Tourism in La Libertad Chontales Nicaragua

    

Tourists getting off the plane in Managua, often take the route to the western part of Nicaragua immediately. But if you like authenticity and peace and quiet, a route towards La Libertad in the south-east is a must. The first 20 kilometres we take a rather busy road , now and then overlooking the lake of Managua. Turning right at San Benito, we almost have the road to ourselves. This is where the hilly country begins. The road passes a large reservoir. At some small restaurants fish is served on the bank of the lake, with a lovely view. Further down there is a reference to the hot water springs of Aguas Claras. You can stay the night there. Just before Tecolostote, some 30 kilometres before Juigalpa, it’s time for refreshments and a simple meal (maduro frito relleno de queso y crema dulce) at Asados Emilia, a colourful little wayside restaurant. Here we enter the province of Chontales. Petrol and an ATM are available in the capital Juigalpa and since 2016 there is also a cash dispenser, ATM Banpro, in La Libertad. After Juigalpa we take the road to La Libertad. This road is 32 kilometres long and has been paved since the end of 2010. It’s a slightly sloping road with a splendid view. It is even more quiet here. You don’t need to worry about traffic-jams other than a herd of cows, taken along the road by farmers on horseback . It must be wonderful to travel to La Libertad by bike in these peaceful breathtaking surroundings. And what about having guirilas at El Mirador halfway, a Chontalene delicacy, made from spring maize with cream or cheese.



    

Betulia

About ten kilometres before La Libertad the countryside is become more and more green. Follow the road 11 kilometres to the left towards Betulia, where you can have a refreshing dive. On the right you’ll find finca Las Tres Marias with the beautiful Cascade of El Coroso with a nice natural swimming- opportunity. Driving on to Betulia may be an option. It is a typical rural village with a school, church and restaurant. Even in the dry season one has to wade through one or more rivers. In the centre of Betulia, the inhabitants of the surrounding comarcas sell their products at the local market every Thursday. The characteristic village of Betulia, with 200 inhabitants, in fact consists of concentrated ribbon development of mainly simple wooden houses covered with sheets of corrugated iron. Betulia’s Thursday market is a "trade-centre" for the vast and hard to get at outback. The atmosphere is determined by the large amount of horses, the main transport of the comarcas, and the animals freely walking around. It is unique that the centre of Betulia is also provided with a small, wooden bull–arena. Twenty minutes beyond the hamlet of Betulia is the ‘Salto El Brujo’ . This is a multi-staged cascade, which is difficult to find without a clear indication or a guide.

 


      

La Libertad

La Libertad is situated at the bottom of the mountain range of Amerrique. Because of the pleasant climate and the existence of aurous ore it has grown into a town of some dimensions. From whatever direction the visitor enters La Libertad, the route is magnificent and a tourist experience in itself with a number of panoramas, worth stopping for. It is said that La Libertad owes its name to the free, uncontrolled life of the gold diggers at the beginning of the 19th century. Apart from cattle-breeding, gold mining is the main source of income. For more than a hundred years gold has been dug here in a traditional way. For a little over 20 years there has been industrial mining by large international companies. That has been the Canadian company B2Gold since 2008.

 

      

Reaching the town the visitor is referred to the left to the mining area by way of a beautifully designed roundabout. The first thing that’ll strike you when entering the built-up area is the absence of waste. The abundance of greenness, the predominantly spacious allotment, the steep roads and the multitude of traditional wooden houses with a veranda, supported by nicely carved wooden columns, give the town a friendly character. Because of the gold mining in the mountains, surrounding the town, a number of traditional jewellers have settled there. People specifically visit this town to see the jewellers. 

    

Tourist attractions

Walking around in La Libertad is an attraction in itself. The Casa Museo is the central point in order to get information and from where excursions can be made. Shortly one can visit an exhibition about the history of gold mining in La Libertad and accommodation, transport or a guide can be organized.

 

 

 

    

 

A good start of the acquaintance with the town is a walk to Cerro la Cruz, a chapel situated on top of a hill, with a lovely view of the town, the mines and the wider surroundings. The path leading through the fields is well accessible. There is a possibility to reach the path through Park Central; therefore you must cross the Rio Mico, which is rather easy in summer, but might give you wet feet during the rainy season.

 

    

 

After this visit we will continue the excursion to the traditional mines , the ruta del oro. In here the visitor can become acquainted with the way in which gold ore is, of old, being extracted small-scale. Walking along the open pits the visitor gets to the tunnels higher up. The tourist will get an explanation of the traditional working –method ànd the possibility to descend into one of these tunnels in order to experience personally how the miners work and the circumstances in which this takes place many metres underground. Those who dare, obtain a small pocket-torch, on an elastic, which is fixed on their heads. Next they take place on a wooden seat, fixed at a metal cable, which slides them down by hand. After a 30 metres-descent through a small manhole, the visitor is being waited for by approx. five miners who will explain their daily work merely lit by the "head"lights. By way of a pipe, that supplies air as well one shouts upwards that the visitor has arrived safely. When fresh air is needed , a simple "AIRE" through the pipe suffices to make the compressor above spin again for a while. When the tourist has tasted enough of the mine workers’ existence underground, one asks through the pipe to hoist the tourist up again. Once again on the ground, after having exchanged tough stories with the stay- behinds, a demonstration is being given about the process of separating the gold from the ore by grinding and mixing with water in a hollowed out cow’s horn.

 

 

   

 

The excursion continues its way to the centre of La Libertad. The visitor is welcomed by the ore manufacturer in a backyard. He illustrates the process of gold-mining. Lumps of ore are smashed into smithereens in "rastras" ( millstones, driven by rear axles of lorries.) After adding water and mercury the gold is being separated from the ore and is finally ready to be sold.

The excursion proceeds on foot through Central Parque towards a traditional goldsmith/jeweller’s. The dedicated smith sketches in broad outlines how the carat number of gold is determined. He also demonstrates the various techniques used to produce his pieces of jewellery. The relaxed way in which gold and money are being handled will surprise the western visitor.

 

Music

It’s impossible for the population of La Libertad to imagine life without music. The mariachi’s take care of traditional Nica music at receptions and parties. During big events, such as the patron saint’s days, brass bands are active. The main patron saint’s day is Virgen de la Luz, on May 10; people come from far and wide to take part.

  

 

Hotels

Hotel Ocon Vargas is in the middle of the town. Because of the sounds of buses, cars, roosters, dogs and music, one feels included in Libertarian society. The proprietors are kind, the rooms are simple and clean, some have their own toilet and shower and some have not. There is a covered patio and a swimming pool. $ 13 –$ 20 p.p.p.n.; breakfast $ 2,50; free wifi. Hotel Orosi lies on the edge of the centre behind a closed gate. The rooms are clean and a little larger. Some rooms have no windows, but they do have airco. $ 20 p.p.p.n. No breakfast possibility, free wifi.

 


  

 

Places to eat

Restaurant Casa de la Vega is on the main road , with Marbelly "Sandra" , an amiable owner. The restaurant is stylishly decorated in an old, beautifully preserved property. Fine food! Opposite restaurant El Jalapeno is situated owned by Anibal Lazo. Good food, genuine Nica atmosphere. Comedor and pulperia Adela Lopez in a street parallel to the main road , has a changing daily menu; simple and hospitable. Comedor Sanchez, on the corner, near the Casa Materna is for a quick, nutricious snack.

 

 


  
  

Transportation

In La Libertad motor taxi’s are driving to and fro. For a tour further afield one may use the official public transport , often old American schoolbuses which go from Juigalpa and El Ayote. In the back of a pick-up is also a good option.

 

    

Excursions

In future it may be possible to arrange a trip to one of the finca’s. Information may be obtained from the Casa Museo. There one can make acquaintance with farmer’s life and ride a easthorse. Worth visiting are the towns of Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Lovago in the near vicinity.
  

La Libertad may well be included in an east-west route through Nicaragua. From Managua , by way of Juigalpa, La Libertad and San Pedro de Lovago to El Rama. From there by motor boat to Bluefields on the east coast. A little more to the east is Corn Island with its bounty beaches. From there by plane from La Costeñia back again to Managua

 

Sources:

Turismo and El Campo by Bob Nederveen and Tessa Groenen commissioned by LBSNN, May 2011.

Report working visit DOS delegation by Anneke van der Haar, Mart Hopmans and Monic Schaapveld, February 2014.