggage and you can spare NIO20 (~PHP30) anyway. The tout will then ask you if you want to enter Honduras il/legally.

If you choose undocumented entry, he will take you to the river where you can cross into Honduras hassle free because it’s not heavily guarded anyway. As for me, I don’t want problems later on so I chose the legal option, crossing through immigration and customs out of Nicaragua and into Honduras as any law-abiding global citizen would do. True enough, there were people crossing the river in tug boats as I witnessed while crossing the bridge connecting the two C-4 countries.

[CHINANDEGA] Towards the Nicaraguan Border

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