On Saturday I was able to go to Granada (again on the public transportation bus). I’m glad I went. Although some people call Granada a tourist trap (and I can understand why), the history and buildings there are far too beautiful to miss, in my opinion. It is prettier than Leon, though more touristy.
The bus trip there was about an hour and cost c$24, or roughly 90 cents in USD. Even though it was marketed as an express bus, it took its time getting places, making frequent stops along the highway and even in Granada before getting to the bus station.
I went with a fellow student at Viva, whom we call Mateo. He had been to Granada before, but on a more scheduled tour. We hopped off at a church we saw, before getting to the bus station. Iglesia laMerced is one of the older churches in the city, originally built in 1534. There is a tower attached to the church. The bells still ring during certain times of the day, I’m told.
The stairs are pretty steep and it’s easy to hit your head, but the view is absolutely worth it. Many panoramic views of the city.
Granada, which was founded in 1524, has a more Andalusian feel to it, as opposed to Leon, which feels more Castillean. Many of the buildings were burned, however, in the mid 1800s by William Walker’s military. Walker was an American with the plan to rule all of Central America as a president. Obviously, he failed. And Granada was rebuilt.
One of the beautiful statues dotting the eaves and roofs of Iglesia la Merced. Beyond, you can see the hills and volcanoes near Masaya. The nearest volcano, Mumbacho, was covered mostly in clouds the day I went. But I’m told that it’s beyond worth going to, even if it’s a little bit expensive for my taste (total is around $35 USD).
Granada is on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. It is gorgeous. People fish, swim, travel, and do other things at the lake. Nearby are the Islets of Granada, which were created after Mumbacho blew. Now people and monkeys live on them. A boat tour of the islets costs between $20-$40 USD for a boat, and I think a boat can take up to 10 people. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to split $20 with just one other person, so it didn’t happen.
Below is one of the views from the tower. You can see La Catedral de Granada, as well as Lago de Nicaragua behind it.
Granada as a beautiful, historical city, has strict building codes. Although tin roofs are more common throughout Nicaragua, buildings in the city center are required to use tiles. Paint colors and other building materials are strictly enforced as well.
Mateo and I were able to meet up with four medical students who are also studying Spanish at the same school, Viva. They were on a special, schedule tour, so we only spent a few hours with them, just walking around the city in the rain.
Yes, it rained, and yes, I got very, very wet. But I didn’t mind at all because it finally wasn’t hot. Though somehow, through the rain, I still got sunburned. It’s so easy for me to forget that I’m much, much closer to the equator than normal.
We ate a nice sandwich lunch at a cute restaurant. Prices weren’t bad–For my sandwich and lemonade, I spent close to eight dollars. I’m kind of cheap, so I didn’t want to spend that much, but the food was really good. And their courtyard garden was beautiful.
Many of the best restaurants are on La Calle Calzada, which is mostly pedestrian-only. It’s very near the cathedral, and it has shops, tourist booths, and other vendors. Back when Spain was in control, I hear, the street was reserved for only Hispanoles. Indigenous people were not allowed to walk on the street under penalty of death.
Because our feet were hurting, we went to one more museum at the Convento de San Francisco. It cost roughly $2 USD to get in. Many of the travel websites said to look for a robin’s egg blue church (San Francisco), and the museum would be right next door. As of 2014, however, the church is now a pale yellow/beige color. So if you plan to visit, don’t look for a blue church.
The museum had artifacts and murals of ancient Granada and the indigenous people before the city. I saw a lot of artwork picturing Granada, some showed victorious battles against the Americans. Hopefully they were battles against that William Walker fellow, not the US government.
We visited the market in parque central, and I was able to haggle a price down from c$360 to $200. I was quite happy with myself, because several years ago in Italy I was too nervous to negotiate at all. Now I am able to get a good deal. I do have to tell the vendors, “sorry, I don’t have more,” and walk away, hoping that they call me back. Luckily, this time they did.
Our feet hurt, so we decided to head home after that. The bus station was incredibly easy to find, on Calle Verga just a two minute walk or so from the cathedral, and we found a bus without any difficulty. Again, the trip back was c$24.
In total, the transportation there and back cost about $2 USD for one person, and my activities cost about $3 USD. Getting a taxi fback from the Managua bus station (At UCA) to home was another $1 USD apiece. Lunch was the most expensive part.
I highly recommend an overnight stay in Granada, and the willingness to spend more money to visit the volcano!