Visiting Alberto Gutierrez – The Rock Carving Hermit of Nicaragua

A humble visit to the 79 year old rock carving hermit Alberto Gutierrez

I’d heard of a 79 year old hermit artist, living in the valleys of Tisey Estanzuela, Nicaragua. For the past 40 years, he’s spent every day carving images in to the rocks that surround his home. His name is Alberto Gutierrez and he loves visitors.

The prospect of meeting such a man was far more exciting than any seasoned tourist trail, so we set off to find him.

Alberto Gutierrez Hermit Rock Carving Artist
A beautiful soul

Whilst Alberto has welcomed people from all over the world, he is not an easy man to find. There’s supposed to be a bus departing from Esteli South Station at 6:30AM. This should pass through Tisey Estanzuela and then you need to hike through fields and valleys to get to Alberto…but he isn’t signposted!

Alas, we arrived at the station and were told by the staff “there is no bus today” (Wednesday) and we should “come back tomorrow“. Not deterred, we struck got chatting (in very broken Spanish) to a local. Pointing at an area on Google Maps, he offered to take us down the bumpy back roads in his truck. Minutes later, we were off!

After an hour we arrived in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Our chauffeur asked if we wanted to go to the Mirador (look out point) first. We agreed and so he parked up at a place called Ecoposada, asked for the cash and what time we wanted to go back. We agreed on an estimated three hours.

Alberto Gutierrez Rock Carvings
Alberto’s artwork

Handing money over to strangers in trucks is always a questionable move. But we were on an adventure. Deal done, off we trekked through a gorgeous pine forest. The mirador was spectacular. It was 8:30AM and strong winds were rolling the clouds overheard. Bright sun shone through and burst light on to the valley below.

Descending down, we set off to find Alberto. Walking back to the main road, we ventured to the turn off for ‘Finca El Jalacate’. Through a gate and down rocky paths, you question if this can actually be the way. Scanning the stunning horizon, there’s nothing but fields, forests and mountains. Being that Alberto is a hermit and doesn’t have to nip out to the shops, of course this was the way!

After about 20 minutes, we reached Finca El Jalacate coffee plantation and walked through the gate. Deep in the forest we caught our first glimpse of a rock carving. A religious looking character surrounded by a serpent!

We ventured onward. Through the branches of the forest a small shack could be seen. In the hollow window was an old man. His striking grey hair and beard made him instantly recognisable. This was Alberto Gutierrez.

Sheepishly approaching, we were going to ask Alberto if we could look around. Yet he quickly approached us. Face beaming and hand stretched out to greet us, Alberto welcomed us with such joy. It was like going to visit Grandpa!

Nicaragua hermit rock art
The 300 metre rock face Alberto has turned in to a work of art

He pulled his door shut and proceeded to take us on a tour! Alberto doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish, but it didn’t matter. He is a man that loves to talk and we could understand enough (plus Rose’s Spanish is pretty good!). Even if you have no grasp of Spanish, this is one magical experience.

Walking us through the forest, Alberto detailed all his artwork. Showing every detail with pride and gusto. There’s nativity scenes, suns, moons, elephants, jaguars, birds, people. There’s no end to the scenes he’s created. Some rocks even have holes carved in to them. Here Alberto lights up his scenes, using them to hold plants and flowers.

Nicaragua hermit rock carving
Alberto’s elephant rock carving

It’s not only rock carvings though. Alberto has crafted walkways and benches throughout the valley. There’s a sense he’s providing a setting for future generations. That Alberto would like people to come and enjoy his artwork long after he’s gone.

Lighting up a cigarette, he asked us to take a seat and enjoy the view of the valley below. It’s a sight Alberto never tires of. Expressing immense happiness at nature, talking about his dreams and constantly smiling; “Look at the trees. Enjoy those cows walking down there.” Everything is a joy and inspiration to Alberto.

Alberto Gutierrez relaxing
Alberto takes a moment to enjoy a cigarette and his surroundings

At the age of nine Alberto had a dream. One day he would carve a great piece of art in to rocks. 70 years later this has become a fully realised reality.

We continued on for over an hour. Stopping all the time to detail each intricate carving and asking us to take his photo. Alberto is quite the charmer. Asking to see his tools, he produced two small home made chisels. “I made these 40 years ago” he told us.

Alberto Gutierrez with rock carving tools
Alberto and his the tools he uses to create the rock carvings

At the end Alberto asked if we could sign his guest book. It was overflowing with names and we suggested he may need another one soon. “I’ve already filled 34” he said. “People come to visit me from all over the world.”

Alberto showed us the place he calls home. Every carving, tree, plant and animal have a meaning for Alberto. He’s a man truly at peace with himself, enjoying the life he’s created.

How to visit the rock carving hermit Alberto Gutierrez

There is supposed to be a bus to Tisey Estanzuela from Esteli South Station at 6:30AM. You will need to ask the driver to get off at either Eco Posada or the sign for Finca El Jalacate.

At Eco Posada you can get some food and trek up to the Mirador, which it’s worthwhile doing. Leaving Eco Posada, at the main road, turn right and walk for nearly 10 minutes. You’ll see the sign for Finca El Jalacate.

Finca El Jalacate sign
Finca El Jalacate sign

Walk down to the shack and follow the path through the valley. The grass turns to rocks, but don’t worry, it is the way.

Route to find Alberto Gutierrez
The rocky path seems remote, but keep going

You’ll see this gate. Pass through it and carry on.

Second gate on the route to find Alberto Gutierrez
Go through this gate too…

Eventually you’ll see this sign and need to follow the path right. At Finca El Jalacate, turn left and in to the forest.

Finca El Jalacate
Walk past this sign and in to the forest

There will likely be someone around to direct you to Alberto. Alternatively, you can call out his name.

Returning to Esteli, there should be a bus passing the main road around 3:00PM.

An alternative is to hire a taxi (or a local) to bring you here. We paid a total of 600 Cordobas ($18 USD) for a return journey (on which the driver showed up three hours later than arranged and then sat eating dinner for an hour! – what a clown!). It seemed like a lot of money, but with no other transport, we were happy to do it. The experience of meeting Alberto Gutierrez was priceless!


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