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Villa de San Antonio de Pavia de Estelí
Panoramic view of the City of Estelí
Panoramic view of the City of Estelí
Official seal of Estelí
" Diamante de la Segovia" ("The Diamond of the Segovia ") name created by Oscar Corea Molina in his radio show "Trampolin 43"
"Estelí, amante del presente, forjador del futuro" ("Estelí, lover of the present, builder of the future")
Esteli Department in Nicaragua.svg
Estelí is located in Nicaragua
Coordinates: 13°05′N 86°21′W / 13.083°N 86.350°W / 13.083; -86.350
Country Nicaragua
 • MayorFrancisco Ramón Valenzuela Blandón
 • Vice MayorRosa Argentina Rugama Flores
 • Municipality796 km2 (307 sq mi)
843.97 m (2,768.93 ft)
 (2021 estimate)[1]
 • Municipality130,380
 • Density160/km2 (420/sq mi)
 • Urban
110,329 (8th Nicaragua)
Time zoneUTC-6
WebsiteOfficial website

Estelí (Spanish pronunciation: [esteˈli]), officially Villa de San Antonio de Pavia de Estelí is a city and municipality within the Estelí department. It is the 3rd largest city in Nicaragua due to the high urbanization of its municipality, at 83%, with an urban population of 120,014 (2017 estimate). [2] It is also the 8th largest municipality,[3] and is an active commercial center in the north, known as "the Diamond of the Segovia" (this name being created by Oscar Corea Molina in his radio show "Trampolin 43”) and the de facto capital of the north.

Located on the Pan-American Highway, 150 km north of Managua, Estelí is a fast-growing and progressive city. It enjoys a pleasant climate throughout most of the year due to its location in the north central highlands at a mean elevation of 844 m (2769 ft) above sea level. The city is also surrounded by forested mountains of pines, oaks, and walnuts, and plateaus that go up to 1600 m above sea level, some of which are protected as natural reserves.


The first settlement of what would become the City of Esteli occurred in Villa Vieja in 1685. It was founded by a group of Spaniards fleeing Nueva Segovia which at that time suffered from pirate attacks. Villa Vieja was then replaced by a new settlement (San Antonio de Pavia) from where the city of Esteli has grown. Today there is evidence of the first church in the Villa Vieja sector of the city.[4]

The town is described in 1858 as "a little town in a small plain through which winds the river of the same name..." It is described as having a grist-mill and that "the country produces considerable wheat of medium quality."[5]

Esteli was described in 1920 as having 8,000 inhabitants and as being a rich and growing center.[6]

Estelí was the scene of heavy fighting in the civil war against the Somoza government from 1978 to 1979. The city was heavily air-bombed by the regime's National Guard and burnt by the FSLN guerrillas, which reduced many of the city's buildings to rubble. The human casualties were around 15,000; many of them were youths massacred on suspicion of being part of the insurrection due to the infiltration of anti-government guerillas from the Pacific of Nicaragua whom used the city as a war theater. Estelí rebuilt all but some structures, such as the Teatro Montenegro and the Government Palace, and a few may still show bullet holes.

Economy and tourism[edit]

Multicentro Estelí - 3 star Hotel (Hex), cinemas, shops, banks, food court. New symbol of Estelí's economic development.

The land around Estelí is perfect for growing tobacco for use in cigars, and the town became a refuge for Cuban cigar makers after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Award winning cigars have made Estelí one of the most important cigar-producing cities in the world. Estelí also has many language schools. Restaurants and hotels cater to tourists traveling to nearby natural reserves and other parts of the region. Natural Reserves around the area include Miraflor, Tisey-Estanzuela, Las Brisas-Quiabuc, Tomabú, Tepesomoto, and Moropotente.

According to the World Bank and International Finance Corporation's Municipal Scorecard 2008, which complements the annual Doing Business report, the municipality of Estelí ranks 1st and 2nd, out of 143 municipalities in ten Latin American countries, in quality and efficiency to obtain a construction permit and municipal operating license respectively.[7] Esteli has improved its performance from the Municipal Scorecard 2007, where it ranked 5th out of 65 municipalities in five countries.[8]


Estelí has the best water supply system in the country with near-full population coverage. It also has an extensive sewage disposal coverage.[9]

At least three airfields have been built in Esteli throughout history, although none exists today. One of the first airfields documented played the role of alternate airport from 1930-34 when TACA established the service to carry passengers with an El Salvador-Tegucigalpa-Danli-Ocotal-Esteli-Managua route. La Thompson, which is three miles north of Estelí, is where the second airstrip was built and used by a company named "Thonsson Corwell" to help complete a stretch of the Pan-American Highway. The third airfield was built in the north end of town in the 1980s but has now been urbanized.[10]

In 1950 there was a proposal to create a railroad branch from Esteli to Matagalpa which would eventually connect the city to other parts of the country including Prinzapolka Port in the Caribbean and Managua.[11]

In 1940 efforts were made to expand Nicaragua's railroad from El Sauce to the north via Estelí. Thirteen kilometers of rail, the town of Río Grande, and a railroad bridge were built with the intention of taking the rail up to Esteli along the Aquespalapa or Villanueva river, which originates in the Quiabuc mountains; however, the project was abandoned.[12]


Estelí is home to one of the most successful and most popular football clubs in the country, the Real Estelí, nicknamed "El Tren del Norte" ("The Train of the North"). They play their home games at the Estadio Independencia, a name created by Oscar Corea Molina. Real Estelí Baloncesto plays in the Basketball Champions League Americas.

It is also home to a professional baseball team, Estelí, which makes it one of only three cities in the country with both a professional football (soccer) and baseball team. During the 1970s, Estelí participated in the "Roberto Clemente" baseball tournament and had one of the best baseball teams in the country with the help of one-time big league players like Porfi Altamirano and Albert Williams.[13]

Estelí also counts on a championship-winning professional cycling team called Real Estelí Ciclismo,[14] which is member of the Cycling Federation of Nicaragua.[15] In May 2019, Real Estelí won first place in the Elite group of the Europa Tour 2019 cycling competition in San Salvador, El Salvador, hosted by the Cycling Federation of El Salvador.[16] The team also won second place in the Master B category.


Due to its altitude Estelí can be quite chilly at night or in the morning and even cold in winter. Thus, like all northern mountainous regions of Nicaragua, Estelí's gastronomy consists of a hearty mountain diet of beef, game, veal, rabbit, geese, sausages, and heavy soups like albóndiga, queso, res, etc. There's a high consumption of milk products like smoked or spicy cheeses like ahumado and picante, and regional corn-based dishes like delicious montucas, salty-sour repochetas, and semi-sweet güirilas. For breakfast, chorizo, refried beans, sour cream, and home-made style bread are more common and black coffee is the king of drinks any time of the day. Though illegal, cususa (a clear alcoholic drink) is also consumed, especially on the outskirts of the city or in small cantinas (bars).

Notable people[edit]

  • Pedro X. Molina. Award-winning cartoonist. Recently won first place in the Concours international d'arts visuels Juste pour rire in the category of « Dessin humoristique », etc.
  • Clara Isabel Alegría Vides, born in Esteli, is a Nicaraguan poet, essayist, novelist, and journalist who is a major voice in the literature of contemporary Central America. She writes under the pseudonym Claribel Alegría.[2] She was awarded the 2006 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the Premio Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia Award) in november 2017.
  • Frank Pineda, born in Estelí, Nicaragua, is a Nicaraguan filmmaker, producer, director of photography, and cameraman. He was a founding member of INCINE (Instituto Nicaraguense de Cine), the Nicaraguan Institute of Cinema, and co-founded with his partner, the French filmmaker Florence Jaugey, Camila Films (Nicaragua) an independent film production company.
  • Ramón Otoniel Olivas, Nicaraguan international footballer and national team manager.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Estelí is twinned with:

In Sheffield, a section of the promenade alongside the River Don in Sheffield City Centre is named Estelí Parade.



  1. ^ Population of departments and municipalities in Nicaragua
  2. ^ Banco Central de Nicaragua - Cartografía Digital y Censo de Edificaciones en Nicaragua
  3. ^ Population of the major cities in Nicaragua
  4. ^ Anuario de estudios centroamericanos, Issue 2 - Universidad de Costa Rica. Centro de Estudios Centroamericanos
  5. ^ The States of Central America: Their Geography, Topography, Climate, Population, Resources, Productions, Commerce, Political Organization, Aborigines, Etc., Etc. - E. G. Squier Sampson Low, 1858
  6. ^ United States Congressional serial set, Issue 4849
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2010-03-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Project Finance". July 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Transportistas proponen incremento de pasajes en Estelí". 19 July 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Estelí Ayer". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  11. ^ United States Congressional serial set, Issue 4849 - 1905
  12. ^ "Ferrocarril de Nicaragua". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  13. ^ "502 Bad Gateway nginx openresty". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Real Estelí Ciclismo". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Federación Nicaragüense de Ciclismo - FNC". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Europa Tour - El Salvador 2019". Retrieved 1 August 2019.

Coordinates: 13°05′N 86°21′W / 13.083°N 86.350°W / 13.083; -86.350

External links[edit]