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Granada (Nicaragua)

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Southern Pacific Coast : Granada
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Typical horsecart in Granada
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 north west side of the Lago Cocibolca. Its colored colonial buildings, interesting history and relative safety make it an important tourism destination.



Understand

Get in

By plane

Fly to 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 depending on your bargaining skills). As an alternative, you can take an air con shuttle for $15 from the airport to Granada. In most cases, the shuttle will deliver you to any point in Granada. There is a tourist information counter as soon as you clear immigration. Ask the polite representative and she´ll point you to a reputable shuttle service. The trip by taxi or shuttle is about 40 minutes. Another option may be to fly to the Liberia Airport over the border in Costa Rica, but it would involve about 5 hours of travel and a border crossing. Rental cars are not allowed to cross the border, but agencies will arrange for car swaps and pickups on the other side of the border. Managua is by far your best option.

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).

By train

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. Nevertheless, you can have the chance to visit the old train station, which is used as a technical school sponsored by the Spanish Cooperation.

By car

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. Some of the principal highways are in good condition, however potholes and other obstacles can surprise you, so be alert. Secondary roads range from ok to horrendous. The roads from the airport are good, then rather bad, then good - on the most direct route.

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, after Nandaime take a right onto the Granada-Nandaime road. Look for Granada-related signs.

By bus

Buses are available from Managua, and Granada is easily reached by first-class buses from neighboring Costa Rica and Honduras.

From Costa Rica

There are two main options, either take the chicken buses which costs half the prize (10 US) 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 you will have to deboard the bus twice for passports and customs) and cost US$20. 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 Tica Bus or NICABUS. Just ask any taxi driver in whatever city you are in to take you to the Nica or TICABUS-station.

From Managua, direct shuttles leave from the UCA terminal (University of Central America) for around C 18 or from Mercado Huembes. From Leon, catch a direct Leon-Managua-UCA shuttle for C 25.

From Honduras

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.

By boat

There's a boat running twice a week from San Carlos via Ometepe to Granada and back. It leaves San Carlos at Tuesday and Friday at 2 pm.

Get around

Granada is a small city; everything can comfortably be reached by foot.

By taxi

Local taxis work on set prices : 7-10 Cordobas by day and at night after 9 pm 15-20 Cordobas per person, wherever you go within the towns borders.

By bus

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.

By coche

Horse-drawn carriages, known as coches, 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.

By boat

Granada's islets are not to be missed, and the way to see them is by boat. Boat tours leave from Puerto Asese, about 5-10 minutes from downtown by taxi.

See

A view from the Parque Central towards the Cathedral
  • There are 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.
  • Fuerte La Polvora is an 18th century fort (built in 1748) that's open for tours. A few historical exhibits are available on the main level, you can climb the towers for views of the quiet city streets, or wander through the lovely courtyard.
  • Lake Cocibolca (also known as Lake Nicaragua), is the 10th largest fresh-water lake on earth and is inhabited by Bull Sharks, informally named the Nicaragua Shark. The beach area 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. Tours of the islands are available from Puerto Asese, near the pleasant Asese restaurant (known for its boneless fish).
  • 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. Boats leave from the marina at Puerto Asese. 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.

Do

Puerto Asese marina in Granada
  • Come and help the families of a very poor quarter: La Prusia. "Casas de la Esperanza" helps them to build their homes and offers development courses. You have the opportunity of volunteering for free in our projects: www.casas-de-la-esperanza.org.
  • ¡Wow Tours!. Take a boat tour around the hundreds 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) [1]
  • 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).
  • Get a very inexpensive table or seated massage at Seeing Hands Blind Massage, located in Euro Cafe on the central park.
  • 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. A Taxi from Granada should cost around 8 - 10 US. You can alternativly take the bus to MAnagua and get dropped of at the entrance to the Laguna de Apoyo. From there you can take a taxi (4 US).
  • Volunteer! La Esperanza Granada[2] 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 generally eight weeks but shorter stays re possible.
  • 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.
  • Velago Nicaragua offers sailing trips, courses, rentals and kayaks on Lake Nicaragua [3].
  • 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.
  • Live music at Restaurant Imagine One street north of Calle Calzada, going towards the lake on Calle Calzada from the Cathedral turn left first block (right after Pasta Pasta). One of the only places playing live classic rock (unplugged version)in the city. Live music starts at around 9 PM almost every day of the week. Check the sign posted on the door daily to see who is playing. Very relaxed atmophere and great food although a little bit pricey. No cover charge.

Learn

There are several low-budget Spanish-schools in Granada, the local Red Cross is a good option to go (The Web page of the School located there is at: http://www.granadanicaraguaspanishschool.com), 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.

Work

There are volunteer-opportunities. See it at "Do".

Local hostels and foreign-owned shops are sometimes looking for English-speaking people, well underpaid normally though.

Buy

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.

Eat

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: cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and 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).

Budget

  • 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.>

The Garden Cafe. If you face the cathedral in the centro, it's 2 streets over to the left and maybe 2 blocks down. Delicious food at incredible prices. American style cafe food, open for breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday. Very friendly staff and owners! Unbeatable atmosphere with chic rustic vibe, tables beside the garden with good mix of soft music playing in the background. You won't want to leave!

Mid-range

  • Charly`s Bar & Restaurant, 4 Blocks west from Old Hospital, [4]. German cuisine and best BBC. Draft Beer and handmade Cheesecake by the owners Charly and Maria Elena.
  • Cafe Lucas previously Don Daffa, Parque Central, (). Located in the shadow of the Cathedral. Nicaraguan/Caribbean cuisine, in addition, they have a very nice selection of Chinese Food choices. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and exotic drinks. Vernon Hodgson from Corn Island is Proprietor and Chef.

Splurge

  • Imagine, one street north of Calle Calzada (Going towards the lake on Calle Calzada from the Cathedral turn left first block (right after Pasta Pasta)). Offers delicious food, excellent drinks, homemade salsas, snacks and meals are between 150 and 400 Cordobas (without value added tax). There is always live music playing, usually from 8PM, classic rock (unplugged version), great fun and atmosphere. Daily Specials.
  • Café DecArte, Calle Calzada (Go one block East from the Central Park on Calle La Calzada. DecArte will be on the Northwest corner.). 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.
  • El Tercer Ojo (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.
  • Asese. Has a beautiful location, on the edge of Lake Nicaragua, with lush foliage surrounding it and a rustic, spacious dining area. Try their boneless fish platters! (The house specialty.).

Drink

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!!
  • Cafe Lucas previously Don Daffa "Parque Central" "cafelucas@chef.net" Located in the shadow of the Cathedral. Nicaraguan/Caribbean cuisine, in addition, they have a very nice selection of Chinese Food choices. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and exotic drinks. Vernon Hodgson from Corn Island is Proprietor and Chef.

Sleep

Budget

  • Bearded Monkey, 552-4028 (), [5]. A crowded hostel, restaurant, and bar. Free internet use, hammocks and a big and well-selected DVD-Library, great food, try the homemade Lemonade. Staff seem a bit surly. Big business, some long term travellers regard the atmosphere as "rip-off". While this is a great place to meet other travelers, it is not ideal for those who are looking to catch up on sleep. Bring some earplugs and an eye mask because loud music and bright overhead lights stay on until the wee hours of the morning. 6 USD for the dorm, 13 USD for a single room, and 17 for a double.
  • 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. Dorms are very stuff even with the fan running all night. Beds are really really comfy though and the showers downstairs are kept extremely clean! Very fun place to hang out and relax.
  • El Tiangue, Calle Atravesada (near intersection of Calle Estrada). No frills, but great price and location. 10 USD for a private double room (spotless bathroom two doors down). Three blocks from Parque Central, around the corner from the Oasis, gated entrance. Upstairs from the street market, 2-3 blocks from busses and grocery store. Awesome quick, cheap food is across the street (about $1 for a full meal), in a green building that can be easy to miss during the street's busy hours. 11 Jan 2009 Update:Security is an issue here. We had all our credit cards and cash stolen from our locked and dead-bolted room. The owner could not explain how someone could access our room when the security was sitting outside it.
  • Hospedaje Esfinge, Across from the Mercado on Calle Atravesada this very quiet and quite large place is fairly nice for a budget option. In early 2009 a double with shared bath was 13 dollars, and was festively painted. A safe place, but near the worse part of town. The entrance is watched 24 hours a day by the wife and husband owners and another man. Quite time begins at 10, which basically means you have to turn the TV off and if you want to go out, you just have to knock to get back in.
  • Hospedaje Central, 1 block west of the parque central in "Calle La Calzada". This place is a dump. The beds were completely caved in the middle, 3 or the 6 beds in our dorm were dirty (mysterious dirt/dust/something else in clumps). Dorm bathrooms are really gross and the place is generally very dull despite its unbeatable location. At night it does get a little more populated around the front bar but still isn't a very fun or lively place to be. 5 USD per night in dorm. 12 USD for a room with private bathroom. Free WiFi in room and free coffee. 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.


  • Kalala Lounge. Located right next to the Bearded Monkey, this new hostel offers a more laid back atmosphere and cheaper rates for rooms. Dorms are 5 or 6 dollars.
  • La Libertad, Calle La Libertad. A nice, quiet hostel with free internet an breakfast for 6 USD per person in the dorm.


  • The Dolphin GuestHouse, Reparto San Juan Lote Number 5, [6]. Apartments in Nicaragua. Beautiful views of Nicaragua lake, mombacho volcano, and cathedral.
  • The Oasis, Calle Estrada 109, 552 8006 (), [7]. 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. Dorm bed : 8 USD.
  • Casa Sacuanjoche GuestHouse, Ave. La Sirena, casa #207 (From La Gran Francia Hotel , 1 block east, 1 block 1/2 south.), 2552-0230 (), [8]. Private bathrooms, ceiling and standing fans, cable TV, free WiFi, purified water, Perfect for long term and volunteers

Mid-range

  • Casa Silas Bed and Breakfast, at Calle La Concepción 1.5 blocks west of the market (http://casasilasbb.posterous.com/), 011 505 8358-5852 (), [9]. The casa features 2 guestrooms with wireless internet, AC, complimentary VoiP telephone to US, Canada and Mexico, swimming pool and breakfast. $45.
  • Hotel El Club, at Calle La Liberdad and Avenida Barricada, 2-552-4245 (), [10]. The hotel features 11 rooms with wireless Internet. This hotel doubles as a disco, so be ready to party.
  • Hotel con Corazón, at Calle Santa Lucia 141, [11]. Hotel con Corazón is a beautiful hotel (16 rooms) in the center of Granada. A double for $50, tax, breakfast and swimmingpool ;) included. It has a special twist, discover how your visit helps Nicaragua build a brighter future.
  • Hotel Casa Vivaldi, Calle El Caimito, from the Alcaldía, 4,5 b. to the lake. http://www.hotel-granada-nicaragua.com Discover one of the most comfortable hotels in Granada, Nicaragua: an oasis with the biggest pool in town surrounded by tropical vegetation will offer to you beautifull moments of relax, away from city daze. $44-$54/night
  • La Islita Boutique Hotel, Calle El Cisne, 3 blocks south of Calle La Calzada. http://www.laislita.com Chic, Intimate, Stylish; cozy boutique hotel; eight rooms with comfortable beds, AC, WiFi, cable TV, private bathroom, continental breakfast; stunning rooftop terrace. $50-$75/night
  • Hotel La Pergola, from City Hall, 3 blocks towards the lake, 2-552 - 4221 (), [12]. An antique colonial house built in the XIXth century that has been restored conserving the characteristic of the wonderful houses of Granada.

Splurge

  • Hotel Colonial Granada, (50 meters from plaza), +505 552 7581, [13]. from US$60.
  • 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

Contact

Internet -- up to 20 cord./hour.

Stay safe

Nicaragua was rated the safest country in Central America, however, minor gang violence has been filtering into Nicaragua from Honduras and El Salvador. The capital, Managua, has the largest number of inhabitants but the majority of crime there is petty theft. Granada, the second largest city, is generally safe but using common sense and always walking with someone else at night here and everywhere else in the country is recommended.

In Granada, the moneychangers are licensed and provide a terrific alternative to the banks.

Cope

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. 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.

The city's power and water infastructure are poor and daily blackouts and water shortages are common. The residents are completely used to this and many hotels/hostels supply candles. It is actually quite fun to eat dinner or drink at a bar by candlelight!

Update 10.10.2007: There are still power problems all around the city. Every day the power goes off consistently from 2-5PM, apparently due to governmental problems and power supply issues. It´s really not that bad except that the water also goes off.

Update 12.12.2007

The power outages problems have been solved. On a recent 8 day visit we experienced one minor 15 minute outage. No more scheduled hours with no power. The Government recently approved an increase in charge rates for Electric Supply company so now they can operate without losing money everyday.

Update 12.08.2009 Power outages, if they do occur now, are generally brief, scheduled, and necessary while improvements are made to the infrastructure. Occasionally inclement weather will create an outage, as you'd expect anywhere

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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