Any shopping excursion in Masaya should include a stop at the Mercado Viejo, but there are other shopping outlets around the city that cry out for your attention, too. Mercado Municipal Ernesto Fernández is a bigger, more chaotic, and somewhat crammed market with cheap restaurants and butcher stalls, as well as a good selection of handicrafts and leather ware. Goods are also slightly cheaper than at the Mercado Viejo. The market is adjacent to the main bus terminal and a few blocks from the Mercado Viejo. It is open daily from 8am to 7pm.
You'll find hammocks everywhere in Masaya, but if you'd prefer to see their place of origin, check out the fábricas de hamacas (hammock workshops) located in Barrio San Juan, 2 blocks east of the Malecón and 1 block north of the Old Hospital. One good stand-alone hammock shop to try is Los Tapices de Luis, a store specializing in hammocks and wall hangings.
Guitarras Zepeda, 200m (656 ft.) west of the Unión Fenosa (tel. 505/8883-0260; www.guitarraszepeda.com), is one of the most respected guitar workshops in the country. The owner, Sergio, will show you how they craft beautiful mahogany and pearl inlaid instruments. Note that he has very few guitars for sale off-the-shelf; you must order most guitars 2 weeks in advance. Prices range from C3,000 to C6,000.
Shipping Home -- It's easy to go over your airline weight limit whilst visiting Masaya. DHL (Modulo B3; tel. 505/2251-2500) has an office within the market to help you with any excess. It is open weekdays 8am to 5:45pm and Saturday 8am to noon. A 5kg (11-lb.) package costs approximately $140 to send to the States and takes about 2 days.
A Masaya Shopping List
Hammocks: Pretend you are an expert by stretching a cotton hammock in your hands to examine the weave; the denser the better. Masaya's hammocks are arguably the best in the world. The actual workshops can be visited and are located close to the baseball stadium and the old hospital. However, you should not go to a workshop if you have no intention of buying.
Traditional clothing: President Ortega is fond of the guayabera shirt, otherwise known as a Mexican wedding shirt. The huiple is a simple white shirt embroidered with a rainbow of colors. White dresses are popular, as are novelty T-shirts and vests that depict typical Nicaraguan culture.
Fiber wall hangings: Handmade cabuya rope wall hangings use fiber as paint in a style that comes from the town of Boaco.
Paintings: Nicaragua is famous for its primitivist paintings that originally came from the Solentiname Islands but are now produced by local artists throughout the country.
Wooden furniture: Furniture ranges from antique-style pedestals to massive mahogany desks to small, delicate boxes in either plain wood or painted in wonderful natural scenes. Handmade rocking chairs are also popular. Vendors will dismantle the chairs so they're easier to carry back on the plane. Another specialty to the region is rattan chairs.
Ceramics: The best come from San Juan de Oriente. Pre-Columbian motifs and shapes are given a modern twist with bas-relief designs and painted slip work. Common are charming bowl-like candleholders, which create a small village scene with holes that simulate a starscape. Designs include contemporary, plants and animals, and pre-Columbian styles.
Soapstone sculptures: The best stone carvings come from San Juan del Limay near Estelí in the northern highlands.
Hats: Chontales is the hat capital of Nicaragua.
Leather goods: Shoes, belts, and bags made from leather are everywhere. Obando leather is a local specialty, as are the skins of iguanas and crocodiles sourced from farms along the Río San Juan and the Atlantic Coast.
Knickknacks: The majority are made from local woods, handmade with a typically rural Nicaraguan setting. There is a bewildering array of objects, including goblets, chalices, cups, bowls, dishes, keepsake boxes, teapots, shakers, and puzzle boxes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.