With narrow cobbled streets lined with brightly colored Spanish colonial architecture, it is no wonder Granada Nicaragua is quickly becoming a tourist hot spot.
Founded in 1524, it is said to the be the oldest city in the Americas (though in our Latin American travels we seem to hear that claim alot).
Granada does in fact have a rich political and economic history, colonial heritage and is experiencing a tourism boom. If it is on your list of cities to visit in Central America make sure you add these five activities to your Must Do list.
The Parque Central is the historical heart of Granada. The city unfolds from its corners. It is a must do in the city and hard to avoid if you wanted to. The Cathedral of Granada, one of the most prominent buildings in Granada, sits on the east side of the park. The park square is lined by carriages and full of tree-shaded benches, perfect to sit, sip a natural juice and people watch.
The park has a huge kiosk in its center, a nice fountain and a statue. Vendors sell food such as vigorón, a traditional snack made of yucca, cabbage salad, and chicharrón (pork rind), fresh juice and handcrafts.
During the day, the park is cool quite thanks to its fountains and numerous shade trees. In the afternoon, many residents come to enjoy the musicians playing. After the sun sets, though, it is not recommended to hang out as it becomes a meeting point for drug dealers and prostitutes.
At the east side of the park is the calzada, a major touristic pedestrian avenue of Granada with a lot of bars and restaurants.
The best way to see this charming colonial city is in the back of a horse-drawn carriage ride. The square along the Central park is lined with carriages eager to give tourists a tour of the town. Take a quick 30-minute jaunt or a full-hour ride. If you understand Spanish you can lean the history and insights of Granada. Sit back and enjoy the one-way cobble stone streets as you pass San Francisco Convent or Guadeloupe Church. The best time to go is just before the sun sets when the temperature is cooler and the lighting is perfect for pictures. Prices range between $5 and $10 and the carriages hold up to four people.
Get out of the city and spend the day boating through Lake Nicaragua, one of the biggest lakes in Central America. Choose a guide at the docks for your own private tour around the 365 small islands.
The isletas were formed 20,000 years ago when Volcan Mombacho exploded. They vary in size. Some are are privately owned where Nicaragua’s ultra wealthy build their vacation mansions. Others are more geared to tourisms with shops, restaurants and hotels. Stopping at these for a snack or a drink is must. There is also a fort of an island that you can explore.
The isletas gives tourist a chance to experience the lush beauty of the county that is lacking in Granada. Bird lovers will be especially eager to happy to know that the islands are home to a variety of bird species.
Grab your camera and head to this beautiful old church about three blocks west of the Parque Central. The church dates to 1539, but like much of Granda’s older structures it has been destroyed and rebuild a number of times.
The highlight of the church is its bell tower. Climb to the top and you will get a panoramic view of the city. From the Cathedral of Granada to the east to the Mombacho Volcano to the south and all the tiled rooftops in between, the view is stunning. Sunset is the best time to go, but don’t do too late. The bell tower closes at 5:30.
There is no entrance fee to the church, but you must buy a $1 ticket to climb to the top of the bell tower. The spiral staircase is very steep, so wear comfortable shoes.
What was originally built by Franciscan monks as a convent in the 16th century, the Centro Cultural Convento San Francisco has been reinvented several times. Burnt down several times by pirates in It was a university, then the College of Granada, then the National Institute of the East In 1989, it opened as a museum, which it remains today. It is mostly a history museum of the city with some pieces of contemporary art. Large mural depicting the history of Granada from the time of the indigenous peoples through the modern day hang from the walls. The museum’s highlight is a large collection of heavy volcanic basalt statues. The statues were discovered on Isla Zapatera in the early 1880s and date to around 800 to 1200 AD.
Museum is a few blocks northeast of the Parque Central entry is between $2 and $3.