Granada – Nicaragua’s most beautiful colonial city

Granada is one of the oldest cities in the Americas and its cobblestone streets and colourful buildings are a photographer’s dream. There’s honestly no better place to feel Nicaragua’s history and rich colonial heritage than in Granada. I’m a sucker for colourful colonial architecture, so I may be a little biased here. Granada actually reminds me of Mexico’s San Cristóbal de las Casas and Guatemala’s Antigua, this beautiful city oozes charm.

This post includes it all: where to stay, what to do, where to eat and how to get to Granada. Keep reading to get the run-down of Nicaragua’s most alluring colonial gem.

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Admiring the beautiful Granada Cathedral
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Exploring Granada, behind me is the beautiful Granada Cathedral

Where to stay in Granada

Selina is a hostel chain throughout Central and South America. They provide really cool rooms for all travellers and host great parties. Can you guess how much we paid for one night? DRUM-ROLL PLEASE… 115 NIO / R50 / 3.5 USD pppn for a private room! Its crazy right? I couldn’t believe it too!

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Selina, Granada. Nicaragua
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Selina is an amazing hostel, this is one of the many beautiful spaces I fell in love with at the hostel
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Selina, Granada, Nicaragua

So, for great value accommodation that is located right in the heart of the city, make sure you book into Selina Hostel. This is a popular place, so make sure you email in advance or make a booking on Booking.com.

5 Top things to do in Granada

Centuries of Spanish rule have left Nicaragua with some amazing colonial architecture which is waiting for you to admire in Granada. Aside from the beautiful buildings, there are many day trips and activities to enjoy because Granada sits on the shore of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by volcanoes.

1. Take a stroll in the colonial streets

One of the best activities is taking a self-guided city tour by simply wandering through the colonial part of the city.  Visit the central markets, Parque Central, the many beautiful churches and small ally-ways to truly appreciate this city.

The Granada cathedral is probably the most beautiful in all of Nicaragua. It’s bright, stunning and well worth a visit. Try and visit when a service is on and you’ll get to experience everyone singing hymns which is quite nice.

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Granada Cathedral, Nicaragua
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Granada Cathedral, Nicaragua
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Granada, Nicaragua
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Exploring the market in Granada, Nicaragua

2. Take a horse drawn carriage tour

The best way to explore Granada is on a horse drawn carriage. The streets are lined by horses in their Sunday best. You won’t have to look too far to find the eager horse and carriage drivers that line Parque Central. Carriage rides and city tours are generally only an hour, which is a great introduction to the city and culture. Whilst it is a perfectly pleasant way to enjoy the city, you can see much more by foot, and for free.

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Horse drawn carriage in Granada, Nicaragua
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Granada, Nicaragua

3. Visit Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve

The Apoyo Lagoon is like a “crater lake” and it’s between volcanoes and is said to be the cleanest and deepest lake in Nicaragua. It’s a huge lake that’s a perfect swimming temperature, and it’s great to tube in, paddle-board and kayak.

4. Visit Lake Nicaragua

Granada sits on the door-step of Nicaragua’s largest lake, and is home to 365 small islets all within kayaking distance. Lake Nicaragua is the biggest freshwater lake in all of central America and is the perfect place for thrill-seekers to experience extreme adventures.

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Lake Nicaragua
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Having lunch along the shores of Lake Nicaragua

5. Visit Masaya Volcano National Park

Volcanoes in Central America are like car guards in South Africa – Everywhere! But I’m always excited to see them because I really love volcanoes.

You can either visit Masaya Volcano during the day or at night. I highly recommend that you opt for the night tour because you will clearly see the lava eruptions and movements as it burns. It’s AMAZING and one of the best things to do in Granada. The tour costs 830 NIO / R 360 / 25 USD pp, and that includes the 330 NIO / R 150 / 10 USD entrance fee into the park at night. I honestly think this is quite pricey since the tour only last approximately 2 hours and you only spend about 15 minutes at the crater.

Where to eat

Granada has a variety of great food and drink available to tempt your taste buds, these are some of the places you should try while you are visiting:

  • Kathy’s Waffle House – for delicious waffles
  • Pita Pita Restaurant – for amazing pizza
  • El Zaguán Restaurant – for the best steak in town
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I really enjoyed this New York Steak

When to visit Granada

The “peak” season to visit Granada is during November to April as this is the dry season which greets you with long days of hot sun. I visited in March and the weather was perfect.

How to get to Granada

Granada is the central point on the typical Nicaragua itinerary, so it’s usually a middle spot for people and easy to get to. The cheapest way is to travel with a chicken buss. After spending a few days in Las Penitas, we took a bus from León to Granada. Saving a bit of money by using local transportation is always a great option for us, and perhaps it could be for you as well. Some tourist companies run shuttle services to Granada, this is quite common from San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe and Leon.

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Leon bus station

Granada is an easy place to spend a few days exploring the beautiful colors and streets of this colonial towns. I hope I have convinced you to make Granada in Nicaragua one of your next travel destinations.

Thank you for reading,

Dineo Zonke

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