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Traveling to Nicaragua: Granada, Nicaragua - Photos and More

Updated on January 9, 2013
To take a tour of the old city of Granada, a carriage is a good option.  They will take you to all the historic sites.  The horses and carriages are often decorated with ribbons and bright colors.  This photo was taken from Hotel Alhambra.
To take a tour of the old city of Granada, a carriage is a good option. They will take you to all the historic sites. The horses and carriages are often decorated with ribbons and bright colors. This photo was taken from Hotel Alhambra. | Source

An Overview

Granada, Nicaragua and a neighboring town known as Masaya, are two of my favorite places to visit when I go to when I am in this country. Granada is one of the oldest colonial cities in Central America, so when going there, you get to see some great examples of Spanish colonial architecture. There is also an interesting geologic history of the area, as illustrated by the extinct Mombacho Volcano and the Granada Islands. And, you can conveniently fit in an hour tour of these islands while your are visiting Granada.

There are different ways of seeing the sights in the town - by foot, taxi or horse carriage. If it is not raining, the horse carriage tour is worth doing. Most of the sights are within a 10 to 15-block area that surrounds the central square, where you can hire a horse carriage or get a taxi. You can also take a taxi to the docks where the boat tours of the Granada Islands begin.

Within the central park, you will find various vendors selling crafts and foods. The number of vendors varies with the time of the year, but it can become quite crowded. Bordering the park is the central Catholic Church, which dominates the landscape of Granada with its golden walls and rust-red domes. There are several other Catholic churches nearby. The Iglesia de la Merced, which was initially built in 1534, is a great place to go. There, you can climb the narrow stairs up to where the bell is to get a bird's eye view of the city. It costs a dollar to climb the stairs, but the view is well worth the investment. The photos below show some of the sights you may see.

Views of Granada, Nicaragua from the Iglesia de la Merced

This is the Catholic Church that is on the east side of the central park.  Lake Nicaragua is seen behind the church.
This is the Catholic Church that is on the east side of the central park. Lake Nicaragua is seen behind the church. | Source
Looking southeast from the steeple of the Iglesia de la Merced.
Looking southeast from the steeple of the Iglesia de la Merced. | Source
Source
A view south from the Iglesia de la Merced steeple.
A view south from the Iglesia de la Merced steeple. | Source
Looking southwest from the steeple.
Looking southwest from the steeple. | Source
The rooftop of a high school toward the east of Iglesia de la Merced.
The rooftop of a high school toward the east of Iglesia de la Merced. | Source
A view of the bell in the steeple at Iglesia de la Merced and the central Catholic Church in the background. Lake Nicaragua is about a half a kilometer behind the church.
A view of the bell in the steeple at Iglesia de la Merced and the central Catholic Church in the background. Lake Nicaragua is about a half a kilometer behind the church. | Source
Luci, the spider monkey, boarding a boat that got too close to Monkey Island.  It took a while for them to get Luci off the boat.
Luci, the spider monkey, boarding a boat that got too close to Monkey Island. It took a while for them to get Luci off the boat. | Source

Things to Do in Granada Nicaragua

The Granada Islands. Besides taking photos of the unique architecture, you can go on a trip to see the aforementioned Granada Islands, which were created by a long-ago explosion of Volcano Mombacho. These islands are scattered all along the shore of Lake Nicaragua, just to the south of town, beginning at the southern tip of the municipal park. The excursion boats are comfortable and take quite a few passengers at a time. The photo shows a monkey that boarded one of the boats at Monkey Island, a refuge for monkeys established by a local veterinarian. This island is at the end of the tour. Don't get too close, they might want to board your boat looking for a handout!

Eating. There are many good restaurants in Granada. I highly recommend trying out the Zaguan, which is one block to the east of the central Catholic Church. It was there that I recently tried out a whole fried Guapote, a fish which is native to Lake Nicaragua. It was deboned and cooked to perfection, and it was enough for two people. This toothed fish has firm flesh that reminds me of red snapper. It is also called a rainbow bass. This restaurant also serves fine grilled steaks.

There are many places where you can go and have good meals. I have dropped in on various hotels to try out their breakfast offerings. The style of the meals in some cases are more European than Nicaraguan, as the tourist clientele is more sophisticated. There are some decent baked goods available in some locations.

Shopping. There are the usual shops for buying knick knacks, some of which are associated with hotels. You can also go to the area near the market, which is located two blocks to the south of the central square. However, if you are really interested in getting good bargains and a also having a good selection of items, it is best to go to one of two markets in Masaya. There you will find a tourist-oriented market near downtown, and the Old Market, which is a few blocks to the east. Both are within walking distance of each other. Masaya also has horse-drawn carriages to get you around.

Map of Nicaragua

A
Granada, Nicaragua:
Granada, Nicaragua

get directions

B
Masaya, Nicaragua:
Masaya, Nicaragua

get directions

C
Managua, Nicaragua:
Managua, Nicaragua

get directions

More Granada, Nicaragua, Pictures

Two wooden carts used to bring in crafts for sale in the central park.
Two wooden carts used to bring in crafts for sale in the central park. | Source
The armory that is about 8 blocks west of the central square.
The armory that is about 8 blocks west of the central square. | Source
Another old church with a wooden door that is north of the central park.
Another old church with a wooden door that is north of the central park. | Source
A cigar store - the building in the center.
A cigar store - the building in the center. | Source
An good example of newly renovated architecture.  Because of tourism and tourists investing, there is a lot of renovation occurring in the town.
An good example of newly renovated architecture. Because of tourism and tourists investing, there is a lot of renovation occurring in the town. | Source
Another example of unusual architecture recently renovated.
Another example of unusual architecture recently renovated. | Source
The house of the priests, next to the central church.
The house of the priests, next to the central church. | Source
A two story building with balconies along a main thoroughfare that goes from the Central Church to the Armory.
A two story building with balconies along a main thoroughfare that goes from the Central Church to the Armory. | Source
A view of the street that is in front of the central church and the house of the priests.
A view of the street that is in front of the central church and the house of the priests. | Source

Comments

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    • Alex Longsword profile image

      Alex Longsword 

      5 years ago from Nicaragua

      Hi Randy, I'm not sure how many restaurants are in the islets, not an exact amount. But in the shore of the lake and in the islets are good restaurants. I was there 2 years ago and new restaurants have opened.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Hey Alex, I really don't know how many restaurants are in the islets, but I have been to one and really enjoyed the food. I like the Nicaraguan beers as well, being partial to Victoria. Do you know how many restaurants are in the archipelago?

    • Alex Longsword profile image

      Alex Longsword 

      5 years ago from Nicaragua

      Granada! I love this city. It is beautiful with many options where to eat, go, sleep and whatever you want to do. Also an excellent place to rest and be apart from anxiety. The archipelago is wonderful. One of my favorite things to do is to go around the islets and stop by to eat in a little island where restaurants are located. In addition when night covers the city it is an amazing place for a walking trip.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks Suzzettenaples! I really enjoy my trips and I especially like the colors of Nicaragua. They are not shy when they paint their houses, bright colors are common.

      Take a trip someday and I am sure you will enjoy the adventure!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      This is a beautiful article and I so enjoyed your photos. I have never been to Nicaragua or Central America and this inspires me to go. Thank you for sharing your information about the country with us.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      It pays to be careful in these areas, as there are thieves, but if you are traveling with companions and a group the chances of theft are less. Just keep your belongings with you and in your sight. There isn't insurrection going on at the moment, most people seem to be content with Daniel Ortega, the revolutionary leader who was elected president for a second term last year.

      I don't recommend anyone going there alone. It is nice to have someone with you, and even someone who is a native speaker. In groups, you are a bit safer. I would say this about Costa Rica as well, as there are some areas and situations that are more riskier for tourists.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      This was a beautiful descriptive journey through what appears to be a very interesting and stunning part of the world. Please forgive my ignorance but weren't there parts to this area that were extremely dangerous? Just curious.

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