The trees on the Parque Central provide a welcoming shade from the midday heat. Horses and carriages are waiting for tourists to take them around the town and the open-air terraces are heaving. Above all that towers the prominent yellow and white Cathedral. I arrived in Granada, presumably Nicaragua’s most beautiful and most popular colonial town.
And beautiful it is indeed! The nearby Plaza de la Independencia is an attractive ensemble of colonial architecture with patios hidden behind old stone portals. Granada’s town centre is relatively small. A full day stroll will offer views of elegant sixteenth-century homes and will lead you to one of the town’s many churches, like the Iglesia de la Merced and the Convento San Francisco.
At the end of Calle Real Xalteva stands the Fortaleza La Polvera, a lavishly turreted Spanish fortress.
Return to Parque Central in the evening, when the fritangas (food stalls) have taken over the place, to sample a typical Nicaraguan streetfood dish: vigorón. It consists of pork rinds, rice, beans, fried cheese, coleslaw and chilli sauce served on a banana leaf. Pretty tasty, but it’s not easy to eat the whole thing with your hands without making a mess…!
Bars and restaurants are spilling out onto the pavement of the nearby Calle La Calzada. From lounge bars to Irish pubs: this is the best place to try a few local beers!
Granada is situated on Lago de Nicaragua and a stroll along the waterfront is the ideal way to cool down on a sweltering day. During the weekend this area is booming with discos, cafes, loud music, … but not on a Tuesday apparently. When I was there, the lakeshore was very quiet with families having a stroll, horses running along the beach and a quiet afternoon bar!
As pretty is Granada is, make sure to see some of its surroundings as well. A minibus takes you to the entrance of the “Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya“. From there it is a 5km walk up to the active Santiago crater.
The fumes in the crater are simply incredible, no wonder the Spanish used to call this crater ” La Boca del Infierno” (the mouth of hell) ! In a more litigious nation you would never be allowed to walk up here! Inhaling the fumes is so unhealthy that you are not allowed to stay longer than a couple of minutes. Not that anybody’s checking…
Walk around the nearby extinct crater that offers excellent views of the active one and of the whole national park, a vast wasteland strewn with rocks and volcanic ashes!
On my last morning in Granada, I take a walk down to the local market. It is very different from the Parque Central, a lot more authentic! They sell everything here: fruit, vegetables, meat with a very pungent smell, clothes,… I stock up on fruit before taking the bus to Rivas. My next stop, Isla de Ometepe, is waiting.
Have you been to Granada? Looking forward to reading your experiences!