Granada is a beautiful colonial city with eye-catchingly colorful, refurbished homes and churches. Retirees who live in this grand city are eager to tell you how happy they are to have found such a special place to spend their golden years.
Granada can also provide a lifetime of interesting experiences and things to do. To get a flavor of the architecture, lifestyle, and natural beauty that makes Granada the fascinating place that it is, here are my top five things to do here:
1. Take a Tour
You should try and spend at least half a day exploring the streets of Granada. If you have issues with heat or walking, head to the central park and take a horse-and-buggy ride through many of the cobblestone streets. As you clip-clop through the city, you’ll see magnificently restored ornate churches and private homes, many with beautiful gardens or swimming pools in the courtyard. This tour typically costs $10 per person, but negotiate for a cheaper price if you are in a group.
If you prefer walking, just stroll down the streets in the center of the city to see many amazing sights. Start at the central park, right in front of the famous neoclassical Cathedral of Granada, built in 1583. There you will encounter all kinds of artists, vendors, and performers. Sit on a park bench and take in all the activities around you. Have an economical yet delightful lunch at the Garden Café—a restored colonial home with a beautiful garden of flowers, ferns, and a fountain to make your dining experience special. Visit the Choco Museum, where you can learn all about cacao, how it is processed, and why it is so important in Nicaragua (and you can always buy some delicious chocolate in the store there).
2. Experience the Nightlife on La Calzada Street
Having dinner here will give you the full feel of Granada. The long boulevard, where only foot traffic is allowed at night, bursts into excitement around 8:30 pm, for both foreigners and Nicaraguans. Dine on barbequed ribs, Spanish tapas, Italian pasta, Nicaraguan dishes, and more. You can also avail of 2 for 1 drinks in almost every restaurant. While eating a fabulous meal, catch the nightlife: a traditional dance troupe twirling around the square in full costume, a mariachi band, or perhaps a break dancing crew. These experiences make for an enjoyable evening.
3. Explore Las Isletas
Take a trip in a shaded boat through the 365 isletas (small islands) of lake Colcibolca, where Granada sits. Said to have been formed thousands of years ago when the nearby Mombocho volcano erupted, these islands offer a great setting for a relaxing ride. A couple of the islands offer lunch service at small restaurants. You’ll get to see all sorts of water fowl, birds, and other animals. You can pass by the famous “monkey island” and observe some howler monkeys who make their home there. And, if these islands really interest you, some are even for sale, while others have magnificent houses which you can rent with a bunch of friends for a weekend or a vacation.
4. Mombocho Canopy Tour
This ziplining adventure is my favorite in Latin America. For about $35 dollars, you can be collected from your hotel in Granada and have an excitement-packed day. Ziplining is fun for the whole family and it’s safe. You’re helmeted, harnessed, then strapped on to a quarter-inch steel cable. When the guide gives the signal, you jump off the platform and “fly” to the next, along the top of the jungle canopy where you get breath taking views of the countryside, lakes, and wildlife.
Also, as it’s situated in the famous Mombacho coffee-producing region, you can stop off and get a tour of a coffee plantation on your way back home.
5. Laguna de Apoyo
Swim in this crater lake in an ancient volcano—with warm water all year round. If you don’t swim, don’t worry. You can just soak in the medicinal waters for about 20 minutes and you’ll start feeling better.
For lunch, don’t miss the grilled guapote (fish indigenous to the lake) served to you on a steaming, personal grill with fried cheese, fried plantains, pico de gallo (salsa sauce), and a fresh cabbage, tomato, and carrot salad…all for around $8. You’ll also enjoy the marimba players and children selling all types of food…green mangos with chili sauce, black shell ceviche, mini-cinnamon churros (fried dough pastry), and homemade caramels.
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