While in Nicaragua it would be a shame not to visit another beautiful colonial town – Granada. Everybody talks about it and you will most likely stay there at least a day or two. Like many other cities in Central America, Granada is also surrounded by volcanos, 17th century churches, historic buildings, colourful streets and many architectural surprises. So whether you want to eat five types of ayote or overpriced pizza, take pictures of every colourful wall, cruise islets, learn spanish and sip on Toña with a local serenade – you will leave Granada with a memories of an excitement.
Gekko Explorer is also operating to this city from Leon for 10$ (~7£) and we booked tickets online. When you are in Spanish-speaking country there comes great possibility to immerse yourself in the language and Nicaragua it’s just perfect if you are willing to boost your español.
Granada has several spanish schools and we chose the most recommended non-profit educational center Casa Xalteva. Classes are super affordable and while taking a course we were staying with a local family. It was an amazing experience and we had a chance to get to see everyday lives of Nicaraguan people. Our hosts Julio and Maria were incredibly warm always treating us with a home cooked traditional food including delicious gallo pinto. Classes were scheduled from 8 am till midday so after lunch we would still have lots of free time.
Few spots which are perfect for working on laptop while having coffee:
- The Garden Café; you just have to go there it’s literally number one in town!
- Pitaya Bowl Café; accidentally found this quiet oasis, you can sip iced cold almond latte while resting your feet in the small pool, very quiet place!
- Espressionista; a store and art gallery, fancy and stylish interior, serving homemade almond milk, great coffee and less touristy location!
Sometimes simply craving for asian fusion we were eating at Chino Año Nuevo which is probably one of the cheapest chinese restaurants in Granada. Not the most pleasant environment to have dinner but hey, at least they serve really generous portions of chow mein noodles!
Afterwards we would head to Selina Granada to chill at their lovely setting with superb happy hour cocktails. It’s one of the most popular hostels in town because its right in front of Parque Central. For those who are not tight on their budget Tribal Hotel seems to be the best place for splurge. We were happy to take couple of shots for their social media in exchange for a complimentary drink and few hours of fun at the private lounge with pool area.
For shorter journeys try to use legendary chicken bus. They are smelly and loud but at the same time the cheapest and most authentic way to get around – exciting experience that you will remember forever. We made our way to Masaya – a town with the oldest craft market in Nicaragua – just don’t mix it with the food market!
Nicaragua is considered the safest country in Central America but for us Leon and Granada didn’t feel entirely safe after dark. We would not recommend to walk around the streets in the late evening, especially when taxis are so cheap.
Visiting Laguna de Apoyo was another MUST thing to do while staying in Granada. We were recommended to book a day trip with Hotel Paradiso 10$ (~7.5£) and this included transportation, kayaks, paddle boards and lockers. If you would like to hang around longer Paradiso offers affordable accommodation and Spanish lessons. There is a black sand beach right next to the hotel and we found ourselves getting one of the tires and floating around the dock for hours.
Few good tips for Granada and not only:
- Always keep small money and never get in a taxi without agreeing on a fare! It’s usually 15 cordobas ~0.35£ per person, CONFIRM each time if the final price is for two people to avoid confusion,
- Beware of There are no more buses running scam, many times taxi driver was trying to convince us that there were no more buses but it was obviously a lie,
- Learn your directions in Spanish or at least ask your host/hotel to write it for you,
- Ask fellow travellers or locals how much is local fare,
Update from 2019: Nicaragua was recently experiencing some major political issues and many backpackers decided to skip this country. Our friends just came back from there and it’s true that there are no tourist around! However they haven’t noticed any dangers on their way and enjoyed it a lot!