Iglesia Católica, 1c. sur, 50m este, San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua
Mon - Sat 8am - 12pm, 1pm - 5pm
San Juan de Oriente, of Nicaragua's Pueblos BlancosThe fireworks leave the smell of gunpowder in the air. Brass chichero bands bang away. I’ve been traveling to Nicaragua since 1998, but I am witnessing something I have never seen before. I’ve visited San Juan de Oriente, usually to buy pottery. But I’ve never been here during the last week of June, when San Juaneños drop everything to honor St. John the Baptist. That happens once a year, but you can visit San Juan any time.
San Juan de Oriente is one of Los Pueblos Blancos, as people refer to the dozen or so villages that dot the volcanic hills to the south and west of Masaya. They’re called “the white villages” for both the color of their churches and the purity of their young women. I once lived with a family in this area, in a village just up the road called Pio XII, where Peace Corps assigned me as part of my community-based training. It’s about an hour south of Managua and the international airport, and 30 minutes from Granada, the beautiful colonial city where most tourists to Nicaragua base their travels.
First step: buy the latest edition of Moon Nicaragua, the first and most thorough guidebook to the country. Tours: Book a village tour of San Juan de Oriente or Volcán Masaya with local independent guide Jairo Tenorio (from the US, 011-505-8861-0362, firstname.lastname@example.org), or with Nicaragua travel specialists at Tierra Tours (www.tierratour.com).