Granada Nicaragua Travel || The Perfect Place to Start Your Nicaraguan Adventure
If you are embarking on a Granada Nicaragua travel experience, you’ve come to the right place for information! Granada really is the perfect place to start your Nicaraguan Adventure. Hopefully you read our previous blog on tips for Nicaragua lodging advice. For this post, we are going to delve into the specifics of our time in Granada.
As mentioned in our previous post, when looking for places to stay we used a combination of Instagram, Google search and Lonely Planet. On Instagram we used #granada #granadanicaragua #granadahotel. This is where we learned about cool hotels, historic places, adventure and hiking and beautiful locations.
First Steps in Planning
You have to decide how much money you want to spend per night and what kind of place you want to stay in. (A room, hostel, hotel, residence, airbnb). In Granada you can pay US $15-$20 a night for a room in a house or a hostel for $5-$15. We decided to stay 3 nights at Tribal Hotel. It is a bit more on the expensive side at $130 -$155 a night. But that is still way less than a nice hotel in the US or a European city. However if we were going to be gone longer we may have opted for a less expensive option. This is the most we paid per night during our stay.
Tribal Hotel was amazing, I recommend it to anyone. The décor was beautiful. It’s peaceful, with a great pool and patio which were perfect for those hot days to take a quick dip. Or to rest your feet all tired out from hiking Motombo. The owner Yvan and staff were so nice and helpful. They took such great care of us and gave us awesome recommendations. And their daily breakfast was Awesome! I loved starting my day out with fresh fruit and yogurt and granola for me and the daily special for Al (who eats meat).
Day One in Granada
We had arranged an airport pickup from the hotel, and Louis was exactly where they said he would be. We really appreciated that. There are many ways to travel to Granada after landing in Managua. You can take a city bus, find a group shuttle, hire a cab at the airport, or get a private transport. We were coming from shooting a wedding in Cancun, so we had a little more gear than we normally travel with. Because of that we chose private transports most of the time when traveling from one city to the next. If you are going to get a taxi, just make sure you agree on the price BEFORE getting in the car. The private transport to Tribal Hotel in Granada was $50 (US $). Now going back to the airport from Leon we took a group shuttle – more on that in a later post.
Granada is the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua and serves as it’s cultural center. Old City is considered a UNESCO site and has an old-school feel with colorful houses. This is where Tribal Hotel is located, giving it the perfect proximity to the center of town. Right after our speedy check in was complete, we headed to our super adorable room with a private balcony. We threw down our bags and headed out to explore before the sun set.
We fell in love instantly. Everything about Granada was fantastic. We walked around for hours. We loved going to the local market and Al even got a haircut for about $3! A great view of the city could be seen from the bell tower at Iglesia la Merced. Such an awesome view of the whole city. We always try to get up as high as possible to take in all the sights at once. And since we couldn’t take the drone into Nicaragua this was our best option!
The only bad meal we had in Nicaragua was this first night. One of the guys at the hotel recommended Sumer since I am a pescatarian. We were not impressed when we ordered lobster (langoustines) with just butter melted. We even put it into Google Translate and even asked, also in Spanish if he knew what we had said. And both times we got Si’!! As we would later discover Si’ is just always the answer lol!! Well out came 3 Huge lobster tails each.
This would be great right- except they were deep fried. OMG, who does that! They were terrible. Under all that breading they pretty uncooked and chewy!! So sad! Thankfully we had some other Awesome meals including the best pho I ever had at Espressionista (but I get ahead of myself!!). It was even better than we had in Vietnam. And it didn’t even have a meat base! So yummy!
Day 2 in Granada
I did mention the yummy breakfast served at Tribal Hotel right?!? Seriously, yum. I LOVE dragon fruit and theirs was so fresh and just the right amount of juiciness. This got our day started in a great way. After walking around town, we took a taxi to Villas Mombacho for a bite to eat. And then a private boat ride around the Islets on Lake Nicaragua. The islets are a series of 365 small (and some very tiny) islands. People live on them and there are some pretty cool looking hotels as well. We did the private tour because we didn’t have a larger group. You can often hook up with others for a tour down by Lake Nicaragua but there weren’t that many people around for most of our stay.
This was a great time of year to travel and see fewer other tourists. The restaurant had gotten the call from our hotel and so had arranged the boat for us. For the hour tour it was $30 for the two of us and we brought along daiquiris to enjoy along the tour. Our “guide” didn’t speak much English and we have limited Spanish skills. But we managed to communicate on a very basic level but learned a lot.
There are 5 different communities there and each community has a church and a school. We saw a bunch of kids rowing home form school. One little girl couldn’t have been 5! Can you imagine that, so different from here in the US.
And off to the right there, we could see the amazing view of Volcano Mombacho. We returned to the dock and had a wonderful lunch. Al had the guapote fish which comes right out of the lake, while I enjoyed shrimp in a curry sauce. We sat back looking over the lake and enjoying this slow paced view into island life.
We then took a taxi back to town and walked around some more exploring various neighborhoods and small shops. And of course getting another cold bottle of Orange Fanta, my drink of choice! We made sure to leave some time to sit back and relax around the beautiful pool and open patio at the hotel. It’s so hot there and we felt so blessed to have this amazing getaway from the heat. We can’t imagine how hot it is at the “hot part of the year!”
We had the hotel arrange a trip for us to Volcano Masaya to see the lava flow. The bus picked us up in between picking up a few others. They don’t really tell you what to expect so we were surprised to learn we had a 4:30 pick up, drove about an hour, and then waited in a line of cars for about an hour. They hold the cars at the gate until it gets dark and then they let in a few cars at a time. We didn’t mind the wait. There is a little store and everyone gets out and talks to each other. We always love talking to new folks. We have met some really great people along our travels. And many we are still in touch with.
The lava flow was sooooo COOL!! We had never seen anything like it. You only get about 15 minutes up there. But really, that is plenty of time to enjoy it and get some good pics. After the van ride back to town, Al and I asked Andi (a young backpacker from Germany) to join us for dinner. We ate at The Garden Café as recommended by Lonely Planet and it was fantastic. All locally sourced, organic and super fresh! And having awesome company made it more enjoyable.
Day 3 in Granada
After yet another awesome breakfast at Tribal Hotel, we headed out with our driver to hike Mombacho. We ended up booking a tour from the hotel. To be honest, we found it a little confusing on how to go there to hike. We knew for the longer day hike you needed to have a guide anyways. We were only doing the 1.5 km around the crater. But you can’t just drive yourself to the top of the volcano and go hiking. You have to get to the parking lot either city bus (which seemed confusing), taxi, or drive yourself. But once you are there, you then need to arrange for transport to the coffee plantation and then to the top of the mountain. And they recommend a guide even for the shorter trail.
Because of all the complicated steps, we ended up just booking the tour. So our driver took us right to the gate. We got in the back of a truck with another couple while another couple was in the back seat of the truck. We got out at the coffee farm to enjoy a free sample. It was delicious, even without cream and I’m not even a coffee drinker! After 10 minutes, in the back of another truck we went.
From there we rode that to the top. It was very steep and very bumpy, but really fun! (Even more fun in the back of the truck on the way down!! Think straight down like a roller coaster). Once at the top there was a ranger station where our guide came in and got us. We are so glad we had a guide. We learned a lot about the land and the plants and found a ton of wild orchids. They were so beautiful. I’ve never seen them in the wild before.
Next, we had the taxi drop us off by the large cemetery in town. This is the oldest cemetery in Nicaragua and the 2nd largest in Central America. It’s about a mile outside of town and it was a little sketchy to be walking around in there with our big cameras on. We noticed a group of men when we first entered and they started following us. A young guy on a bike came over and told us it really isn’t safe for us to go too far back in there. We had already decided that as well as the place is quite large and no one would even know we were back there. So we took a few pics and then walked the 30 minutes into town.
We didn’t feel unsafe any other time walking around. And we are always very aware of our surroundings and proceed with caution. Just something smart to do in general when you’re in a place you arn’t familiar with. It was a lovely walk back into town where we stopped at Pita Pita for a yummy lunch. Another large portion which seemed to be the norm with every meal here. We also always took any leftover meat or seafood for the homeless dogs we always saw.
Then we stopped in some shops and bought some locally made gifts, mostly for ourselves! And of course hit the pool for a bit of a cool down and relaxation until dinner time. Dinner at Espressionista was Ah-mazing and the perfect ending to our time in Granada. It is a super cute coffee shop by day and also serves lunch and dinner. At night with its soft light, relaxed atmosphere, great food and excellent conversation – it was the perfect date night in Nicaragua.
We loved our time in Granada! We felt we got the perfect blend of a colonial city with its historic colorful houses, local life, nature and culture. Granada should be on everyone’s “Top Places to Visit” list! Join us next time for our in-depth blog post on our time in Ometepe Nicaragua.