Two Worlds Collide in Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is at once a colonial town and the most developed tourist destination in Nicaragua.


Two Worlds Collide in Granada, Nicaragua

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ext212 on February 11, 2007

Granada is at once a colonial town and the most developed tourist destination in Nicaragua. We used Granada as our base camp for visits to Volcan Mombacho and Laguna de Apoyo, as well as our starting point towards the Pacific Ocean.

Even though it's developed, the town still has a relaxed feel to it. The locals are happy to talk to you and help you if you have any questions about familiar tourist destinations.

Prices are still cheap in Nicaragua--oh, how long until it becomes the monstrosity that is Costa Rica?--so better visit now before the golf courses start to appear.${QuickSuggestions} Skip the sooty city of Managua and spend a couple of days in Granada instead. Granada is so laid back, you can walk around and check out the colonial architecture or take one of the local buses for a day trip outside of Granada. The bus ride is a bumpy experience of Nicaraguan daily life.

Exchange your dollars to cordovas. The rate when I was there in January 2007 was 18 cordovas to a dollar. It is easier to do business with the locals using cordovas. A plate of roasted chicken with plantains and coleslaw will cost 35 cordovas, less than $2.

And oh, the 'When in Rome' saying applies in Nicaragua, too. Do your tourist self a favor and eat some of the hot food for sale from any of the stalls in the market. The locals will be amused and your stomach will thank you for not feeding it pasta while in Central America.

Brush up on your Spanish. Don't expect Nicaraguans to speak English just because you don't look like them.${BestWay} Granada is best explored on foot, but you can take a horse carriage if you want to experience the clickity-clack of a horse's gallop on cobbled streets.

Take the local bus at Shell Palmira, a block away from the central market, to hike Volcan Mombacho. The same terminal houses buses to Rivas to get to San Juan del Sur or back to Managua.

Sign-up via Hostel Oasis if you want to visit Laguna de Apoyo and use their sister hotel's facilities.

Hospedaje La Siesta

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

Boris Francoise of Hospedaje La Siesta was the first to email me back when I was inquiring for a place to stay in Granada. He's originally from Normandy, but is now a Granada resident after marrying a Nicaraguan from Leon.

La Siesta is modest, albeit with a small open courtyard, and offers a private room for two people with private bath for US$15 a night. A large closet separated our bathroom with incredibly lukewarm shower water from our double bed.

Boris and his wife are extremely helpful. Together, they speak English, French, and Spanish, and they also offer language classes for an extra fee. They insisted on talking to us in Spanish, which helped us practice and prepared us for the rest of our trip around the country.

They serve breakfast - French crepes with fruits - if you let them know the day before that you're interested. Otherwise, they have several recommendations on where to eat that's not listed in any of the guide books. You can refill your water bottles for about 7 cordovas using their water tank, as they encourage their visitors to re-use plastic bottles. You can also pay to use their washing machine and their fridge to keep your own food.

For US$35, their friend Victor will pick you up from Managua International Airport and take you to La Siesta in Granada. The ride is about an hour, even on a beat up Toyota.

Important information:
Hospedaje "La Siesta"
Calle El Almendro
De los bomberos 100m al norte 25m este
Tel : 875 7992 / 552 3292
http://bomanica.free.fr  
lasiestagranada@gmail.com
Hospedaje La Siesta
Calle El Almendro
Granada, Nicaragua
(505) 552 3292

Dona Olga

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

It's not a restaurant per se, because Dona Olga barbecues chicken on a grill right on the corner of Avenida Bodan, but she has two plastic tables and several plastic chairs if you prefer to eat your chicken out on the street instead of in front of your TV back in your hotel.

Dona Olga was recommended to us by Hospedaje La Siesta, where we were staying in Granada. We wanted something Nicaraguan for our first dinner. A plate of barbecued chicken with a mountain of tostones (fried green plantains) and platano maduros (fried ripe plantains) and coleslaw cost us 35 cordovas each.

Dona Olga actually just sits on her rocking chair outside. Some other lady does all the cooking (presumably her daughter-in-law). She never served us with a smile the two nights we bought dinner from her. I suppose you wouldn't be smiling either if you were barbecuing chicken out on the street and feeding two "Chinos" with bottomless stomachs for a living.

The experience itself is truly Central American: the lights shut off while we ate ("No hay luz!"), locals stopped by to chat with Dona Olga while waiting for their take-away chicken orders and mangy dogs surrounded us waiting for our leftovers.

But the chicken was very good so we kept coming back. We thought our meals beat all of Granada's available options. (Do you really want to eat pizza while in Nicaragua?) During our second visit, we ordered a third chicken to split between the two of us and we were charged 5 cordovas less. There was a small grocery store across the street so we brought our own drinks.

Nica Buffet

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

You'll notice that Nica Buffet is recommended in every Nicaraguan guide book. Deservingly so, because it's the only place we were able to buy decent morning coffee in Granada.

The cheery Dutch owner (take any Dutch away from gloomy Netherlands and he's what you get) happily serves his customers while his staff cooks pancakes with local fruits and traditional Nicaraguan breakfasts like gallo pinto (rice with red beans, huevos rancheros, plantains). We ordered both the pancakes and the gallo pinto during our visit there. Although I rarely eat pancakes to fairly judge Nica Buffet's version, their gallo pinto is comparable with what we ate in all of Nicaragua.

The place is buzzing with tourists when the place is open. (Only for breakfasts, until noon.) It's a good place to strike up conversations with other visitors or get advice from other travelers. You'll likely stay for a bit, too, because coffee refills are free.
Nica Buffet
Calle Corazan
Granada, Nicaragua

Laguna de Apoyo

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

Laguna de Apoyo is Nicaragua's deepest and bluest lake trapped inside the crater of Volcan Apoyo. It measures 48-square kilometers and about 700 feet deep, so it's quite a challenge to swim laps or kayak around it.

What you can do, though, is sit by its beach and laze around with your favorite book under a shade. We signed up with Hostal Oasis in Granada for 250 cordovas each to spend a whole day at Crater's Edge, their sister hotel right by the lake. The fee included round-trip transportation by shuttle van (the ride from Granada is about half an hour), sandwiches and drinks for lunch and the use of their hammocks, kayaks and beach chairs.

Although considered dormant, the last earthquake in the town of Catarina make the locals believe that the lake still experiences seismic activities.

Volcan Apoyo's walls are covered with trees, where different birds and monkeys roam, and there are apparently trails around the volcano that pass through the local communities of the Lugarenos. There are other hotels in the area that have comparable facilities to Crater's Edge, but we decided to spend our entire afternoon with them and just walked around the lake to kill time. (When facing the water, walk to your left from Crater's Edge to find other food options.)

It got kind of boring after sitting prettily three hours by the lake - it was too hot to hike, too hot to kayak, too hot to sunbathe - but we had to stay until 4pm and wait for our ride back to Granada. We never felt more relaxed while in Granada, though. Laguna de Apoyo is a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of town.
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

Granada, Nicaragua

Volcan Mombacho

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

Nicaragua has at least twelve volcanoes you can hike. We first visited Volcan Mombacho because it was only a 20-minute bus ride from Granada. The bus from Shell Palmira cost 12 cordovas per person and the fee to hike was 100 cordovas for 2 people via the Biological Center at the bottom of the volcano, or Plan de las Flores.

Volcan Mombacho is the perpetual backdrop in a lot of Nicaraguan postcards. Fundacion Cocibolca maintains the concrete streets up the volcano and protects the cloud forest 4,000 feet up.

Starting at 10am, you can walk from the highway to the Biological Center (about 30 minutes, more if you're not a New Yorker) and sign up for the shuttle up the volcano. (We just told the bus conductor to let us off Mombacho.) From the base camp, you have two craters to walk: Sendero el Crater and Sendero la Puma.

We're early birds and arrived at the Center before 10am, so we decided to hike the concrete way up ourselves rather than wait for the first shuttle. We regretted it after two hours of mostly vertical paths. By the time we got to the top, we were too exhausted to even think about the estimated 3-hour hike around Sendero la Puma. We walked for 30 minutes along the much easier Sendero el Crater instead.

The Sendero el Crater is overgrown with different species of trees, orchids, and ferns. It's more of a forest than what you expect of a volcano crater, although there is still smoke coming out of the fumaroles. There's a moss-lined tunnel and several lookouts to check out the view of Granada, the largest lake in Nicaragua, Lago Cocibolca, and of course, Mombacho's daughters, Las Isletas, believed to have formed from the last major eruption of the volcano. You can hire a guide but it's so easy, it's a walk in the park. It didn't seem worth the two-hour hike for us, so make sure that when you go, you take the shuttle up so you have enough energy to hike the larger crater, which requires a guide from base camp.
Volcan Mombacho
Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua

Mombacho Canopy Tour

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ext212 on February 12, 2007

On our way back down from Volcan Mombacho, we decided to pay US$25 each to do the canopy tour and zip line from 17 platforms. The canopies are attached to giant trees suspended over the coffee farm of El Progreso, all surrounding the volcano.

The entire zip line course runs 1,500 meters and there is a hanging and shaky rope bridge to cross from one of the platforms. The last step is to rappel from a large ceiba tree 23 meters down to the Cuttire Farm.

It was beautiful up there. You can see Lake Cocibolca from some of the platforms. A coffee plantation was right below us. The massive trees look so alive with orchids and ferns growing from their branches.

The 13 horizontal zip lines felt safe enough. Our two guides gave us an all-Spanish quick lesson before we started. You zip line on your own until you decide to do the more exhilarating options. In my case, I agreed to do the 'Superman' and the 'upside down' with one of the guides. When I rappeled down, our guides pulled the line to make the ride even more scary.

At the end of the course, they radioed the base camp and had us picked up. We were given a ride all the way down to the Biological Center, so all we had to do was walk the last 30 minutes back to the highway to catch the bus to Granada.

At last, steady ground.
Volcan Mombacho
Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua

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