Why is Managua the capital of Nicaragua?

Why is Managua the capital of Nicaragua?
Why is Managua the capital of Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is a Central American country, located between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica in the south. It is bordered on its east side by the Caribbean Sea and on its west side by the Pacific ocean. Nicaragua is the largest Central American country, but what is the capital of Nicaragua?

The capital of Nicaragua is Managua, a city located on the west side of Nicaragua, along the shore of Lake Managua. Managua is known for its parks, murals, monuments, universities and hot weather. It became the capital of Nicaragua in 1852. 

Nicaragua is a beautiful country with a rich history. This historic capital has it all–nature preserves, famous cathedrals, a beautiful lake, and a fascinating history. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Managua, Nicaragua. 

Where is the Capital of Nicaragua Located?

Where is the Capital of Nicaragua Located?
Where is the Capital of Nicaragua Located?

Managua is surrounded by crater lakes in the eastern part of Nicaragua, inland from the Pacific Ocean. It lies along the southern shore of Lake Managua, also known as Lake Xolotlán. In fact, its name is derived from the Nahuatl word Managuac, which means “Surrounded by Ponds.” 

It lies slightly north of a larger lake, known as Lake Cocibolca. 

Brief History of Managua

Cityscape of Managua town aerial view in sunset time
Cityscape of Managua town aerial view in sunset time

Managua, also known as La Novia Del Xolotlán, lies between the cities of León and Granada, rival cities which were in conflict for many years after the Spanish colonial period. Managua was chosen as a type of compromise, as the cities had become depleted by their rival conflicts. 

In 1931 a major earthquake struck Managua, causing widespread fire and structural damage. The city was struck by another major earthquake in 1972, and the main business center was moved away from the historic city center. 

During 1978-1979, there were widespread strikes in protest against the government of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, some of which resulted in violence. In 1979, the government was overthrown and the country was ruled by the Sandinista National Liberation Front until 1990. 

When did Managua become the Capital of Nicaragua?

Cityscape of Managua city in Nicaragua at dusk time aerial view
Cityscape of Managua city in Nicaragua at dusk time aerial view

Managua became capital in 1852. During most of the Spanish colonial period, Managua was a small town populated mostly by Indigenous people. 

Why is Managua the capital of Nicaragua?

Managua lies close to two former capitals of Nicaragua, León and Granada. Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821, and Managua was made a city in 1846. 

Managua’s location in between the large cities of León and Granada made it a good strategic choice, and Managua was officially named the capital in 1852. 

Best Places to visit in Managua

Managua offers a wide range of fun activities, no matter what you might be interested in. 

You might want to start at the Plaza de la Revolución, which includes many sites important to the history of Nicaragua. It is located in the center of the city, and includes a large park, the cathedral, and the National Palace. 

Antigua Catedral de Managua

This cathedral was built in 1928, but was largely destroyed by the 1972 earthquake. You can still see the outside of the cathedral, even though it is no longer in use due to structural issues. It remains a beautiful example of Managua’s architectural past. 

You can see that the clock in the clocktower stopped at the time of the earthquake, an eerie glimpse into the cathedral’s history. 

From here you can walk over to the marble fountain erected in honor of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío.

The National Palace of Culture

This large building includes the National Museum of Nicaragua, where you can learn about Nicaraguan history from prehistoric times to modern day. 

Rubén Darío National Theater

You may be able to catch a reading of famous Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío here, if you are lucky. On most days the theater hosts a wide variety of cultural programs and art. 

While there, make sure you check out the famous stained-glass windows, and see if you can spot the Momotombo and Momotombito volcanoes in the distance. 

Puerto Salvador Allende

This colorful corridor along the shore has tables to grab a quick bite to eat and relax. If it is too hot during the day, the strip is lit up at night. Some visitors have even spotted crocodiles swimming in the water nearby!

Paseo Xolotlán

If you want to stroll and see views of Lake Managua, check out Paseo Xolotlán, right on the shore. You can also get a sense of the history of Managua by viewing representations of “old Managua.”

There is also a waterpark with waterslides and a playground.

Natural Reserves

If nature is more your thing, Central America (and Managua) will not disappoint. 

Check out the crater lagoons at Chiltepe Peninsula, which juts into Lake Managua. You may be able spot a wide range of wildlife here, including coyotes, deer, iguanas, and lizards. Or try to spot one of the many native bird species along the water’s edge. 

There’s also El Chocoyero-El Brujo Reserve, famous for its waterfalls and the parakeets that live among them. You may also be able to spot a range of other birds, from toucans to hummingbirds, or one of the huge range of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that call this park home. You may even spot a howler or white-faced monkey!

This is one of the smaller reserves in Nicaragua. 

There is also the Montibelli Private Reserve, one of the only private reserves in Nicaragua. If you are into bird watching, this tropical dry forest reserve is known as one of the best. It is around 30 minutes from Managua. 


If you are curious about Nicaragua, Managua is a must-see spot. You can learn all about the varied history of the area, and then spend some time at the lake. 

Managua is one of the warmest cities in Central America. Days can get very hot with intense sun, but there are any number of things to do in Managua to cool off and relax, whether at a water park or nature preserve!

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!