Yes, there is a Granada in Spain, but it is not the one at hand now. We are staying far from Europe, we are travelling!
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Granada, with its 100000+ inhabitants, is the third-largest city of Nicaragua, after Managua and León. It’s the capital city of the Granada region (you don’t say !).
The environment and the cool spots
Granada is very colourful. Its colonial architecture is well conserved. You will see yellow houses here, blue ones there… everywhere you walk is a rainbow in front of your eyes (exaggerating level: not much). The climate is pretty hot and humid, 30°C-35°C (85°F-95°F) are common, and it can get higher.
So sunscreen is more than recommended for your outings! A couple of mosquitoes are there, nothing too intense, though. Just use some repellent if you feel intimidated. In the evenings, a pleasantly cool temperature can sometimes be felt in the streets.
Granada is a pretty touristic destination, which I definitely understand. At every point in the city, the Mombacho volcano is visible, just like in the image opposite. Always with a cloud at its summit, it is the Granada volcano. More on that below.
The market is also something not to be missed. You will constantly buzz with activity and find fruits that you didn’t know existed (at least if you haven’t travelled in Latin America before)! The people selling here are pretty used to seeing tourists wandering around, don’t hesitate to ask what is. In Spanish! “What is this ?” is “Que es eso ?” (/kay ess esso/). Now, if you understand the answer, come back to me and tell me about it!
They usually speak fast, without articulating too much, and in their beard. But in any case, food is very cheap to cheap in the market. So try to discover new things! Be aware, like in every commercial situation, that people might try to rip you off.
For example, 27 or 28 cordobas are $1, 100 cords are $4; from there, just guesstimate if the price is abnormally high or not. You can also negotiate a global price if you buy several fruits and vegetables.
The central park (Parque central if you have to ask) is the main square of Granada. It is located in front of Granada’s yellow cathedral, and you can sit and relax on one of the benches, in the shades of the trees. There is also plenty of food stall, selling hot dogs, fried plantain and other. It is truly a charming and relaxing square.
East from this square (towards the cathedral, behind it), the tourist street is crowded with… tourists. And restaurants. It is nonetheless a lovely cobblestone pedestrian street, where you will have the choice of food for a higher price. At the same time, a group of local musicians play for you. About the latter, you don’t have to.
Going all the way down this street leads to the waterfront of Lake Nicaragua, the biggest of the country. Unfortunately, the waterfront itself is not as pleasant as the Parque central. There are many restaurants and bars along its beach, but it can be pretty dirty, especially the water. Also, don’t go there on foot at night.
What to do?
So you are here, eating some chicken and fried plantain out of a palm leaf (aka street food, good and cheap), sitting in the shade in Parque central. What is going to be the afternoon made of?
The horse-pulled carriages
At the west side of the main square, you will see a long row of horse-pulled carriages suited for up to four persons. Suppose you are into carriages and you would like a little stroll to discover the colonial-style city, get near those carriages, and in no time. In that case, a driver will invite you to hop in. You can choose between a 30 minutes ride (USD 5) or a 60 minutes one (USD 10). Let the driver choose the route, or decide yourself!
The abandoned hospital
As creepy as it sounds for some, beautiful for others, the abandoned hospital of Granada is a surprising building in ruins, where nature takes over, 20 minutes by foot away from the Parque central.
Do not go late in the afternoon (5pm at the latest) as it gets dark quick, and this is not one of the safest places to be in. But it is a fantastic spot if, like me, you like taking pictures.
The Mombacho volcano
Have you ever climbed a volcano? Or rather walked up to one? 1,200 meters high, and only 10 km away from Granada, it is a good hike that won’t need hours of driving. Of course, you can also take your car to the summit or hop in a truck (for a fee). Either way, it will be an exciting ride given that the road is incredibly steep, be aware that it is hard if you want to hike up. It will take you around 2 hours.
Once there, it is cold and most probably very humid. Bring a jacket. Oh, and water. Lots of it. There is a tourist centre at the top in which you can find plenty of information, and get some snacks and drinks. There are four craters in this volcano, and plenty of paths, long and short, that you can take on your own or with a guide.
La Fortaleza de la Pólvora
Let us come back to Granada. This fortress, built in 1748, is located 10/15 minutes away from the Parque central by foot. It isn’t more than a lovely pleasant garden inside some high walls, but it is worth mentioning. After all, it is part of the city! And from the towers, you have a pretty nice view of Lake Nicaragua and the Mombacho volcano.
El Choco Museo
It is a museum, yes, but much more than that. There, you can read a lot about chocolate, its fabrication process and buy every type of product you would expect to find in a chocolate store.
You can also in the morning, and this is where it gets interesting if you ask me, go to the breakfast buffet “all you can eat” (they wrote it, I didn’t invent it !). For USD 6, you can eat and drink as many waffles, crêpes, eggs, coffee, juice, granola (so good), fruits and such, as you want, until you are full, or 1pm, whichever comes first! Chocolate and bananas are involved in their recipes (aw yeah !).
For more information about the Choco Museo, visit their website. Their photos will make you so hungry. For chocolate. Unless you don’t like chocolate (that happens, I still think you’re human, don’t worry), in which case, here’s to you, my friends.
In the lake Nicaragua, very close to Granada, are las Isletas, a set of many little islands, most of them privately owned. You can take a boat for two, three hours and navigate through them, the driver indicating the most famous ones, owned by known, wealthy families that have built impressive houses on them, and the ones that are for sale, in case you would be interested.
It is a beautiful tour, although don’t expect to hop off on different islands to visit/swim/take a walk. Instead, you can ask to be dropped at an island with a restaurant and be picked up later, which is definitely what I recommend, to get a better feel of the whole scenery.
You will be able to go on a tour like this by heading to the Parque central, and talking to one of the persons holding a flyer and shouting “las isletas, isletas !”. The price is per boat, not per person (around $20), so it’s better to go with other clients or a (big) group.
They will take you in a cab, and after 15 minutes, heading to the waterfront, you will arrive at your destination! Hop in a boat, et voila!
Excursions and day trips close to Granada
It is pretty easy in Nicaragua to go from a city to another. There are no maps of buses routes, but if you ask almost anyone, you will be given valuable information. Of course, the closer you are to the bus terminal when you ask, the more likely you have pertinent information.
La Laguna de Apoyo
A stunning lake in a crater! It is protected by the local Ministry.
Playa de Popoyo
Quite more of a surf spot. Restaurants, hostels and hotels, and surfboard locations are charming places to spend just a couple of days.
So there you have it! Granada is not a city in which you will get bored. On the contrary, it is perfect for spending from just a couple of days to way longer, given your day/two-day trips options. So go there, eat fruits, eat chocolate, take pictures, and come back happy!