An Ex-Gang Member is our Guide to El Chorillo, the Invisible Side of Panama City’s Old Quarter

“I started working when I was 9 – selling flowers, mangoes on the street. By the time I was 14, I joined a gang”. Jafet Glissant, a smartly-dressed black man in his thirties, he stands on the stairs of the American Trade hotel. The walls of the hallway are covered with photos of how the place looked like just ten years ago. Today a luxury hotel, this used to be an abandoned colonial building controlled by the “Ciudad de Dios” gang. Called after the favela in the namesake Brazilian movie, it was one of the largest gangs operating in Casco Viejo and El Chorillo, the two sides of Panama City’s historical center.

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24 Hours in Managua, the Most Idiosyncratic City in Americas

Nicaragua travel guides usually recommend visitors to skip the capital Managua and head straight to the picture-perfect Granada. After reading how bad Managua was, more than anything, it got me curious. So after a month in Nicaragua, and just before leaving the country, we spent our last day in the capital, exploring its revolutionary landmarks, empty squares and peculiar cathedrals. A city without a center (the downtown was erased in the 1972 earthquake), Managua is not an attractive or orderly urbanity. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up in sheer quirkiness.

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Meting People in Their Homes. Community-Based Tourism in Nicaraguan Highlands

After spending a day exploring Matagalpa, we wanted to get out of the city to see the country side of the Nicaraguan highlands. In San Ramón, a small municipality 12 kilometers from Matagalpa, a local agricultural cooperative UCA organizes community-based tours to nearby villages. That’s where we headed for the day.

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Matagalpa, Where We Meet Nicaraguan Revolutionary and 100-Year-Old Virgin

After a month in Granada, you start thinking that all of Nicaragua is hot, humid and happily slow-moving. All you need to change your mind is a weekend in Matagalpa. A two and a half hours drive from Granada north, and you are in a different country – one where spring subdued the summer, surrounding highlands are abound with cloud forests and coffee fincas planted by German immigrants in the 19th century still produce coffee. But before venturing into the mountains, we spent a day walking the city and making some unexpected discoveries.

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Catarina, Where Nicaragua’s Best Nacatamales Are Sold From Homes


Ever since we came to Nicaragua we heard about nacatamales, a traditional Nicaraguan dish of indigenous origin. But restaurants rarely serve it, as it’s considered a family weekend dish. So to get a taste we decided to go to Catarina, a small town not far from Granada, whose locals, as rumors would have it, sell homemade nacatamales right from their houses. Continue reading “Catarina, Where Nicaragua’s Best Nacatamales Are Sold From Homes”

Granada, Nicaragua – A City of Rocking Chairs, Open Doors and Fleeting Hopes


Granada is one of the emblematic cities of Central America. Lying on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, its rich colonial heritage, colorful houses and vestiges of Moorish architecture make for eye-catching views. But if you want to see its real self, you have to come out at sunset and step away from the center. When the day finally gives away and the evening brings a long-awaited respite from the humidity and the tropical heat, that’s when the streets fill up with locals. Continue reading “Granada, Nicaragua – A City of Rocking Chairs, Open Doors and Fleeting Hopes”

Los Ramos, A Tiny Island Village Balancing on the Edge of Active Volcano


“Please write about us!”, said Esperanza to me before we parted. “We don’t get many visitors. Maybe if someone reads about our village, they will come here”. More than a year after our visit to the tiny indigenous community of Los Ramos in Ometepe island, I still remember her words. It’s time I fulfilled the promise. Continue reading “Los Ramos, A Tiny Island Village Balancing on the Edge of Active Volcano”

Ometepe Island, The Jewel of Nicaragua


Sun scorching through the clouds, slow-moving boat, slow-moving time. Our ferry filled with napping locals transporting bags of groceries, and few tourists with backpacks, was making its way through the quiet waters of Lake Cocibolca on its way to Ometepe. Gazing at the volcano slowly appearing from the water, I was thinking about the strange hold the word “Nicaragua” has always had on me. Continue reading “Ometepe Island, The Jewel of Nicaragua”