Since driving in Granada is not necessary and a taxi ride is not practical unless you just want to go from Point A to Point B, try a carriage ride instead. Surrounding Central Park on all sides are horse carriages and their operators vying your money. Carriage rides can last from 30 minutes to an hour. They can be shorter or longer than that depending on where you want to go and what you want to see. The price is always negotiable. We took a quick twenty minute carriage ride for about ten dollars including the tip.
We started down Calle la Calzada, a cobblestone street with restaurants and old colonial homes on either side. There are plans to make the street a pedestrian only street. We took a ride down to the edge of Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is the 20th largest lake in the world and is also home to the only freshwater shark in the world. We stopped for a minute to take a few pictures of the lake and he offered us the chance to take a tour of the Islets of Granada, but since we had our son with us, we passed on the opportunity.
On the way back up Calle la Calzada, we stopped to admire some of the different statues dedicated to Nicaragua’s famous citizens. There was a statue dedicated to Francisco Cordoba, the founder of Nicaragua and whose name is used for the currency. We stopped at one statue that our driver seemed particularly proud of and that was of Emiliano Chamorro. I actually had to look him up online and discovered that he was the 55th and 59th president of Nicaragua. He was most remembered in Nicaragua for his work in signing a treaty with the US to build a canal linking the two oceans. However, Panama will forever hold that distinction.
Our next stop was at one of the six major cathedrals in Granada, Iglesia de Guadalupe which was originally built as a fort in 1626. From the outside, it appears that it is an abandoned church. The white walls have since turned black and it appears as if it has gone through years of neglect. However, one step inside this church and you realize that it is an active church serving an active congregation. The interior of the church has gone through a massive renovation. The interior is beautifully painted yellow with shiny waxed floors and high arched ceilings. I was told there are no plans to renovate the outside.
We traveled back to Central Park to go into town right around rush hour. Everywhere you look, horse carriages and vehicles clog the roads. Traffic can get very congested at rush hour which is another good reason to walk instead of drive. We rode by some other cathedrals such as the Antiguo Convento San Francisco which looks as if it was just built, however it is the oldest cathedral in Central America built in 1585. The exterior is painted a beautiful mixture of white and blue and there is a museum inside displaying a vast collection of Pre-Colombian artifacts. Another cathedral is the Xalteva Cathedral elegantly painted in a peach color a few blocks away.
Our last stop was at Dona-Elba Cigars, a half block from the Xalteva Church. Here they have a large selection of different cigars to suit anyone’s taste. The highlight of my visit here was seeing the cigars made in front of you. The cigars were made in two person teams. One person would flatten the tobacco while the other person would roll it and cut it. Although Esteli is regarded as the cigar capital of Nicaragua, this is an excellent place to pick up cigars if a trip to Esteli is not possible. I left with over thirty cigars as well as a pack of cigars that are soaked in Flora de Cana rum.
We ended out trip back in Central Park. We thanked our driver for the excellent tour and walked back to the hotel. Carriage rides might sound touristy and cliché, but it is an excellent way to see Granada.