Nicaragua's

GRANADA

Global Mark : 14.62

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 5 3 3 3 4 4 2 4 14.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
25 100% 100% 100% 12 to 20 15.24


Description :
An old colonial city, on the shore of Lago de Nicaragua

Comments : This place is basically on everybody's itinerary. It is certainly a charming & relaxing enough place and there are a couple of sights around it. 

What to do ? Get a map of town & info on what to see in the area at Hotel Central / Relax by the beautiful Parque Central, admiring the fountain, many colorful colonial buildings and horse carriages / Venture inside the old green building that houses the busy market / Visit museums : Convento de San Francisco for the 28 pre-Columbian petroglyphs (C12), a new one W of plaza on C. El Consulado and, possibly now, the train station / Have a ride in one of the many horse-drawn taxi (sponsored either by Coca-cola or Pepsi) / Catch a mango from the many trees / Watch a movie (video at Beared Monkey C10 or cine at C15-25) / Explore an archipelago of hundreds islands formed by the exploded top of Volcan Mombacho / Then go up to that retired volcano and its active cloud forest / Have a canopy tour ($35) / Learn Spanish for as little as $20 for 10 hours 

What you may not like ? The shortage of good & cheap accommodations / The nothing special cathedral / Having to fight with the locals for the mango / The dirty pier & beaches / Some electricity shortcuts / The difficulty or cost to reach some of the surroundings attractions : isletas or volcanoes for example / Learning about some attractions after you have left (my guidebook was not describing half of the sights and the map of town was terrible so I missed some of them...) 

How long ? If one day would actually be long enough for the wandering around, most people spend a couple of days. The surroundings would require a few more days.

Where to stay ? There are quite a few options in town but good bargains are in short supply : 

- On La Calzada, the street running from the Cathedral toward the pier. From West to East :

  • Hospedaje Central (5527044) / Dorm (20) 30, room 52-90(1) or 130(2), w. shower 150, w. kitchen & sofa $25 / Bar, cheap & popular restaurant, book exchange, info, free coffee & tea / Go there for the good location, the backpacking atmosphere and to meet people / What you may not like : the cheapest rooms may be full and the others are expensive for what you get. The dorm is simply horrible !
  • Hospedaje Cosibolca / 50 p.p., w. shower $10 (1 or 2) / Kitchen / Go there to check the rooms as it was being renovated when I was there. Should be nice.
  • Hospedaje Granada (5523716) / 80(1) or 100(2), w. shower 100(1) or 150(2) / Small pool / Go there if you feel like swimming and the correct rooms w. shower / What you may not like : the pool is not too clean and the cheapest rooms aren't nice.
  • ® Hospedaje La Calzada, on the left / 50(1) or 80(2), w. shower 100(1) or 150(2) / Table tennis / Kitchen / Cable TV / Good & cheapest restaurant / Go there for the nice setting, the family atmosphere, the clean & large rooms, the relative quietness and the excellent prices / What you may not like : the small coyote stealing your cake maybe... 
  • Two expensive hotels continuing South : Hospedaje Italiano (from $20) and Hotel Granada (from $10 p.p.)

- In other parts of town, west of the Plaza :

  • Hospedaje Don Alfredo (5524826), opp market / Dorm (11) 30, room in old house 66(1) or 93(2), w. shower in new building 159(1) or 185(2) / Go there for the old charm, the tiny garden w. hammock and the animated area / What you may not like : the cheapest rooms & dorm are empty (no fan !)
  • Hospedaje Adela's House, S of the above / without shower 65(1) or 90-120(2) / Cable TV / Go there for the correct no-frills rooms, setting and prices. 
  • ® Posada Don Alfredo (5524455), C 14 de Septiembre, W of plaza / Small room $15(1) or 20(2), huge rooms $20(1) or 25(2), w. HW shower $30(1) or 35(2), add person $5 / German management / Breakfast buffet $8 / Bike $10 per day / Kayak $12 per day / Go there for the old colonial charm (worth a look) and the massive and well decorated rooms. Simply the nicest place to stay ! / What you may not like : the cheapest rooms aren't spectacular, the road is noisy and, of course, it is more expensive than usual.
  • ® The Bearded Monkey (5524028, thebeardedmonkey@yahoo.com), north of the above / Dorm (7 or 8) 35, rooms without shower 60(1) or 80-90(2) / Bar, restaurant, pool table (free), book exchange (free but not all the books are accepted), cable TV, video (10 per movie), internet (45 per hour), tel ($2.5 per mn to UK) / Go there for the nice setting w. hammock, the (very) young, western & rock'n roll atmosphere, the facilities offered and the nicest dorm (that doesn't mean much) / What you may not like : it is noisy, busy, rather messy, the services aren't too cheap and the rooms nothing special. Some travelers refer to it as a 'Kindergarten'. Clearly not for everyone...

Where to eat ? Except for the cheap bites by the market or the streets, the cheapest deals were spotted at Hospedaje La Calzada : L18 breakfast, L20 "tipico cenar". Well served. The C25 dishes (on display) at Hospedaje Central are also a fair deal and more "exotic" (that is western). A good & cheap bakery (C2) can be found on busy C. Atrevesado, near C. Morazan : Reposteria La Nueva Es Trella


Backpacker's Tips : Anthony Asael (March 04)
« New Hotel Oasis: cost 6us for dorm very nice with free internet, movie, pool,…. Look like a new “kindergarten”, not really “Nicaragua” atmosphere, but still nice. / The best ice cream of Nicaragua are at the hospedaje italiano on La Calzada. / Restaurant Asodero.com has apparently moved to Masayo but didn’t found it in Masayo. / Restaurant Tres Ojos: French manager, very nicely decorated and excellent food, but you will pay the price.» 

Backpacker's Tips : Katharina Krenn, Germany (March 04)
« New Hostal in Granada: Hostal Oasis: five blocks north from the shell gas station (bus station). It's really nice and very clean: colonial style with hammocks, pool, free internet, free coffee and a little garden, prices are reasonable: Dorms 6 Dollars, Quads 8 Dollars, Private Rooms are available » 

Backpacker's Tips : Rodrigo González Mera, Chile (April 03)
« Hospedaje Granada: 220 córdobas for two with bath, the pool was clean, rooms with fan, in general nothing special the hotel but there are many  other backpacker to join some information / Restaurant: Pizzeria Don Lucas: calle La Calzada, good pizzas, a médium pizza and 2 drink for 100 córdobas; Hospedaje Central: big natural juice and free coffee, ideal for breakfast / Bus: Peñas Blancas - Rivas: 45 min., 20 Córdobas; Rivas - Cruce Guanacaste: 1 hr., 20 Córdobas; Cruce Guanacaste - Granada: 1/2 hr., 10 Córdobas / Supermarket Lacayo: near the parque Central, good and cheap / A ride in horse-drawn taxi: 40 córdobas for ½ hour, with explanation from the history of the city / Typical and cheapest ceramic at the parque central, there are some craftswoman at the park» 

Backpacker's Tips : Bill Abresch, USA (Dec 01)
« Where to stay ? Another Night in Paradise (on Calle La Calzada, next to Hotel Granada) : $16(2) with discounts for longer stays / communal bath / kitchen / TV room / Exceptionally nice rooms and common areas -- well-painted, good beds, nice furniture -- a bed and breakfast where you cook your own your own breakfast.
Where to Eat ? Asadero.com (on Calle La Calzada) is a real find: superbly seasoned baho and great vegetarian platters. Sounds like typical fare, but truly incredible. The restaurant's promotional flyers (rightly) term the food "erotic." 50C for a good meal. / Tele-Pizza (on Calle el Caimito near the square). Good pizza for delivery, carry out, by the slice, or sit down.
Internet ? Binary Base, just opened opp Convento San Francisco. Along with Internet access, provides super-cheap international phone calls.
Change ? There is an ATM on the Visa/Plus system inside Supermercado Lacayo.
Shopping ? The other super market Pali is on Calle Atravesada down in the market. It has a larger selection than Supermercado Lacayo.
»

Internet ? Quite a few places in town. Cybercafe opp. the supermarket : 35 per hour, 20 for 30mn, 1 per mn. Same rates at Cafe Comberso, left of Casa de Los Leones. Computadore Granada, right of Cathedral : 40 per hour but only 0.75 per mn. Check also Inter Cafe, opp Hotel Colonial, W of plaza. 

Change ? For TC, head toward Bancentro (N-W on C Atravesado) : this may be the best rate in the country at C13 per dollar, without commission. The cash rate was C13.33. They also handle Visa, Mastercard & Cirrus. BAC, by the plaza, had lower rates and more people queuing... 

Shopping ? Supermercado Lacayo on C. Real, W of plaza, near Iglesia La Merced. As usual, you won't save much...

Spanish ? There are a few opportunities to improve your language skills. Casa Xalteva School near the Sandino Park is one option. Much cheaper but more casual (possibly too much ?) is the service offered by Benjamin Garay, a teacher who decided to teach at his home, outside of any structure and for cheaper ($20 for 10 hours). Look for him 3 blocks east of the railway station on Av Francisco Franco. 

Backpacker's Tips : Bill Abresch, USA (Dec 01) "Book Exchange"
« There seem to be three book exchanges in Granada. Hospedaje Central has a large but poor selection (trades two for one, regardless of quality). The Bearded Monkey has a large, high-quality selection (terms of trade depend on book quality). Binary Base has a very small, but 
high-quality exchange (trades are selective, or you can buy).
»

A walk around town ? There are quite a few obvious places to visit that do not require much introduction. Among the other places worth a look :

  • Casa de Los Tres Mundos : a nice garden and a painting depicting the 1972 earthquake that took 40,000 people's lifes
  • Calle Real, running from the Plaza toward Fuerte La Polvora in the west : you will pass Iglesia La Merced, Iglesia de Xalteva by an original garden and colorful Iglesia Maria Auxiliadore whose wooden altar is worth a look. 
  • Av Heroes Y Martires in its N part for the abandoned hospital and the old Cemetery, near the buses to Managua. There is apparently also a place from which to spot the whole city (a powder storage, did not go).
  • The Complejo Turistico by the pier : It is not really worth more than the C1 entrance fee but, if you have a few hours to spare, you may enjoy the walk between the many bars-discos-restaurants (should be lively in the evening but not recommended for solo girl) and the dirty beach by the lago. Lot's of children parks, trees and horses as well. Walking all the long way, you will reach Puerto Asese. 


The surroundings attractions ?
If you have got time & money (I did not), you could check the following :

  • Isla Zapatera & the Isletas : This archipelago of hundreds of islands was formed some 20,000 years ago by the explosion of volcan Mombacho. Most of the pre-Columbian artifacts and petroglyphs exposed in town are from there but there are still a few in place. To visit is costly : either with an agency or by renting a boat ($14 per hour, 3 hours recommended) from Don Lombardo's Puerto Asese, further S of the Complejo Turistica by the pier. There, you can also admire the various fishes of the lake.
  • Mirador de Catarina : A volcanic crater filled with water overlooking Laguna de Apoyo, Granada and the isletas (on clear day). Access from the town of Catarina, apparently a nice place with lots of flowers and potteries. 
  • Volcan Mombacho : An extinct volcano turned into a national park : cloud forest, monkeys, birds, orchids, waterfalls and superb view. 
 << Discover another charming town


Leaving ?
To Rivas, from the Shell station on C. Atravesado, S of market. At 6:30, 8:30, 9:30, 11:30, 13 & 15. C15. 1.5 hours / To Masaya, every 20mn from 4:20 to 18. C5. 45mn / To Managua, you have the choice between minibus leaving every 15mn from 5:30am to 8pm from S of the plaza central and heading toward Universidad Centroamericana (C14, 1h15) or far away buses leaving every 30mn from Av Heroes Y Martires (20mn walk) for C9. The choice is easy ! 

A boat trip to Ometepe ? If the lake is not too rough, this is a great way to reach the island (Altagracia) and waiting for the boat is a good reason to spend more time in Granada. Lancha "Mozorola" leaves every Wed & Sat at 11am. C20. 4 hours. In theory, there is also a bigger barco every Monday & Thursday at 2pm and on Sat at 12am. C20. 4 hours. This barco then head to San Carlos (add. C30 & 8 hours) Info : mozorola@ideay.com.ni

The trip to Ometepe : SSS / Right / C20 / 4 hours / Lancha "Mozorola" 
As indicated by the leaflet next to the pier, I showed up at 10am for the 11am departure. Bad move : the boat would leave at 12am only ! Why was it written 11am then ? A mystery to solve !  It was Saturday so maybe it was replacing the bigger cargo... 
I went to walk the Complejo Turistico but made sure to come back to the disappointingly small boat an hour in advance to secure a space. People who showed up 15mn before departure had to sit on the floor... 
The loading process was quite interesting to watch as well : amazing what you can put in such a small boat and even more that it still manages to float ! The motor was turned on at the scheduled time, the anchor was dragged up and the water expelled from the hold. This first required all the bags (and people) to be moved away from the splashing area... 
And then we left, for the slow and tranquil (not always the case) journey toward the two volcanoes' island. The shore scenery on the right was nice but soon boring. Bringing a book is a good idea. Bringing sun cream as well, if you wish to improve your tan by sitting outside. 
We arrived on time (4pm) and were immediately assaulted by pick-up drivers. Most people nowadays are going to Altagracia (10mn away, C5 or free if boarding the Hotel Castillo vehicle) or straight to Playa Santo Domingo (C15 after bargaining, 30mn). Standing at the back of a bumpy vehicle is the normal mode of transportation. From Altagracia, the last bus to Moyogalpa (C9) leaves at 5pm and to Bague (C7) via the beach (C5) at 16:30, at least in theory... 

See also the trip from Masaya