When we landed back in Managua after our trip to the Corn Islands, we had planned to catch a taxi from the airport to the main bus terminal and hop on a bus to Granada from there. However, when we got into our taxi at the airport our driver offered to take us all the way to Granada at not much more than the price of the bus journey, so we caved and rode into Granada in style.
We had booked 12 nights at a guest house called El Arca De Noe, which we found on Airbnb. When we arrived we were greeted by the owner and host, Carlos, who showed us to our extremely spacious double room and offered to take us on a free city tour the next day after breakfast. We gratefully accepted, and the following morning Carlos drove us around in his air-conditioned car, pointing out all the points of interest and telling us about the history of the city.
Granada is the tourist showpiece of Nicaragua, with stunning architecture that carries both Spanish and Italian influences. The city centre is clean, pristine and colourful, and fully caters for international visitors. We probably saw more holidaymakers (as opposed to backpackers) in Granada than we have seen anywhere else so far on our trip – and to be honest, it was really nice! The main strip of bars and restaurants that runs between the Parque Central and Lake Nicaragua is always bustling and lively with visitors from all over the world, and we became regulars at the Irish bar there – because who can resist an Irish bar?
Our stay in Granada turned out to be very similar to our stay in León, i.e. we didn’t really do a whole lot! But Nicaragua is a great place to not do a whole lot in – it can be really entertaining just to wander around the streets, stop for a coffee and people watch. In Granada this is especially true, as street performers come out most evenings and put on great shows for the customers sitting outside of the bars on the main strip. We spent a good few days walking around the colourful colonial buildings, strolling down towards the lake and sitting in the Parque Central watching the world go by.
We did manage to squeeze a bit of sightseeing in between our morning coffees and afternoon beers when we went out on a boat tour of the isletas in Lake Nicaragua. The isletas are a group of just over 300 tiny islands scattered about the lake, some of which are inhabited, and you can book a tour that takes you around some of the most interesting spots – beautiful houses that are clearly owned by very wealthy locals, and a tiny cluster of rocks and two trees that is home to several monkeys – before stopping at an island restaurant for a drink.
After doing some online research we decided to book our visit to the isletas with Leo Tours, which – at first glance – had some great reviews on Trip Advisor. We met the owner, Leo, who was very enthusiastic and helpful, and was excited to tell us some of his own travelling stories. He told us that our tour would take in some of the best sights around the isletas, including a stop at monkey island – and it’s true that we did see these things. However, the tour itself was a little strange in that it didn’t really involve a tour! Leo basically put us in a taxi that took us to the dock, where we were put into a boat taxi, which then took us round the isletas but didn’t actually offer any information about the isletas themselves. All we got was “this is monkey island”, and “this is the restaurant”, so we came away not having learned much! We had a read back over some older Trip Advisor posts when we got back and found that several other people had had similar experiences. Nevertheless it was still a good day out – and it’s always fun to see monkeys!
On another sightseeing day we wandered down to the old railway station, which is no longer in use but houses one of Nicaragua’s old, retired steam trains. We also visited the Iglesia La Merced, where we climbed up the narrow bell tower staircase to see some amazing views of the city. Most evenings we would cook for ourselves in the guest house kitchen, but one night we decided to visit the highly recommended La Frontera restaurant, which has the most epic burgers and burritos at budget friendly prices. We enjoyed it there so much that we went back for a second visit – and both ate exactly the same thing as we did the first time!
Granada is a great city to visit, and we enjoyed spending a bit of time there. However, if you are short on time, you could probably get away with staying just for a few days – it would be quite easy to fit in all the sightseeing highlights in that time.
After Granada we had just one stop left to go in Nicaragua: San Juan Del Sur.