Granada, Nicaragua | The colonial gem of Central America
Granada is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like a living post-card wherever you look! It’s not a surprise that travellers choose it as their base during their stay in the country. It is situated only two hours away from the borders with Costa Rica and just an hour away from Managua, the capital. The city welcomes you via its warm, smiley people, its colourful houses, its wonderful churches and its latin temperament, which is an indispensable part of the locals’ life. So come and get a taste from the city of Granada!
The city of Granada
It was established in 1523 from Spanish Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, who named it Granada based on the namesake Spanish city. It is built on the shores of the Nicaragua lake (or lake Cocibolka as it is called by the locals!) and is one of the oldest colonies in Central America. Its population approaches 124 thousand (2012) and is the sixth most populated city in the country. It is one of the most developed tourist destinations in Nicaragua due to its colonial architecture, which has made the city famous worldwide, but also due to its year-round warm climate.
To reach Granada, you first have to fly to Managua, the capital, and then take the bus which costs around 15 dollars. Alternatively you can take the taxi which won’t cost more than 35 dollars – if you bargain enough. The trip takes less than an hour, so any way, your travel won’t be costly, neither particularly tiring. If you are already in a neighbouring country, like Costa Rica or the Honduras, then you will have to pass through a checkpoint on the borders and then get to Granada by bus or taxi.
We were already in Costa Rica, so after reaching the borders with Nicaragua, we went through on foot, with slight rain falling and a number of episodes and scenes (but let’s leave that for another time). We then took the bus to Granada and got there in about two hours.
Houses and buildings painted in bright reddish, greenish and yellowish hues, splendid churches around the city, white carriages passing you by in the streets, and the warmest, most hospitable people I’ve come across in Central America. I think calling Granada romantic would not be an exaggeration!
It was already dark when we entered Granada and looking out of the bus’s window I instantly realized this wasn’t a regular city. It was love at first sight! My enthusiasm reach a zenith though, when I reached my hotel, the Plaza Colon, a wonderful colonial building overlooking the central square and its mind-boggling cathedral.
The same night, we strolled around La Calzada, a crowded street full of restaurants and bars. We stared at people having fun by dancing salsa in the street, the numerous merchants selling their trades, and the families sitting outside their houses watching over.
As I was passing by a house, I briefly stopped to salute the family sitting there. It just so happened that I looked inside the house and admired the lovely décor, the white bamboo-made living room, the high ceilings and the colourful floors, a sign of the colonial style.
«You have a wonderful house!», I said admiringly. «Thanks!», the father replied. «Would you like a tour?». He then introduced me to the entire family and I asked him to describe life in Granada. «It’s quiet. We work all day, we come home late, and after dinner we take our chairs out, watch over in the street and discuss our day. This is the nicest part of the day, when the entire family gathers together». I admit that this reminded me of life in our local villages, in summer evenings, when people do exactly the same – that, and to get some fresh air!
The next couple of days were devoted in exploring the city and the surrounding area. Then, we would get to Managua and take the plane to San Salvador. We hence began with boating in Nicaragua lake, and then exited the city to visit the amazing Masagia volcano. We then went to check the local market as well as the most important sightseeing such as the la Merced church, the Cathedral and Guadeloupe church.
Our last day, we decided to do something different. We agreed with Giovanni, a carriage driver, to get a tour in the less known part of the city. We wanted to see life in the neighbourhoods which were not in the city centre. We boarded the carriage and let Giovanni lead the way! We passed through the poor neighbourhoods with colourful housing and shops, as well as by the beautiful Nicaragua lake. The locals kept waving to us throughout the ride while the driver decided to take us around his own neighbourhood to show us the place he grew up in. This city never seizes to amaze you! The same can be said of its inhabitants.
When you get there, (that’s «when», not «if») I don’t want you to worry about a thing! I am here to tell you where to go and what to do in a day or two. Believe me, you are going to want more though. For now, here’s a little video for you, from this most romantic of cities!