Granada: The Prettiest Town In Nicaragua

Colourful Granada Nicaragua

I can hardly believe my three weeks in Nicaragua are over. It was a trip full of many highs (seeing amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery and well preserved buildings) and a few lows (I suffered food poisoning more than once and, of course, I missed Justin every now and again) but I really came to love that country.

I have so many things to write about. So, let’s start at the very beginning with the first city I went to in Nicaragua, in fact the first city I have ever been to in Central America (though I have lived and travelled in South America). Granada: The Prettiest Town In Nicaragua.

Granada Roof Tops Nicaragua

Colourful Buildings Granada Nicaragua

Note: For some reason the internet would have you believe you need to choose between Granada and Leon. I don’t get it. I loved them both. The two cities are incredibly different; I really don’t understand the either/or attitude and would really recommend visiting both to see for yourself. I will write more about Leon another day, but for now, let’s focus on colonial Granada.

Granada was the perfect introduction to Nicaragua. The narrow, little streets are lined with well preserved one or two story houses all painted in bright, cheerful colours. Oh the colours! I think I’ll always remember the pops of pinks, blues and purples and the distinctive wooden doors- some smart and well-kept, others in a state of beautiful decay.

The colonial churches are striking too and it all makes for a very pretty and pleasant city to wander around. The yellow Cathedral watches over Parque Central, its domes rising up into the sky making sure no one ever gets lost (or maybe that’s just me). My favourite church was the Iglesia La Merced. I climbed up the steep, winding steps of the bell tower to watch the sunset over Granada more than once.

Granada Cathedral Nicaragua

Colourful Buildings Granada Nicaragua

Rooftops Granada Nicaragua

Granada had enough architecture and character to interest me, but enough tourists and internationalism to make it a gentle first ever stop in Central America. You can visit the churches, walk the pretty streets and go to a cigar factory. I don’t even smoke cigars but it was really one of the most interesting things I did. I had a personal tour of the Mombacho Cigar Factory (I was the only one there, not because I’m special…). The young guide spoke perfect English and was very knowledgable about the cigar making process.

Granada was also a great place to stop and study Spanish. I stayed for six nights and took 20 hours of classes at Casa Nica. I only worked with one teacher there but he was very good and I would recommend it.

Iglesia La Merced Granada

Sunset Granada Nicaragua

There are those who complain Granada is “too touristy” but I don’t share their feelings. If “too touristy” means the architecture has been restored and people actually paint the buildings, then I really don’t think that’s a bad thing. There is one street that has a few too many tourist restaurants and touts on it for me, but you don’t have to spend time there if you don’t want to.

As I travelled around the rest of Nicaragua, people would ask me if Granada was worth it. I always answered yes and explained that, though it is small, it really is the prettiest little town in Nicaragua. So much so that I even came back for my last couple of nights in the country- to wind down, check out the cigar factory, relax at the Maison De Chocolate pool and enjoy the cafes, courtyards and colours.

Pink and Blue Buildings Granada Nicaragua

Pool Mansion de Chocolate Granada

Colonial Granada Nicaragua

What to do in Granada

Wander the pretty colonial streets.

Go up the tower of Inglesia La Merced. It’s especially pretty just before sunset.

Take a tour of Mombacho Cigar Factory (seriousy- I really enjoyed this!)

Take a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo (more about this in a future post).

Study Spanish.

People watch at the Parque Central.

Go to Garden Café to relax in their garden courtyard.

Cool down in the pool at the Mansion de Chocolate ($6 day use for non-guests).

Visit the Isletas (I didn’t do this as I had my fill of outdoor/water stuff with Laguna De Apoyo and Ometepe).

Visit one of the volcanoes.

What Not To Do

Take a horse and carriage. I’m sorry but this needs to be said. I can’t abide seeing tourists sitting in a carriage being pulled around by poor, malnourished horses. The horses often look sick, tired and unhappy. Please, please, if you really have to use a horse- only use one which looks healthy, the driver doesn’t excessively use a whip and please speak to the driver and insist he gives the animal plenty of water.
Colorful Walls Granada Nicaragua
Colourful Streets Granada Nicaragua

Where I stayed

I stayed for 6 nights at Hostel Entrée Amigos. I had a private room with shared bathroom for $12 a night- a real bargain. It is a basic hostel, nothing fancy, but it is very relaxed and very quiet with a cute, little courtyard.

My last couple of nights were spent at Hotel Terrasol. The owners were very friendly, even providing a takeaway breakfast when I had to checkout at 5am for the airport. I enjoyed my stay and felt safe and comfortable, but it does lack the typical Granada courtyard so not ideal for lounging around if you’re done with sightseeing.

Pin It For Later

Granada Nicaragua Pinterest

What do you think of Granada? Have you ever been anywhere that you love but others dislike?

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21 thoughts on “Granada: The Prettiest Town In Nicaragua

  1. Ah, Granada. I went there in 2009 (so long ago!) but I really did love it despite the fact that it’s touristy. Nicaragua is still one of my favorite countries in the world and I’m dying to go back. One of my favorite memories in Granada was going to a local baseball game. I’m a huge baseball fan so seeing a game in Nicaragua was the best. Plus, Nicaraguans are crazy about the sport. It was such a fun time!!

  2. The colors!! LOVED Granada. Just moseying around the streets was my favorite thing to do. Great photos, you really captured the city. I felt the same way about the horses, it made me nauseous to see tourists actually riding in the carriages of horses that looked so sick. It seems like you enjoyed yourself! Can’t wait to see more.

    1. Haha well my Spanish has definitely improved but I need to spend like 6 months in Nicaragua studying hardcore! I actually went all by myself. But I made friends along the way. The girls in the picture in this post were from my Spanish school. 🙂

  3. I loved seeing all of your photos of Granada!! Going back for our 2nd visit later this month. The first was only a day, far too short, in 2010. Can’t wait to see it properly. We were so torn between Granada and Leon, but we decided that the next Nicaragua visit will be for Leon and Ometepe. There’s so much to see in Nicaragua, and I’m excited for Granda and Little Corn! 🙂

      1. I just started a year of slow travel and Nicaragua will happen in about two or three months so not much planned yet but Granada is def on the list:) Have to finish off here in Colombia then head through Panama and Costa Rica before i get there so plenty of time to plan!

        1. Oh yes- absolutely. I didn’t plan anything past the first few days of Spanish lessons before I arrived in Nicaragua. I’ve just put my leon post up and have a bunch more Nicaragua posts coming up over the next month- so hope you enjoy them. 🙂 Oh, and if I was going to recommend anywhere at all in Nica, I would say Isla de Ometepe was my favourite- but go and stay out of town at a finca, it’s worth it.

  4. I’ve been to countries in Central America, like Costa Rica and Belize, but have never been to Nicaragua. Yet!
    It’s definitely on my list of places to go someday, but not quite at the top. However, this post, and I’m sure all of your forthcoming posts, might change my mind. Since you called it a small town, do you think 6 nights in Granada was too long? Or is this one of those places that you want to stay as long as possible, just to relax and live like a local?
    And by the way, I love what you said about not taking a horse and carriage. It’s so so sad.

    1. Haha that’s funny because Nicaragua is the ONLY place in Central America that I’ve been to (though I’ve been to South America) so I have no idea how it compares. My favourite place there was Isla de Ometepe and I would seriously recommend it (I’ll be posting about it soon). I think 6 nights in Granada would be too long for a lot of people- I guess it depends how long you have in Nicaragua. I had three weeks there and I wanted to stop in one place and study Spanish for the first 5 or 6 days- so it worked out well for me. I probably would have stayed about 3 days if I wasn’t studying there though. But if you want to study Spanish- it’s a lovely place to be. I’m glad you agree about the horses too- it makes me so sad too. 🙁

  5. I fell in love with Granada too! Actually seeing your pics made me want to go back! The isletas were gorgeous, the colourful buildings so pretty, just everything was amazing about Granada… I miss it!

  6. All I want to do is travel around Latin America. I loved living in Mexico and am dying to go back and explore Central & South America so this post is like a dream. <3 Your pictures are so stunning and, ooh, all I want to do is jump on a plane right now. Plus it's so nice to read such a positive post – There's so much scare-mongering out there when it comes to Central American countries.

  7. We just spent November there Joella and methinks I was in all the same exact spots you snapped 😉 AWESOME colors there, and in your photos. We dug it. People warmed up over time, but overall, they were friendly, and it likely helped that we can speak Spanish freely. Because we were in a local neighborhood well away from the more heavily touristed central square. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nicaragua has been an obsession of mine since 2010, when I randomly stumbled across the country while surfing the internet and decided to explore more. I’ve still not been and don’t know when I’ll go, but it’s so cool to see others going and reporting back how amazing it. Granada has always struck me as a very colourful city and you’ve definitely done it justice with your photos and this post. Loved it!

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