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Granada (Nicaragua)

Photo © jonshapiro

Travel Guide Central America Nicaragua Granada

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Introduction

Granada is a city in Nicaragua and together with the city of Leon is a very popular city among colonial architecture enthusiasts. Granada is the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua and 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. It is the city in Nicaragua with the highest presence of expats and one of the most touristically "developed", both these things will be immediately apparent to the visitor, especially compared to other cities in Nicaragua.

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Sights and Activities

  • 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 at night and comes with a rather unpleasant smell during the day. 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).
  • A bit further along the shore is the Centro Turistico, a park like area complete with bars and restaurants. It's a bit cleaner then the beach right down from the city.
  • 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.

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Events and Festivals

Purisima/Grieria

The two similar festivals are parades and processions celebrating the Immaculate Conception in the early weeks of December in the lead up to Christmas. They are held in the cities of Granada and Leon, and provide a true spectacle which most of the townspeople come out to enjoy.

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Weather

Granada has a tropical climate with generally hot and humid conditions. Temperatures are around or just above 30 °C during the day most of the year and most areas are still above 20 °C at night. Granada has two seasons regarding rainfall. A dry and slightly cooler November to April season and a wet season (but not raining all day) during May to October. Hurricanes occasionally hit from July/August onwards.

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Getting There

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 UCA station) or taxi (around US$35 from the airport depending on your bargaining skills). As an alternative, you can take an air conditioned shuttle for US$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 representative and (s)he'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.

By Car

Most of the principal highways are in excellent condition, however other obstacles (cows, horses, people, people on horses) can surprise you - especially at night, so be alert. Secondary roads range from paved to gravel. The roads from the airport are excellent on the most direct route.

From Costa Rica, take the Panamerican Highway, which leads from San José through Liberia, the border crossing at Peñas Blancas, the 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 from Managua to Granada leave from both the UCA Terminal (C$25 (córdobas) as of April 2016. If you have oversized baggage you might be asked to pay an extra C$25) and Mercado Huembes on a very frequent basis The trip takes about 2 hours. There is no scheduled public transport that does the León-Granada run directly, so you'll have to change buses in Managua. If you take the chicken bus from Leon your last stop in Managua will be the Israel Lewites Terminal from where you will have to go to either the UCA Terminal or Mercado Huembes. Minibuses from Leon to Managua depart from the same location in Leon but terminate at the UCA Terminal so they might be a more convenient way to reach Granada as they lessen the need to change terminals in Managua. Granada can also be reached by first-class buses from neighboring Costa Rica and Honduras.

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Getting Around

Granada is a small city; everything can comfortably be reached by foot. For some outlying points (e.g. the Asese peninsula) taxis and bikes come in handy.

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 buses which have a bit more set time, they're more comfortable and also faster but cost a bit more.

Horse-drawn carriages, known as coches, are a wonderful way to see the extent of the city limits. From the cemetery in the southwest, to the converted Rail Station in the north, to the water front in the east. US$30 for an hour and a half tour.

Most hotels and hostels rent bikes and if yours doesn't, some are willing to rent to people staying elsewhere. You should pay roughly US$10 a day. As the city is rather flat and traffic is manageable it is a good way to get around, although the heat might get uncomfortable.

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Eat

There are many street vendors selling quesillos, tamales, revueltas, carne asada, and other local specialties such as gallo pinto (rice & beans), fried plantains, nacatamales, bajo (yucca, plantain, beef mix). Very inexpensive. The local specialty is Vigoron: cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and fried pork rind (or roast pork) on mashed yucca for C$40 from the kiosks in the parque central. Great value (provided you are not a vegetarian).

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Drink

Great drinks can be purchased from local vendors at the corner in Parque Central, such as flaxseed drink, hibiscus (jamaica) iced-tea, or red beet drink or anything else, completely overloaded with sugar. Nice alternative: The local Cacao drink, milk and powdered chocolate beans, almost like chocolate milk, available in most cafes. Also Raspados made with crushed ice and raspberry syrup are very delicious and are usually sold by vendors around the Central Park.

And then of course, the local coffee! You have the biggest range: organic, shade grown, fair trade etc.

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Sleep

View our map of accommodation in Granada or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

Volunteer opportunities abound. La Esperanza Granada is an organization that sends volunteers into local schools to help out, or supports women's working groups, built a community center, etc., for the impoverished outskirts of Granada. Volunteering is completely free of charge, minimum commitment is generally eight weeks but shorter stays are possible. Another volunteer option is Educación Plus de Nicaragua, a local NGO that educates and feeds children in the marginalized outskirts of Granada.

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Learn

Nicaragua has 60+ Spanish Learning Schools. Look for 'Nicaragua Spanish Language" schools on the web; there are many. The country does not maintain a reference list. The key locations are Managua, Masaya, Granada, Ometepe, San Juan Del Sur, Leon, Estelí] and Matagalpa. Most popular are Granada and San Juan del Sur. The later place attracts surfers and vacationers.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes can be found in most larger cities and popular areas, but even in smaller towns you will usually be able to connect somewhere.
Wifi is generally free at most hotels, with the notable exception of larger chain hotels, which generally charge between US$3 and US$8 per day.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international phone code of Nicaragua is 505. The general emergency number is 911, though you can contact police (118), fire (115) and ambulance (128) separately if you want.

Nicaragua's cell phone system utilizes GSM 1900 technology. So, if you have a GSM phone that supports the 1900 band you can either use your phone as is at international rates or if your cell phone is unlocked , you can purchase a SIM card for your phone and you will have a local cell number and be charged local cell rates. Both Claro and Movistar provide cell phone service in the country. Claro is run by the old national phone company (ENITEL) that has now been privatized.

Another option is to buy a cell phone locally. Disposable cell phones are quite inexpensive, usually costing about US$20.

You can also purchase local prepaid phone cards that can be used at pay phone across the country. The different pay phone systems each have their own phone cards, so pay attention to which type you purchase.

Post

Correos de Nicaragua provides postal services. It's fairly cheap but not extremely reliable or fast. Post offices are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 6:00 pm and Saturday from 8:00am to 1:00pm. Airmail postage for a standaard letter or postcard from Nicaragua to North America is US0.60 and US$1 to Europe. Mail takes on average between 7 and 10 days to get to the U.S. and Europe. Though it's fine for sending a postcard, you'd better use companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx to send parcels internationally.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 11.9333333
  • Longitude: -85.95

Accommodation in Granada (Nicaragua)

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This is version 17. Last edited at 12:52 on Aug 9, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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