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|−|You can take the boat from San Carlos , at the Carribean Coast, going up the Rio San Juan and finally getting in the Lago Cocibolca which borders Granada. |+|
boat from San Carlos and .
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Revision as of 00:23, 11 July 2007
Granada is the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua and the entire Western Hemisphere, it is also the all-time-rival of Leon. It is located on the upper side of the Lago Cocibolca. Its colored colonial buildings, the interesting history and its relative safety make it more and more important for tourism.
Typical horsecart in Granada
A view from the Parque Central towards the Cathedral
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, therefore it is important to support the local Nicaraguan economy. Purchase local products (beer, food, etc.) and support Nicaraguan owned businesses.
There is a small airport a few miles from Granada on the highway to Masaya. The airport was served only by Nature Air, which offered flights from San Jose and Liberia, Costa Rica, the flights have been suspended until further notice (due to lack of passengers). It's less expensive to land in Managua (the capital of Nicaragua) and from there make your way by bus (every half hour from Mercado Huembes or the La UCA station) or taxi (around $35 from the airport). Alternatively, flying into San José, Costa Rica's capital, can be a cheaper option. From there, bus connections to Granada and rental cars are available.
The old train that once existed was shut down during the era of Violeta Chamorro. So, no, there's no possibility to take any train to get there.
Yes you can get there by rental car, which is often really expensive to hire, since imported cars are expensive too and the risk of theft is high. The roads are better than in Costa Rica, especially since a bit of time ago, the government made an effort to improve a lot of the main roads, still be aware that many times, especially in rainy season, streets that are a bit off the beaten path can become very difficult to drive or simply disappear.
From Costa Rica, take the Panamerican Highway, which leads from San José through Liberia, the border crossing at Penas Blancas, first bigger town in Nicaragua is Rivas, and then goes on directly to Granada.
There are two main options, either take the chicken buses which are slightly cheaper and fuzz your way through, experience a lot of interesting sights and the heat or hop on one of the (often agonizingly) air conditioned coaches, which are comfortable, take you there in about 8-10 hours (bordercrossing might take a while) and cost US$15. The best options going from Costa Rica to Nicaragua are Central Line, TransNica and TICABUS. Back from Granada to Costa Rica you might as well take the NICABUS. Just ask any taxi driver in San José to take you to the TICABUS-station.
From Managua, direct shuttles leave when full from the UCA terminal (University of Central America) for around C 18. From Leon, catch a direct Leon-Managua-UCA shuttle (again, the shuttles leave once full from the terminal in Leon) for C 25.
From Tegucigalpa, you can also get the TICA bus, which leaves daily around 9AM for Managua, for around $20. Then take another bus (at a different station), or taxi, to Granada.
There's a boat running twice a week from San Carlos (Costa Rican Boarder) via Ometepe to Granada and back.
Granada everything is comfortably reachable by foot.
Local taxis work on set prices: 7 Cordobas, after 9pm 10 and at night 15-20 Cordobas per person, wherever you go within the towns borders.
Buses (old stylish US or Canadian schoolbuses) go just about everywhere at about every time, you see them and if you slightly look like anybody wanting to go anywhere, be sure they'll load you on their bus. Another option are the mini busses which have a bit more set time and you can book in advance, they're more comfortable but cost a bit more.
Horse carts are something else, ancient and useful and found everywhere but often the horses are so worn out that you should seriously ask yourself if you want to contribute to their suffering.
- There's the 6 main churches, the Cathedral, La Merced, Guadalupe, Xalteva, San Francisco and María Auxiliadora, which all have interesting historical backgrounds and are in very different states.
- Then there's Lake Cocibolca (also known as Lake Nicaragua), directly down the road, it's the 10th largest fresh-water lake on earth and the only one to have fresh-water sharks, named the Nicaragua Shark. It is not the safest area in town, it is advised tourist avoid this area at night. However, during the day this is a nice place to catch a breeze, and there are many Nicaraguan families that come here to pass the time. Vendors pass selling all kinds of food.
- The local market is definitely worth a glimpse, it's chaotic little market stands where you can get almost everything. The market is open everyday except holidays around and in the old Market hall, you can't miss it.
- The Central Park with the Cathedral and the Colonial houses surrounding it. The lively center of town with a lot of handicrafts or snacks to buy, or just sit down at a bench and watch the city and its people.
- The streets themselves with their charming Colonial colored houses are always worth a wander themselves.
- Take a boat tour of the Isletas. Your guide will tell you how all the islands are owned by millionaires. You will even visit an old fort that is on the island. Not to mention you will see adorable monkeys that live in the tree.
- ¡Wow Tours!. Take a boat tour around the thousands of isletas in the Lake Nicaragua. ¡Wow Tours! is a Nicaraguan owned company that offers community tours of the islands, where you will meet the local people who inhabit them.
- Bluemountain Horsebackriding.Discover local farming and the area around the Mombacho-Volcano on horseback.
- Go up the church tower at the church La Merced (about 1US$) and watch the sun go down over the bustling city.
- Take a Canopy tour, where you will go flying on cables through the rainforest trees on the side of Mombacho Volacano. ($25USD)
- Try interesting drinks at local market stands (such as cacao de leche, linseed drink or red beet drink, beware: often painfully sugary!).
- Get happy with Mangos! You can buy heaps of Mangos at the market for about 1 Cordoba each (which equals about a 17th of a Dollar).
- Take a bus to Masaya and visit the local and giant hand craftmarket (good advice: better see the new than the old market, same stuff, half the price).
- You can also go to the Volcano reserve and watch over the wide land, see the Managua lake and maybe get some stinky smoke in your lungs and be happy about the beautiful nature surrounding the Volcano.
- The Laguna de Apoyo is a deep Volcano crater lake and presumed to have the clearest water in Nicaragua, you can swim and even snorkel in there. Overnight stays with either the Bearded Monkey or the Oasis are arrangeable too. Also in the Posada de la Abuela, if you want a really nice hotel room 
- Volunteer! La Esperanza Granada is an organization that sends volunteers into local schools to help out, or supports women's working groups, built a community centre etc. etc., for the impoverished outskirts of Granada. Volunteering is completely free of charge, minimum commitment is six weeks.
- Local cinema at the Hostel named "Bearded Monkey", which shows two movies each day for only about a Dollar entry-fee, has a really good selection of movies too, for friends of independent cinema, they rent DVDs all day long.
- The Choo-Choo train There's that weird train that goes all around town, originally for kids, but hey, great fun, it plays the latest reggaeton-tunes over and over again and it only costs five cordobas. Hop on whenever you find it.
- Casa Tres Mundos (Casa de Leones), a cultural center where there's often concerts or theater or movies shown, it has a little gallery of local artisans which are happy to show you around. A piano's in there to practice, too.
- Horse and carriages circle the city center.
- Cafe Nuit My favorite disco in Grenada. Live music starts at 10 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is a great place to practice your salsa and reggaeton.
There are several low-budget Spanish-schools in Granada, the local Red Cross is a good option to go, since you can buy 1 on 1 Spanish lessons from them and so support them. For more options look around for flyers.
There are local guides too, that will show you around town or the area and tell you of the interesting history of Granada, one is called Gioconda, a very nice lady, that always takes her little traditional dress and umbrella around town, she sits everyday in front of the Hospedaje Central. Her office is at Cafeteria Taza Blanca - Tel 552 2876 or mobile phone 874 7822.
There's a volunteer-opportunity. See it at "Do".
Local hostels and foreign-owned shops are sometimes looking for English-speaking people, well underpaid normally though.
Granada is known around the world for its high quality rocking chairs which can be seen all around town. The main vendor's a bit out of town on the road to Masaya.
If you want to go cheaper, there's the option to buy local and famous Nicaraguan pottery, which you can buy in town (very nice choice: Dona Conchy's, a restaurant which also has a little sweet store in the back, where they sell very nice pottery, handmade by the owner), but the better option is to go to Masaya where there's a bigger choice and the prices are lower.
Also very typical are the hammocks, there are tons of hammock stores and factories in Masaya, but you can also get them in town for a bit more money.
There's tons of street-vendors, selling Hot-Dogs, revueltas, carne asada, or local specialties such as Gallopinto (Rice & Beans), Fried Plaintains, Nacatamales, Bajo (yuka, plantain, beef mix). You can have it all between 1 and 15 Cordobas. But keep in mind that the standard of cleanliness can vary. The local specialty is Vigaron: fried pork rind (or roast pork) on mashed yuka for C 25 from the kiosks in the parque central. Great value (provided you are not a vegetarian).
- Tropicana, located on the left street going down the Cathedral (La Calzada). Offers really cheap and quite reasonable food, also breakfast, typical and Western style
- Charly`s Bar & Restaurant, 4 Blocks west from Old Hospital, . German cuisine and best BBC. Draft Beer and handmade Cheesecake by the owners Charly and Maria Elena.
- Café Decarte, Calle Calzada, going left down the Cathedral, first block. Offers delicious international (some organic) food and excellent drinks, snacks and meals are between 40 and 150 Cordobas, it's nicely surrounded by local art. Daily Specials
- ""Tercer. (Third Eye) offers good food, a lot of Spanish Tapas and Daily Specials in a beautiful atmosphere, Tapas and whole meals ranging between 40 and 200 Cordobas, on the side of the San Francisco-Church. Also offers art-books and a big selection of Wines.
Great drinks can be purchased from local vendors at the corner in Parque Central, such as linenseed-drink, or red beet drink or anything else, completely overloaded with sugar mostly though. Nice alternative: The local "Cacao" drink, milk and powdered Chocolate beans, but not quite like hot chocolate, available in most coffees. Also "Raspados" are very delicious and usually have vendors around the Central Park.
And then of course, the local coffee!! You have the biggest range, organic, shadegrown, fair trade, ...
- Coffee La Amistad. Nice place to chill out, Steven is a big help and is full of information about trips and sights in an around town. Good coffee and Iced Tea!!
- Hospedaje Central, 1 block west of the parque central in "Calle La Calzada". Lively, the dorms are a bit dirty but its an otherwise interesting hostel with painted walls, good vibes. 5 USD per night in dorm. 12 USD for a room with private bathroom. Free internet & coffee. Most likely to meet interesting people, the food is not the best, but the Mojito Happy-Hour is unbeaten: Cervezas C 10 per bottle or C 22 for a litro, 2 Mojitos for C 20! Charming thing.
- La Libertad, Calle La Libertad. A nice, quiet hostel with free internet an breakfast for 6 USD per person in the dorm.
- Bearded Monkey. A crowded hostel, restaurant, and bar. They charge 6 USD for the dorm with free internet use, hammocks and a big and well-selected DVD-Library, great food, try the homemade Lemonade. 13 USD for a single room, and 17 for a double. Staff seem a bit surly.
- El Dorado in Calle Xalteva, opposite the supermarket (Lacayo). Very clean. Dormitories cost from $5. Single rooms start at $12. Free coffee. A courtyard with hammocks and cable TV. Tourist information and a very friendly atmosphere.
- The Oasis at 7 USD per night for a bunk is a bit more expensive than the other hostels, but very nice. Clean and safe, free 15 minute phone call home on their internet phone (to US, Canada and Europe), free internet, a small restaurant that mainly serves breakfast, modern colonial style interior, a courtyard with hammocks and another courtyard with a small pool. multiple tv's with a large selection of dvds to choose from. great view from the rooftop pila as you wash your clothes. They also have private, air conditioned rooms for around $20/night.
- Hotel El Club, at Calle La Liberdad and Avenida Barricada, . The hotel features 11 rooms with wireless internet.
- La Alhambra, right in the middle of town. beautiful. $50-$80/night
- La Gran Francia, right in the middle of town. beautiful. $90-$200/night
In general, Granada is much safer than a lot of other cities in Nicaragua, if not the safest, because of its touristic state. But of course there's always a risk, since it's a poor country and tourists can be an easy way to get a bit of money. In general, try not to walk alone after dark and avoid especially the area around the lake in later daytime and at night, the outskirts as well.
You will be very sure to run into a lot of street kids or beggars that will ask you for some money or food or anything. Yes they might just buy glue to sniff from it, yes they might lie to you in order to get some money (e.g. my mom is really sick, she needs medication, ... ). Still they need the money. Although it's a question whether supporting more sustainable help instead might help those people more than going with that begging thing. Although when you're in a restaurant, and have left-overs, you might as well invite that street-kid hanging around your table or just buy him a meal beforehand.
It's a good idea to buy chewing gum from the street kids even if you don't need it, as it's helping them to make a living without having to resort to begging.