Each community’s annual fiestas patronales revolve around the local saint’s birthday, but the actual party may extend days or even weeks before and after. This guide should help you catch (or avoid) fiestas patronales as you travel; the events are associated with special masses, processions, alcohol, dancing, carnivals, show horses, contests, and more alcohol.
Year-round weekly events include the following: Thursdays in Masaya are Jueves de Verbena, Fridays in Granada are Noches de Serenata, and Sundays in León are Tertulias Leónesas. Semana Santa (Easter Week) is a particularly big deal — everyone parties like rock stars at the beach and prices skyrocket across the board.
1: New Year’s Day
5-9:Caballo Español Pura Sangre Fair, Granada – An international event where owners showcase their best and most beautiful breed of horses for an ultimate prize. The exhibition of this Spanish breed, named “Caballo Pura Sangre,” will take place in Granada’s jockey club.
5-18: Dariana Day, Matagalpa – Activities take place in Matagalpa for 15 days to pay homage to Ruben Dario. Every day involves a different activity such as recitals, book presentations, poems, and more. Floats pass through the streets and a Dariana muse is selected. Different cultural groups perform, and international and regional poetry competitions take place.
15-21: Rio San Juan Carnival, San Carlos, Rio San Juan – Some of the most popular activities at this carnival include the aquatic float parade and local artisans. More than 17,000 people participate in this event.
15-21: International Dariana Poetry Symposium, León – Exhibitors, poets and intellectuals from all parts of the world congregate at this symposium, where fans of Ruben Darío study his work.
18: Fiestas Patronales, El Sauce
Third Sunday: Se?or de Esquipulas, El Sauce (León)
Third weekend: Viva León Festival, León
Third weekend: San Sebastían, Acoyapa (Chon-tales), Diriamba, Carazo (San Sebastián)
Last weekend: La Virgen de Candelaria, La Trinidad (Estelí)
Second week: International Poetry Festival, Managua – An annual international festival that takes place in the city of Granada. More than 150 poets from all parts of the world congregate at this event to recite their best poetry. The festival also draws both national and international press to highlight some of the world’s best poets. The event lasts one week.
Second weekend: Music and Youth Festival, Managua
Third weekend: Folklore, Gastronomy, and Handicraft Festival (Granada)
24: Joy for Life Carnival, (Managua) – An annual festive carnival that takes place in the capital. Event-goers from all areas of the country come together to celebrate and to choose a new "Queen of the Fiesta," who makes her debut during a parade through the streets.
Week before Easter: Holy Week Celebration (Semana Santa, througout Nicaragua) – A festive Nicaraguan celebration that takes place during Holy Week. People participate in processions that are inspired by bibilical passages. Popular celebratory traditions include “the donkey procession,” on Palm Sunday; a procession of pilgrim carts that come from all parts of Nicaragua and gather in Granada; San Lazaro’s pet dog blessing in Masaya; and San Juan del Sur’s beach party celebration.
First week: Religious Ash Paintings in León
Second week: Fenitur, Managua – International wholesalers congregate at this annual international tourism conference to view exhibits of services and craftwork from a variety of national destinations and businesses. The conference lasts for three days.
19-21: Fiestas Patronales, San Jorge (Rivas)
1: Labor Day
1: Fiestas Patronales, Jinotega
15: San Isidro Labrador, Condega (Estelí)
21-27: Fiestas of Palo de Mayo, RAAS – A lively time full of parties and fairs that takes place during the last week of May. Festival-goers and performers pass through the streets while each neighborhood presents their own artistic expression and celebration to the community.
30: Mother’s Day
Third weekend: Palo de Mayo Festival, (Bluefields)
9-10: Ometepe Expo, Isla de Ometepe, Rivas – This is a celebration of UNESCO’s presence in Nicaragua and its contribution to the country. Local artisans come to display their work over two days. Nicaraguan music and food prevail at this event.
16: Virgen del Carmen, San Juan del Sur Rivas)
24: St. John the Baptist, San Juan de Oriente Carazo), San Juan del Sur (Rivas), San Juan de Jinotega (Jinotega)
29: St. Peter the Apostle, Diriá (Masaya)
Last Friday: El Repliegue Sandinista (Managua)
Second Saturday: Carnaval, Somoto
15-25: Fiestas Patronales, Somoto
19: National Liberation Day
25: Santiago, Boaco, Jinotepe (Carazo)
26: St. Ana, Nandaime (Granada), Chinandega, Ometepe
International Fishing Tournament, Rio San Juan – This competition takes place on the Rio San Juan de Nicaragua among top regional fishermen.
1, 10: Equestrians of Managua, Managua – An equestrian-centered festival in the city of Managua, this event is held over two days. Horses march through the streets with their riders and the city rejoices all day long.
1-10: Santo Domingo (Noches Agostinas), Managua
10: St. Lorenzo, Somotillo (Chinandega)
14: Gritería Chiquita, León
15: The Assumption, Granada
14-15: Fiestas Patronales, Ocotal
15: The Assumption and Fiesta del Hijo Ausente, Juigalpa
Third weekend: Mariachis and Mazurcas Festival, Estelí
10: San Nicolás de Tolentino, La Paz Centro (León)
14: The Battle of San Jacinto
15: Independence Day
14 and 15: Fishing Fair, San Carlos (Río San Juan)
15: Patron Saint Festival of Villa Nueva, Chinandega
20: San Jerónimo, Masaya
24: La Merced, León, and Matagalpa
Fourth weekend: Polkas, Mazurcas, and Jamaquellos, Matagalpa; Festival of Corn, Jalapa
12: San Diego (Estelí)
Second weekend: Norte?o Music Festival in Jinotega
24: San Rafael Arcángel, Pueblo Nuevo
Penultimate Sunday: Fiesta de los Ag?isotes, Masaya
Last Sunday: Toro Venado, Masaya
2: All Souls’ Day
3-5: Equestrian Rally in Ometepe
4: San Carlos Borromeo, San Carlos (Río San Juan)
12-18: San Diego de Alcalá, Altagracia (Ometepe)
Fourth Sunday: Folkloric Festival, Masaya
End of November: Latin American Surfing Competition (Playa Madera, San Juan del Sur) – As much as surfing in Nicaragua has evolved, so have surfing-related activities developed throughout the country. Surfers and surfing fans from all over Central America are expected to attend and participate. This event lasts for one week.
End of November and all of December: Purísimas (Immaculate Conception Celebrations) in Managua, Granada, Masaya, and León – Another tradition dedicated to the Virgin Mary and celebrated in all parts of Nicaragua, the most special Purisima Day is December 8.
First Sunday: Procesión de San Jerónimo, Masaya
6: Lavado de La Plata, Virgen del Trono, El Viejo (Chinandega)
7: La Griteria, (throughout Nicaragua) – A boisterous tradition, La Griteria is an annual celebration paying homage to the Virgin Mary. At 6pm sharp, thousands of Nicaraguans flock to the streets to sing and give thanks to the Virgin Mary.
24-25: Christmas, Throughout Nicaragua – The climax of the Nicaraguan Christmas celebration is Christmas Eve at midnight.The holiday is a family celebration in which many Nicaraguans decorate their houses with lights, nativity scenes and pine trees. Traditions include fireworks, firecrackers and Christmas hugs at midnight.
December 31-January 1: New Year’s Eve (throughout Nicaragua) – A festive evening where family and friends congregate to celebrate the upcoming new year. A special dinner is held at midnight. Traditions include "burning the old year away" by constructing something that is burned at midnight, fireworks, firecrackers and hugging one another into the new year.
Celebrations and Fiestas
When planning your trip, consider timing your visit to coincide with one of Nicaragua’s many celebrations and festivals. Conversely, you might want to avoid festivals and all the fireworks, drunken masses, altered transportation schedules, and spiked hotel prices that they bring. Additionally, airlines are well aware of when expatriate Nicas living in the United States like to return home for family time and celebration, and at these times you can expect airfares to nearly double. Here are a few times of the year when services are affected by celebrations.
La Navidad is one of the times you can expect airfare to increase. Christmas celebrations begin a full week before December 25 and nothing truly returns to normal until after January 7. That’s not to say you won’t be able to get around, but expect a higher demand for hotel rooms. Banks are open (except on actual holidays), but government agencies operate on a limited schedule if at all.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is an even bigger event than Christmas. The week that precedes Easter Sunday is an important and much-loved holiday, when every Nica that can finds his or her way to the beach (or lake, river, waterfall, etc.) for some fun in the sun. At the very least, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before Easter are completely lost days, but many Nicas take off Monday and Tuesday as well and make a long vacation out of it. During this period bus service slackens, banks reduce hours, and government officials, if you can find them, will deal with you between clenched teeth. You are keeping them from the beach and will be made to suffer for it.
Additional city-specific festivals happen throughout the year with great amounts of local pride and traditional revelry. Participating in these events is a memorable and enjoyable experience. Every city has its own patron saint, and that saint is celebrated annually in an event as lavish as the locals can afford; the most elaborate festivals often involve bands and parades and food throughout the night.
Masaya’s is the most jubilant, with well over a dozen festivals throughout the year. One of the most unique festivals, the festival of San Sebastián, takes place in Diriamba, Carazo, during the third week of January. Granada puts on an international poetry festival in mid-February, a gastronomy, folklore, and handicraft festival in late March, and celebrates the Assumption of Mary on August 15. Managua puts on its patron saint festival twice: on August 1, when the patron saint is paraded down from a hillside chapel to a small church on the eastern side of the capital, then again on August 10 when it is paraded back up. Estelí puts on a lively festival of “Mariachis and Mazurkas” (the mazurka is a traditional dance) the third week in August. On Ometepe there’s an Equestrian Rally November 3-5, and between November 12-18 Altagracia celebrates its patron saint, San Diego de Alcalá.