El Castillo: Do Sidewalks Connect Communities?

“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.”
― Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris


If the French consider sidewalks to be the stage, then Nicaraguans consider sidewalks to be the entire theater. El Castillo, Nicaragua is proof that sidewalks set the stage for connection and interaction with others, especially in this tranquil community lacking cars, motorcycles, and other forms of motorized transportation.


Entering the port in El Castillo, the sidewalks lead tourists to hotels, restaurants, schools, a medical clinic, baseball fields, a cocoa cooperative, a museum, a butterfly sanctuary, and of course, the highlight of El Castillo, The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception.

Disembarking at the port, we turned left and followed the sidewalk to the end. Hotels and restaurants dotted both sides of the main sidewalk which ran parallel to the San Juan River.

IMG_6699We made reservations online for Hotel Victoria, but a few words of caution. After making online reservations through their website two times, I was nervous because I hadn’t received a confirmation. When I called them, the conversation went something like this:

Me: I made reservations for 4 nights for Hotel Victoria through your website. Can you confirm that you received our reservations?
Hotel Victoria: No. Our website doesn’t work because we don’t have an internet connection here.
Me: Oh no! Que lastima. (What a shame) Do you have a room for us?
Hotel Victoria: Yes, yes. No problem. We will take your reservations.

That was the first time I called. The second time I called, the conversation was way different.
Me: I am calling to confirm our reservations.
Hotel Victoria: We do not have a record of your reservations.
Me: Oh no! Que lastima. I called last week, and made reservations two times on your website.
Hotel Victoria: Our website does not work because we don’t have internet.
Me: Do you have a room available for us for 4 nights?
Hotel Victoria: No. We only have one night available.
Me: Que lastima. Well, we will take that room. My name is Deborah. Please make reservations for us under Deborah. That’s D.E.B.O.R.A.H.
Hotel Victoria: Please use our website.

Their website says they offer free wireless internet in the rooms, but don’t be fooled. There is no wi-fi available anywhere in El Castillo.

IMG_6698Regardless of the mix-up, we found the charming Hotel Victoria, and the next morning we wandered the pebbled sidewalks in search of another hotel.

IMG_6706After a leisurely mocha helado at Border’s Coffee, we found the fabulous Hotel Luna del Rio our home for the next three nights.

IMG_6731Meandering the sidewalks, we explored the hills of El Castillo from a dilapidated and somewhat neglected butterfly sanctuary…
IMG_6954to the beautiful panorama overlooking the Rio San Juan.

IMG_6789A puddled sidewalk, from the recent rains, led through fields of small homes, a medical clinic, and past the elementary school.

IMG_6739We arrived at the Cocoa Cooperative high above El Castillo, where we were treated to a tour of the process of roasting the coca beans, making chocolate, and selling the finest beans at 5,000 cordobas a sack to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where they are exported to Germany for processing.

IMG_6744The sidewalks led to a local baseball game. Later, we watched as the visiting team hopped into a long-boat for the ride back up the river.

IMG_7011Freshly washed sheets hung over the bushes like a vacancy sign for the hotels along the sidewalks.

IMG_6941Shrines honoring their religious heritage, lit the way.

IMG_6707Neat and orderly recycling bins lined the paths.

IMG_6700Farmers led sure-footed mules and horses to town to hawk their wares.

IMG_6732Sidewalks blended with muddy paths leading the way home.

IMG_6734And when we came to the end of the sidewalks, there were always boats to transport us to the river.

IMG_6721Sidewalks were the theaters in the peaceful town of El Castillo. They demonstrated the  interplay between inheritance and traditions still exhibited along the paths of this unique and laid-back river town.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Do Sidewalks Connect the communities of the Solentiname Islands? What I discovered may surprise you.

15 thoughts on “El Castillo: Do Sidewalks Connect Communities?

  1. Aren’t you glad how the reservation fiasco worked out?The Hotel del Luna sounds charming. Your photos show a way of life and the river and the sidewalk are definitely the navigational connectors. I now go with at least one long sleeve and a rain jacket everywhere, no matter how hot or humid. The old scout motto. Be prepared. Hope you’re feeling tops, now.

    • Ahhh, Lynne, life in Nicaragua is always a mystery. If we couldn’t make reservations we were going to wing it…like we usually do. 🙂 Lesson learned. The old scout motto is to always be prepared. I am feeling much better now, thanks. This week we’re flying to the Caribbean for another week of adventure and snorkeling. I love living by the airport. I know most of the pilots by name, now.

  2. Ha. Now I know where our rains went! They lost their way and dumped on your area instead.

    Seems strange to see rain there in February, or does the river have its own microclimate?

    I loved the reservation story. That’s classic Latin America!.

    The little village reminds me of Barra Colorado in Costa Rica. Z

    • The Rio has its own micro-climate. They get rain all year round. And it was cold!!! We didn’t take any long sleeve shirts or raincoats, so I wrapped up in a life preserver on the boats. Brrrr. That’s how I caught a cold. I’m sure of it. Isn’t the reservation story a hoot? Latin logic for sure. But, they were the sweetest sisters who own Hotel Victoria, so instead of complaining, we just laughed and went with the flow of life on the river.
      Are you still in Quito?

      • thanks for the clarification on the weather there.. so it’s cold b/c of the humidity at night, most likely. i’ll remember to take long-sleeved items as well as rain gear!

        yes, silvana and i made a fast overnight trip to otavalo and returned to quito last night. my allergist’s appt is at 11. if he doesn’t schedule a return visit for tomorrow, i plan to go to ‘tulipe’ a few hours in the direction of home, then home a few days later.

    • When I began to compose my thoughts and write about our trip, the biggest thing I noticed was the lack of cars, motos, and bicycles in El Castillo and the Solentiname Islands. So peaceful. But, I had to laugh when I said I couldn’t wait to return to civilization on Ometepe. At least we have roads, cell phone service, and internet here. 🙂

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