Esteli, Nicaragua

If you’re one of those travelers drawn to Nicaragua by more than a bit of curiosity about the Sandinista-led revolution, particularly if you’re the sort with a Che Guevara T-shirt, you really need to stop into the highland stronghold of Estelí. It’s an agribusiness center (specializing in premium cigars) and principal town between Managua and the Honduran border, hence the strip of trucker-friendly business lining the Interamericana (Pan-American Hwy) as it blasts through town.

This strategic importance led to heavy fighting during the revolution and later, the Contra War; this city has been bombed too many times. Regardless, then, as now, it remained one of the Sandinista’s strongest support bases in the country. This sentiment is expressed all over town, from murals and bars to the several Spanish schools that were once the first stop of the internacionalistas (idealistic young volunteers who came during the 1980s) before they hit the collectivized farms. Estelí is still a popular place to learn the language, smoke a stogie – Estelí’s own Tobaco Cuba-Nica Serie Padrón 1926 is one of the world’s best – and just relax into one of the Northern Highlands’ most storied cities.

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