While this was our first time exploring NICARGAUA, it was actually our second time visiting GRANADA. Intrigued? When we visited the south of SPAIN, GRANADA was one of the many places we hit up. So, when we read that their was a GRANADA in NICA NICA (a.k.a NICARAGUA), we were intrigued.
This 500 year old colonial city was actually named after the one in Spain. Stepping into GRANADA, you find yourself surrounded by streets filled with colourful houses topped with terracotta roofs. Add in some palm trees and other tropical plants to the mix and you have a tropical version of SPAIN. It was absolutely beautiful!
Another aspect that made us want to explore NICARAGUA was that it is less travelled than its neighbour to the south – COSTA RICA and as an added bonus, it’s also significantly cheaper to travel in. The two main responses I got when we told people we were going to NICARAGUA was “why there?” && “where is that?” Most people that have travelled through Central America say that it is like COSTA RICA was 10 years ago, before all the tourists took over. To us, it sounded like an adventure!
We stayed in the heart of the city at TRIBAL HOTEL. It was recognized in 2017 as one of the top hotels in the Caribbean and Central America by Conde Nast. This seven room boutique hotel is tucked away within the beautiful side streets of GRANADA and can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention.
The minute you walk in, you feel as if you discovered a tropical oasis. The way the palm trees outside contrast the white walls, the artwork in the open air lobby quickly grabs your attention. This bohemian style hotel gives off the perfect combination of luxurious && laidback. A few steps further and you enter into what I can only describe as paradise. To top if off, this place became even more whimsical & magical at night, everywhere you looked their were candles lit.
Every morning you are greeted with breakfast on your private balcony. Surrounded by plants, lounging in turkish towel robes and enjoying organic coffee, tropical fruit, locally baked bread & traditional nicaraguan eggs is how I would want to start every morning. Wouldn’t you?
Dan & I wasted no time – right when we arrived into the city, we quickly left our luggage at the hotel and headed to our first activity – a cooking class!
We took the cooking class at La Tortilla Cooking School. We were taught how to make a traditional local dish called Indio Viejo, which literally means “old Indian” in Spanish. It is a traditional Nicaraguan stew that uses ingredients that are native to the region.
We were in a class with three other couples, even though their were more of us, the class was extremely hands on. We actually got along really well with them and met up for drinks the next night at Selina! Side note, one of my favorite parts of travelling is meeting like minded people from different parts of the world that love the same thing you love. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, they offered an endless amount of sangria as the night went on. It was a perfect way to start off our trip!
One of NICARAGUA’S most active volcano only lies 34 km from GRANADA. This was our first time seeing lava with our own eyes. With the lava being just a stone’s throw away, if you listen closely, you can hear the lava bubbling and flowing within the crater. This is definitely a MUST SEE.
Okay lets get to the details. MASAYA VOLCANO is one of the biggest tourist attraction in NICARAGUA, for two reasons. One, its proximity to GRANADA. Two, its very accessible – you drive all the way up to the top of the volcano. You do not need to hike it. Dan and I wanted to hike a volcano (Conception, Telica or Maderas) but time did not permit.
You can do a day tour or night tour either through a tour company or on your own. We decided to go at night since you can see the lava best at this time. We also decided not to use a tour company but do it ourselves. TRIBAL hotel arranged transportation for us to and from the hotel to MASAYA – it was as easy as that. The night entry is available between 5pm to 8pm. The park only allows a certain amount of visitors at one time and you can only visit for 10-15 minutes. I recommend you get their at 5pm, no later. Cars line up at its entrance and you want to be the first round of people to go, because if not, you are waiting in line, in a car for up to 2 hours. We were the second last car to make the first round of people to enter the park. I was so happy because we got to see the lava when it was still dusk, thus, pictures turned out so much better!
IGLESIA DE LA MERCED
For only one dollar you can climb up the bell tower and take in breathtaking 360 degree views of the entire city. The entire experience won’t take long and is not an extensive trek up many flights of stairs, but is definitely worth the visit.
This experience brought us back to our THAILAND adventures. Once you get in the heart of the market, it becomes a maze and you can easily get lost browsing the different stands. You can purchase anything here from food to household goods to fashion items. You do not see many tourists here, just locals.
This small town is located 21 km from GRANADA and is known for its craft market – right up my alley. You can browse the shops for textiles, ceramic handcrafts and goods made of leather and wood. Personally, what attracted me was the pottery. I found some beautiful handmade pottery dishes that I brought home. Two survived the way home in our luggage, the other two unfortunately broke (insert crying emoji). If you love taking things home from your travels, Caterina is a great stop. You don’t need too much time here since it is so small. We hit up Caterina on our way back to the airport on our last day. I unfortunately didn’t snap a photo of this quaint town – so here’s one of GRANADA.
You do not need to rent a car during your stay in GRANDA since the town is quite small and everything is accessible by foot. We arranged transport from the airport to our stay prior to landing in NICARAGUA. You don’t need to do this. There were plenty of taxi’s waiting at the airport to take you wherever you are going. We also arranged transport to and from MASAYA VOLCANO.
RESTAURANTE EL ZAGUAN – this traditional Nicaraguan restaurant is known for their steak that they grill over charcoals. No exaggeration, it was probably the best steaks I have ever had, and I’m not a steak person. We tried Vigoron here as well, which is a traditional Nicaraguan dish. It’s made of cabbage salad, boiled yuca and chicharrones (fried pork rinds). It doesn’t sound super appetizing, but the combination was surprisingly delicious! Just go.
GARDEN CAFE – This gem is no secret. You walk in and pick a table around the courtyard which is an impressive garden (looked more like a jungle to me). If you are a plant lover like myself, you will fall in love instantly. Banana Leaf trees in their natural habitat – I could have sat on one of their hammocks all day and would have been happy.
But, enough about the aesthetics. This trendy cafe offers breakfast, lunch or dinner and stand by using local fresh ingredients. We went for breakfast and had a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast and fresh smoothies. I fell in love with their fresh smoothies. They also have a shop attached to them that displays goods from local craftsman.
FOR NEXT TIME
Places we wanted to visit but didn’t get a chance too since we only stayed a week include: LAGUNA DE APOYO && ISLETAS DE GRANADA. We read and heard from other travellers that they were definitely worth the visit.