Granada in Nicaragua is a very beautiful city with a rich colonial heritage which you can still see absolutely everywhere. There is no hiding from its Spanish past, even if just by looking at the architecture.
1 – Cruise the Islets of Granada
This is a collection of islands which the rich and famous of Nicaragua (and beyond) now call their occasional home!
- If you are interested in looking at the houses of rich people this is the tour for you!
- If you like a nice leisurely cruise around a lake this is the tour for you!
All in all it is certainly relaxing and there is some wildlife (mainly birds along with 3 monkeys released on to an island to get fat on tour guide biscuits). So if you’re in Granada it is certainly worth seeing and is definitely a different way to spend an hour or so… but I wouldn’t say it’s something to rave about, especially considering its great reputation. The boats even have canopies as they are out in the opening for quite a while, to make it a lot more comfortable for you.
2 – Take a Walk Down Calle la Calzada
The Calle la Calzada is the main hub of activity at night with a lot of restaurants serving all kinds of fare, street sellers selling pretty much the same stuff, performers fighting with each other & traffic for your attention (and cash) and beggars doing pretty much the same! It’s a mixed bag of activity and while not all of it is welcome or positive (a lot of begging children, masses of stray dogs and tons of ladies of the night), you do at the very least feel strangely safe along here. There are a lot of tourists and it is meant to be traffic free (although I saw a fair share of cars bully the break dancing kids out of the road)… and this is most likely the reason why it feels like any other tourist street in any city of the world.
It is nothing special but at least its an easy place to find everything you need in the evening… However saying that I found the best restaurants to be off the Calzada… But that’s a post for another day!
3 – Look Around Centro Cultural Antiguo
During the blaring mid day sun it’s a fairly cool area which you can shelter away in while learning a lot about the story of Granada. If possible take a guide who can explain a lot more about the paintings and carvings because quite frankly the signs on these are terrible. There are a lot of different exhibits and the model of Granada (which is incredibly detailed) in particular are worth seeing. When we were there they had a temporary exhibit about the day of the dead which sadly was not included time wise in our tour as it looked very interesting, but there were at least a number of other interesting artifacts in other rooms to keep me engaged!
4 – Marvel at the Catedral de Granada
This cathedral is pretty new having been completed in 1915, however this is just because it was destroyed in 1856 after having been built as early as 1583… It was re-built however in the same colonial style as the rest of the city so it doesn’t look out of place, in fact it looks like it was the first building to be built in the city – being right in the middle and super easy to find… It’s nothing short of magnificent.
Now I am not religious, at all so I didn’t join one of their evening masses, although I know that these are hugely popular and if you want to be part of it you should get there as early as you can. Never the less if you’re in the area you really should take a little time to appreciate this beautiful building.
5 – Eat an Ice Cream in the Central Park in the Evening
Get yourself some of Granada’s best gelato from Montebianco and bring it back to the central park at the end of Calle la Calzada. There are plenty of seats and its definitely hot enough for ice cream at night. Its a beautiful way to end your day in this historic city!
Now for a couple of things not to do while in Granada.
Firstly it is well known for its horse drawn cart rides which start at the Central Park area and can take you on various tours or as a way to get to the islets for a trip around the lake. It is a really nice idea and we did do one as part of our tour however about half way around when we had a short stop we noticed that almost every cart had at least one horse which was lame in one of its feet. It soon became obvious that this was due to badly fitted shoes, some of them even had the nail loose so that it was pushed back in to each hoof with each step. Our horses were in pretty good shape, but if you look closely many of them are under weight and had terrible rub marks from the harnesses. Its a lovely idea but they need to learn to look after their horses a little better… In the baking sun they work very hard for their owners.
Secondly, and this is often a good experience, but for us it was a nightmare – don’t go down the local market street if you are on your own, a small group of girls or a couple. We were stopped by a group of large men who were friendly at first but became a little more aggressive during our conversion as well as a little threatening. They asked how much to spend some time with my wife, at which time we hastily left and were followed for a little while – we made sure not to go direct to our hotel, just in case… If you want to go to this more local market do have your wits about you and don’t stop for a chat!