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