Of course the most obvious attraction to Masaya is the Masaya Volcano national park. After paying a minimal entrance fee, you must drive up a winding road to the mouth of the volcano and park. The Masaya Volcano is a breathtaking dynamic show that mother Nature puts on every day for your benefit. From there you might be able to walk around to the edge and peer down almost 200 meters and see the glowing, smoking lava in the bottom which the Spanish described in letter to the King in 1525 as, "a mouth of fire that never ceases to boil." After that, if your legs aren’t numb by that time, you should climb up to the top of the hill where a Spanish friar erected a cross in 1529 to try to keep the Indians from throwing virgins into the crater to appease the god of fire. The simple wooden cross still stands today. The hyperactive could climb down the back way of the hill to the other crater and spell out words with the lava laying around the edge of the crater. The active crater is called Santiago and the other, which has been dormant for 200 years, is called San Fernando. There are also about a dozen hiking trails around the park and the rangers from the park station will sometimes conduct guided tours into the Cueva de los Murcielagos (the Bat Cave) which was formed when the lava from the Santiago crater erupted under great pressure. Sometimes the park may be closed because of the danger of eruptions or repairs so potential visitors should call ahead to make sure. TEL: 522-5415
Go see the view from the tourist's area.
Then, if you can still walk without groaning, go down to the actual city of Masaya. Eager bargainers and native-artifact-junkies will be delighted by the prices and the many artisan shops that sell native handicrafts and the city market which carries such diverse objects as pottery, embroidery, wooden and silver trinkets, hammocks, and everything under the sun made from leather. Stock up on native artifacts and stuff to awe the boss and the neighbors back home.
When the Spanish first came to the little village at the base of Santiago’s crater, they brought with them a saint called San Geronimo which they placed in a church that the missionaries built. The Indians, of course, where not Catholic so they did not give the saint the attention that he might have gotten elsewhere. Then, one day, the volcano erupted very forcefully and lava began to pour from its sides. The lava kept on crawling toward the village and the people knew that their homes were going to be destroyed. They had heard that the saint was very powerful and could do miracles, though, so they grabbed the statue and marched with it toward the advancing lava. To their astonishment, the lava stopped, and the saint had saved their village. After that, they decided to play it safe and move the village farther away from the crater. In Spanish, "farther away" is pronounced mas aya. So the city that they later built away from the volcano was called Masaya.