Why you should visit Granada, Nicaragua

Sunday, September 04, 2016

At no point in our travel planning of did we mention visiting Granada, we had always been told Leon was where things were at in Nicaragua. We arrived in Leon in the early hours of the morning and left before midday, it's not uncommon for people to dislike a highly rated city. But to dislike one almost everyone we'd met had loved came as a shock to us.


Granada at a glance

✓ Language: Spanish 

✓ Currency: Nicaraguan Córdoba

✓ Accomodation: $6-$10 per person per night

✓ Restaurant food: $5-$7 - Try Reilly's Tavern

✓ Drinking: $1 Cerveza Toña

✓ Must do: Spend some time at Laguna de Apoyo, Learn Spanish at one of the many Spanish schools, Enjoy the busy Parque Central

✓ Watch out for: Street scams and pick pockets

All prices in US Dollar

Leaving Leon

From Leon you can head to the coast to a small village called Las Penitas. We disliked how dirty and dangerous Leon felt. We didn't feel welcome there like we did in other cities. Perhaps it had something to with arriving at 4am and not being able to find a single hostel with more than 2 beds. Being separated from our group and then messed around further by our hostel. Which was undergoing loud refurbishments all through the night. Arriving in Leon was a big disappointment to us. Desperate to leave, we jumped on the first bus to the coastal town of Las Penitas. 

Upon arriving in Las Penitas we were faced with disappointment again. No room at the inn they said, all 3 hostels we tried were full. We'd heard rumours about a turtle sanctuary and hatchery close by but that was full too. If you're heading to Las Penitas then check out The Surfing Turtle Lodge. But it books out super quickly so book in advance.

We grabbed our belongings and got on another hot, sticky bus back to the waste-strewn streets of Leon. One bad taxi ride, then another bad taxi ride left us feeling ripped off and frustrated. We took one final - better - taxi ride to the bus station and jumped into the first collectivo heading in the direction of Managua. We'd go to Granada. We decided on the way. And man, are we glad that we did. 


Looking down two colonia streets towards the main square of Granada - The Plaza de Independencia

Arriving in Granada

From The Plaza de Independencia to the restaurant packed pedestrian streets Granada is beautiful. Everything about Granada made me feel like I was right back in Europe (even the prices). There are top eateries and great bars in abundance and the Colonial Centre is filled with colourful architecture you can't help but be in awe of.

We'd recently visited Granada, Spain and couldn't help but notice the Alhambra references and street names. There is something oh so spanish about this spanish colonial town, funny that isn't it?

Everywhere you walk, everywhere you look there is something new and exciting to experience. Art work, music, cuisine, architecture, people, adventure. Granada is everything that Leon fails to be. The lively streets are warm and adopt you as their own. The people are fiery, full of life and wonder. Each with their own story to tell or restaurant to reccommend. The restaurants are clean, the bars are busy and the streets give off a zest like no other. Who wouldn't want to spend time in a place that gives you such a buzz?

Our indecisive, split second decision to visit Granada is probably one of the best we made. Our time in Nicaragua had really begun. My love for Nicaragua has been kick started. Forget Leon, go to Granada!


Street art in Granada just as incredible as the streets themselves




Falling in love with Nicaragua


Granada turned out to be the only real place we considered sticking around. We met a lot of people who'd spent weeks in Antigua, Guatemala and couldn't quite understand the desire to stay somewhere so long. Whilst in Granada we toyed with the idea of an extra week. We'd considered another seven days enjoying the culture and taking Spanish classes. Our days in Granada were filled with excitement and each passed quickly, Granada had really stolen our hearts and every second we spent in the city was more captivating than the last. I could finally understand why all those travellers has chosen to stay in Antigua, especially if this is how it made them feel. 

Although we savored our time in Granada, Nicaragua it doesn't go unnoticed that there is a large tourist presence. The energy in Granada never fails to waver and the well maintained streets make you feel secure but Nicaragua is still a very deprived country. Many Nicaraguans live in poverty and unfortunately the large presence of tourists in Granada - flashing and splashing cash - attracts a negative minority. Crime and begging is rife in Granada, watch your pockets. Watch your belongings while you're exploring and keep your whits about you. Street children work in groups to hustle unsuspecting tourists. Be vigilant.

A hustler's paradise - one of the Granada scams 

Seeing Penny Lane and drinking in the John Lennon bar! Liverpool life in Granada, Nicaragua 

Adventures from Granada

There is so much adventure in Granada, every tour guide, every hostel and every bar can give you information on all the tours and tourist options available. Island parties on Lake Nicaragua, tree house raves, boat tours on Lake Nicaragua, Granada has it all. Nicaragua has endless options when it comes to excursions and fun and Granada plays on that completely. Take a boat out onto Lake Nicaragua and check out Monkey Island and the incredible private owned properties on private islands. 

The first stop on our boat tour. We were lucky enough to be on a small boat with 3 people we ended up becoming friends with. We spent a lot of our time in Nicaragua with our new Texan friends 




Laguna de Apoyo is another of the popular excursions on offer from Granada. The new friends we had made on our original boat trip to Monkey Island rented a car, and we drove to the spectacular crater lake for another day by the water. Organised trips, public busses and taxi rides can take you here from one of the many central streets of Granada. Many people choose to stay the night in one of the lake view hostels and I'm regretful that we didn't! 

Laguna de Apoyo 

Grab a tube or swim out to the wooden pontoon, there's even diving going on in the clear waters. The location of the crater lake is perfect, the scenery tranquil. Laguna de Apoyo is Lake Nicaragua's better looking younger sibling. And I read that it's some of the cleanest swimming water in the whole of Nicaragua. Please note most of the hostels charge a small entrance fee to visit Laguna de Apoyo. 

Straight chilling 


Nicaragua is a country I adore, of all the places I visited in Central America it seems to be the one I talk about most. I find myself bringing up Granada regularly and even the other day someone had asked me if I'd visited the colonial city of Granada. A great sense of pride filled me to say I had. Granada is a world apart from Leon, and that's probably why we loved it so much. If you like energy, cafe-culture, conversations with strangers, colonial architecture in bright colours and feeling like you fit into another corner of the world perfectly, then Granada is the place for you. It isn't just overpriced fusion food and unbearable heat. It's all that and so much more. 

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5 comments

  1. Nicaragua is on my bucket list - looks amazing!

    www.lifestyleenthusiast.co.uk

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    1. You must visit. It's a country that totally took me by surprise but a really amazing and diverse place. So much to do, see and experience! You should try and see it soon!

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Wow, Nicaragua looks so beautiful! I've never put much though into visiting (I haven't even been to Central America yet), but your post definitely makes me want to now. Looks like so much fun, I bet that coconut cocktail was delicious too haha.

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    1. Sweet coconut heaven!

      You should definitely visit Central America, it is so spectacular. The culture and vibrancy of the locals makes everyday an adventure and story. I hope you get to Nicaragua one day :)

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travelsandmore was originally just an outlet to document my travels. It turned into something more quite quickly and now its more of an obsession for me than anything else. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to subscribe, I'll only ever send you my latest travel related blog posts right to your inbox.