A scattering of isolated "white villages," or Pueblos Blancos, sits in the hills south of Masaya. The area is a perfect 1-day excursion by car or bus from Masaya, as well as from Managua or Granada. These villages got their name from their simple Spanish-style churches and occasional white casitas with colorful doors and windows. Also known as Los Pueblos de la Meseta, they sit at 500m (1,640 ft.) above sea level, meaning they are cooler and greener than the towns and cities below. Each individual town is known for producing a signature handicraft, be it ceramic wind chimes or bamboo furniture, so shopping is the main draw here.
Besides being the youthful stomping ground of General Augusto C. Sandino, the area has a fascinating history as the center of the Chorotega Empire that stretched from Honduras to Costa Rica. This mini-empire was made up of 28 states, each governed by a chief who met with his counterparts in the village of Diriá every 7 years to elect a new leader. One such leader was Diriangen, who put up fierce opposition to the invading Spanish. Their language and tribal dress has now disappeared, but the community is still very aware and proud of its origins.