Top 10 things to do while visiting Granada, Nicaragua!
Visiting Granada, Nicaragua soon or thinking about a visit? It is a trip you won't regret. Granada is a beautiful Central American city with Spanish colonial architecture and charm. This guide will give you the top fun things to do while visiting Granada including shopping, eating and tourism adventures.
Enjoy a City Tour by Horse Carriage
Starting in Central Park you can catch a great overview of the city by means of a guided horse carriage tour. Since Granada is quite warm, it is best to go on this tour earlier in the day or later in the afternoon while the sun isn't quite as intense. There are many carriage drivers that speak English quite well, including carriage #1 driven by Osmond. These tours usually last about 1-2 hours and run close to $20 US for the group.
Take an Island Tour on Lake Nicaragua
Lake Nicaragua is one of the main ecological attractions in the country and it is home to a community of locals and much wildlife living on the islands. An island tour will allow you to get a glimpse into true island living. You'll see everything from locals fishing and washing their clothes, to beautiful vacation homes. You'll also get to visit Monkey Island where there are currently four monkeys living. Tip: Don't forget to bring them cookies and they might even let you close enough to feed them!
Visit the Rim of Masaya's Active Volcano
About 30 minutes outside of Granada is the city of Masaya which has the closest active volcano. It is an exciting experience to look over the edge down into the smoking volcano! What's great about this attraction is there is not a ton of walking to get to the rim so you don't have to hike unless you want to. If you take a night tour of the volcano from Granada, it is a bit of hiking, but you get the additional bonus of walking through bat caves and the sunset is beautiful!
Zip-line on Mombacho Volcano
Mombacho Volcano has something for everyone! If an active volcano isn't your thing, Mombacho is the next best thing because it is inactive and closer to Granada than Masaya. On Mombacho you can hike, tour the coffee plantations, hear and see the howler monkeys, see many beautiful plants and birds, and best of all, go zip-lining! Most of the guides also speak English and are willing to take pictures of your group as you zip through the forest. Unlike Masaya Volcano which is brown from the sulfur, Mombacho is lush and green. It is also a great break from the heat of Granada since it is much cooler at higher elevations!
Catch the View from La Merced Church's Bell Tower
As you wrap up a day in Granada, make your way over to Iglesias La Merced just west of Central Park. From here you can pay a small fee to climb up the bell tower and catch the best views of the city of Granada. It is best to do this on a clear day so you can see everything and take the photo opportunity. The bell tower is still in operation so don't be alarmed if it sounds off while you're standing on top! I'd highly recommend timing this activity for sunset.
People Watching in Central Park
A large part of Granada's beauty is the people who live and work there so spending a portion of your trip sitting on a shady bench in Central Park is a nice way to relax. You may be approached to buy hats, sunglasses, bird whistles, juice in a bag, etc. but a simple "No, gracias" will be enough for any salesperson to move on if you are not in the shopping mood. If you are uncomfortable with sitting right in the middle of the park, there are plenty of restaurants with outside seating around the park that will give you the same vibe without as much attention.
Take a Swim in the Laguna de Apoyo
Just a short trip outside of Granada is the Laguna de Apoyo, which is a collapsed volcano that has filled with fresh water. You can take a city bus which is the cheapest way, but there are also many taxi and shuttle services from Granada that will take your group for $15 or less. The best way to enjoy the Laguna is to visit one of the waterfront hostels such as The Monkey Hut. A day rate of $6 allows you to use their kayaks, beach chairs, picnic tables, hammocks and bathrooms all included in the price. There is also a bar/restaurant on site. The water is the perfect temperature, the breeze is cool and the bar always has plenty of Tona and Flor de Cana!
Stroll Through Masaya's Artisan Market
Masaya's artisan market (the old market) is a great place to find souvenirs and gifts to take back home to family and friends. You can find handmade hammocks, frog skin purses, locally painted artwork, and beautiful woodwork here. Feel free to barter on prices with the vendors especially in low season (March-October). I'd highly recommend using the restroom BEFORE coming to this market since the restrooms on site are usually not very clean and don't always have running water, but are available if you are desperate!
Spend a Friday Evening on La Calzada
La Calzada is Granada's main tourist street with plenty of restaurants, shops and street vendors. On Friday nights the streets come alive with performers and street parties. It's safe to hang out in this area as a traveler, however, it is best to use common sense and keep your valuables either at your hotel or well protected when it is crowded. Enjoy a nice dinner at one of the restaurants and enjoy the live music. It is quite a cultural experience!
Fritanga is a fancy word for street food in Granada. Exercise this tip with caution. I wouldn't recommend eating just any street food. Be selective and stay away from uncooked produce. You can tell a lot about a street food vendor by sitting back and watching them serve people for a little bit. They should use gloves, not handle money while serving food, keep their food hot, have clean utensils, etc. I recommend the fritanga stand that is set up every night in front of the Chinese restaurant near La Calzada's Eskimo ice cream shop. I have eaten from this stand more times than I'd like to admit and have lived to tell the tale. Nonetheless, I still order my fritanga without salad just to be safe. There's just something about having your dinner served to you in a wrapped up banana leaf that every visitor should experience!
Granada, Nicaragua is a must see city and the tours offered are the best way to do it! Enjoy your horse carriage ride and your island tour as you experience the beautiful culture of my home away from home!