Having a population of about 124,000 residents, Granada is considered the sixth largest city in Nicaragua. Named after an ancient Spanish city, Granada is a tourist hub with a rich colonial heritage that is evident in the exquisite architecture and structures all over town. Sitting right beside Lake Nicaragua, this city has been our home for the past three weeks. Lucky us, our job flexibility enabled us to stay for a month in this beautiful country. The Airbnb we stayed in was a beautiful house located on one of Granada’s main streets. Having no car and no means of escaping the city (not that we ever felt it necessary) Joey and I visited every nook and cranny of this city.
For approximately $20.00 USD per buggy you can rent and enjoy a one hour guided horse and carriage tour of the city. What better way to learn to navigate the narrow streets all while discovering Granada’s rich history from a local. Carriages can be seen all over town and if you’re lucky you may be able to flag one down from your hotel. If not the main pickup spot is the central park, right beside the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Cathedral. If you do not speak Spanish make sure you get a guide that speaks a comprehensible English, and don’t be afraid to barter with the drivers if you would like a shortened ride of 30-45 minutes, they can be very accommodating.
Climbing the narrow stone stairs of La Merced Cathedral to get an aerial view of the city is breathtaking enough, doing the same at sunset is pure magic. The bell tower of this ancient church is claimed by the locals to be the best spot in the entire city to see Granada, lake Nicaragua, the islands of Ometepe and the Mombacho volcano all at the same time. Costing only $1.00 USD, we were joined by a large group of tourists in the tower watching the golden sun sink into the horizon and checking out the busy streets below.
Located a hop, skip and a jump from Granada you will find dozens of tour operators looking to take tourists to the Masaya markets and active volcano. We did our tour around sunset so we could make sure to see the Masaya volcano in the dark. Unfortunately that meant that we had to tour the local markets at dusk when most of the stores were closing down for the night. It’s a good thing we aren’t big shopoholics. After a lengthy wait on our way into Masaya National Park (which I’m told is way worst on the weekends) we finally had our turn to peer into the crevasse of the volcano. For anyone who has never seen real molten lava sloshing around before, I would highly recommend checking the volcano out, especially at night when the lava glows an iridescent red. Of all the things I have done on my trip nothing can compare to the awe of seeing lava for the first time.
Many years ago the Mombacho volcano, located right next to Granada, erupted sending rocks and lava spewing into Lake Nicaragua. As a result from this violent eruption, 365 small islands were formed along the coastline of Granada creating “Las Isletas”. These islands, ranging from a hundred square meters to over a few hundred hectares, create a habitat for birds, lizards, bats, monkeys and a small community of 1200 people. For around $18.00 per person taking a boat ride around the Isletas is an affordable and culturally rich experience.
I have yet to meet a person on this earth who doesn’t like chocolate. Along one of Granada’s main streets is a museum mansion dedicated to telling you the story of chocolate, from harvesting the cocoa beans to it becoming one of the most delicious treats in the world. The Choco mansion was a beehive of activity being ¼ beauty spa, ¼ restaurant, ¼ storefront and ¼ museum. Entering the chocolate museum for the first time I was immediately whisked away to try some samples. Six shots of various chocolate liquors later, I stumbled out of the museum only to return a few weeks later and try the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for $6.00 USD and the chocolate SPA package.
This 1344 meter high stratovolcano can be climbed two ways, by vehicle or on foot, we chose the latter. Our hike took about 3 hours and on our way we saw coffee plantations and cloud forests. At the top we hiked the crater and enjoyed a bird’s eye view of Granada from the lookout. A challenging yet satisfying hike, make sure to bring a sufficient amount of water and light wind breaker for the top as the weather can be vastly different than in Granada.
Baseball is the national sport of Nicaragua. It seems absurd to visit this country without at least attempting to catch a game. The country’s national league is comprised of 4 teams; the Indios from Bóer, the Tigres from Chinandega, the Leones from León and the Orientales from Granada. While attending a game we quickly realized that competition is fierce between both the baseball players and the die hard fans. In Granada, the Roberto Clemente stadium is located in the north-west corner of the city and during the baseball season tickets for a professional game cost about 100 Nicaraguan córdobas (a little over $3.00 Canadian). It’s a pretty amazing deal for a full evening of sporting entertainment.
When eating at any restaurant in Nicaragua, it’s easy to see which dishes are traditional of this country and which dishes aren’t by looking at the cost. A typical local meal includes; gallo pinto, a mouth watering bean mixed with rice combination, typically served with a hearty piece of chicken and fried plantain. A mixture of Indigenous, Spanish and Creole cuisine, authentic “Nico” food can easily be five to ten dollars cheaper than any alternative on the menu. Why not try something that is great on the taste buds and great on the wallet.
The Cementerio de Granada, located a 30 minute walk from the city’s central square, is considered to be the oldest cemetery in Central America. In our last few days in Nicaragua we made sure to walk out to this graveyard site and look around. The further back into the graveyard we ventured the smaller the gravestones seemed to get until there was nothing more than a simple wooden cross marking someone’s grave. Filled with picturesque mausoleums and elaborate tombs, the Cementerio de Granada is the resting place for many Nicaraguans including 6 former presidents, dating as far back as 1876.
Everywhere you turn in Granada there is something to do or see that you have never experienced before. A city rich in history, architecture and culture, Granada is well worth exploring by anyone visiting Nicaragua.
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