After a long journey from Antigua, we arrived in Granada, Nicaragua! The city is pretty with its Spanish colonial influence but it also has a Caribbean flair (despite it being closer to the Pacific side.) Granada reminded me a lot of Cuba. It was bright, colorful, and HOT! The old city has a lot of charm including horse drawn carriages, cobblestone streets, and volcano views.
1. Walk around Parque Central and Calle La Calzada
Calle La Calzada is a pedestrian street with lots of cute bars and restaurants. People dine alfresco with live music. It has great dinner vibes! Some of our favorites were The Garden Cafe near Parque Central and Kedeke On Calle La Calzada. We didn’t get into too much nightlife but for some fun gringo karaoke head to Reilly’s Irish Tavern. The Treehouse is a popular nightlife spot, apparently it gets pretty wild with the same Sunday Funday crowd that’s in San Juan Del Sur.
There are a variety of small hotels and hostels in Granada. We stayed at the Oasis Hostel and while it definitely wasn’t nice it did have an all you can eat pancake breakfast and free happy hour (aka a backpacker’s dream!) The pool and sunset views from the roof were perks as well. It is a great place to stay to meet people.
2. Take a Boat Tour through Las Isletas
We went on the isletas tour which is a cool experience but be prepared for it to be pretty cheesy. The tour consists of three stops, monkey island, an old fort on an island, and a pool/bar to lounge at. The fort island you only see from the boat and they don’t really discuss the history and the monkey island is someone’s house who owns monkeys as pets! You don’t get out of the boat at either “stop.”
Lastly, the pool/bar island is pretty run down. We grabbed a piña colada and relaxed but it definitely wasn’t luxury. Go into it expecting to cruise around on a boat and see some cool, big houses and you will be pleased. Laguna de Apoyo Is another popular day tour option. It is more lounging and less sightseeing but it seemed cool as well.
3. Get Up Close to an Active Volcano
We were so impressed with the active volcanos in Guatemala that we knew we wanted to check out Masaya Volcano. It was also cheaper to book the volcano tour with the isletas tour. We paid around $30 USD for both. We headed to Masaya Volcano in a van at dusk with our tour group. Bring some drinks and snacks because you have to wait in line for an hour or so to drive up to the volcano.
At the top there is a museum and then you go stare into the depths of the volcano! It doesn’t look like a volcano by traditional standards but more like a crater in the earth. You are only allowed to stay for 15 minutes because of the sulfur fumes. This seemed like a short time but it was plenty. Looking into the volcano was crazy as you could see molten lava boiling! It was even a little creepy as it seriously looked like the depths of hell! Visiting Masaya is definitely worth it and because you can drive up, it is accessible for everyone.
4. Visit Iglesia La Merced
One of the best parts of old citites is the beautiful churches. Stop in Iglesia La Merced off Granada’s Parque Central and climb up to the bell tower for great views of the city. But don’t ring the bell unless you want a $200 fine! Also be sure to check out the murals on the ceiling. I especially liked the one of Noah’s Ark.
5. Roll Your Own Cigars at Doña-Elba
After visiting Cuba, where we learned a lot about cigars, we were interested in going back to another factory. Doña Elba was great! It is super interactive but not overly crowded. You get to roll your own cigars and sample a complimentary one. The guys who worked there were great and shared a lot of knowledge while making it fun and interesting. This is definitely a great way to spend an afternoon in Granada.
We were only in Granada for a few days but it was fun! It has its own attractions and is a nice starting point for your Nicaragua travels.
Want more information to plan your trip to Granada? Check out the Nicaragua Lonely Planet here.
Sweating in Granada,