La Garnacha is a community and a natural reserve, and it has a core area of 22,000 hectares. Within the reserve, there is a cheese factory, the stone craft workshop "zopilote", a worm farm land, a shelter home, a hotbed of medicinal plants, a goat farm, a ranch where they sell natural juices and coffee grown in the area, and a shop where they sell all these products. It also has a viewpoint to Cerro Apaguajil, cave trolls and a breathtaking view of the Pacific from Nicaragua.
La Garnacha is located approximately 15 kilometers from the city of Esteli and 145 kilometers from Managua, 1,400 meters above sea level. It is part of the Natural Reserve Tisey-Estanzuela, but is located at it’s buffer zone. People from the community La Garnacha are the ones in charge of the reserve administration and they are in charge of leading the tours; they also work with their own hands on the products offered at the natural reserve. As a cooperative, they are working under the name Agricultural Association San Nicolás.
You can find the following attractions at the reserve:
The Swiss Cheese Factory
When you arrive to La Garnacha the first attraction is the Cheese Factory. At this place they process the cheese using the swiss style, using as base cow and goat milk. The factory has it’s own hygiene process. In a room milk is processed, then have to keep the cheese in a warehouse which is sprayed water to keep it moisture. The necessary temperature should be between 17 and 22 degrees Celsius.
The cheeses are aged for 3-6 months to offer them as swiss cheese, and 8 months later to achieve the completion of parmesan. The cow cheese pound is worth about C$100 and goat cheese is C$140. The room in which they are stored must be kept closed and can’t allow any pollution to get in. Visitors can access this warehouse with a guide.
Handicrafts Workshop El Gavilán
At the handicrafts workshop El Gavilán they work with zopilota stone, which can be found only at the north area of Nicaragua. They work on several pieces at this place, from ashtrays shaped like body parts, to large sized dolls. All products are made by its owner, Carmelo Ramirez, aka El Gavilán.
The workshop is a small house located next to the entrance to the Cheese Factory, just at the edge of a dirt road. There you can find all the crafts, some in tables of stone or wood, others on shelves attached to the walls, and the big ones on the floor. You can also see some of the instruments, which are used for the production of handicrafts, such as paints, brushes and raw stones.
El Volcán Lodging
El Volcan Lodging has 4 adobe cabins, it was a style of architecture prevalent in colonial times. Each cabin has the capacity to accommodate 4 people with double beds and a private bathroom.
In the back of this place there are 3 pinewood cabins, which the capacity to accommodate 6 persons each. In this part you can see a mountain view, the whole place is surrounded by pine trees.
Planting of medicinal plants
Inside El Volcan Lodging there is also a garden of medicinal plants, where they have the seeds that will plant on a farm of three blocks. Among the plants that are grown are: mint, lettuce, cabbage and various medicinal herbs which are then sold to a company in Esteli, which processes them.
The vegetable farm is located on the road that leads to the viewpoint of Cerro Apaguajil, described below:
To reach the viewpoint of Cerro Apaguajil (hill) you have to cross a short narrow path between trees, where you will observe a hill where there are 3 benches to sit and enjoy the huge hill. And behind Cerro Apaguajil you can observe the volcanoes of the Maribios Cordillera.
According to the tour guides and locals, Apaguajil means "mountain water" because inside the hill there is a water source where a river borns, which runs through all the territory. From the same river are born small watersheds that are used by the communities near the hill.
The legend state that near cerro Apaguajil there is a cave called “La Cueva de los Duendes” (Elfs' cave). Tourist guides explain that near Apaguajil you can see little steps, one of the reasons why there is a rumor that the cave is the home of the elfs .The stories have been running from generation to generation, but that does not stop the night tours at the area with a cost of US$8, in which you can observe the night fauna of the place.
The earthworm farm La Garnacha
At La Garnacha you can find a earthworm farm, which consists in raising earthworms to create fertilizer for plants and then sell it, plus it is also used in the planting of vegetables. The farm consists of several pools filled with earth and is located adjacent to the goat barn.
During the tour, the guides explain the process of raising the worm: first introduce certain amount of earth in the pools, then fed the worms, which are feed on the ground in order to fatten them up and make them defecate, then use their waste as fertilizer. It will require two months to full the pool completely. After that time, two quintals of fertilizer are gathered. Visitors who stay for several days, are allowed to work in this process, and they are taught how to do this work.
If you are driving your own vehicle from Managua, you need to take the North Panamerican Highway to Esteli. At kilometer 135 turn left towards San Nicolas and continue for 9 kilometers, there will be a label of "Rancho Don Luis"; you have to turn right into the community La Tejera. Once in that direction, continue to the junction La Garnacha, which is labeled, then turn left and follow 1.5 kilometers without turning up to the tourist office, located next to the cheese factory.