Things to do in Granada Nicaragua
No Nicaragua backpacking trip would be complete without stopping in the fun and charming colonial town of Granada. If you’re wondering about things to do in Granada then don’t despair because this town is full of all kinds of interesting places to explore, delicious restaurants, cheap bars, and an overall fun atmosphere. Not only are there plenty of things to do in Granada town but there are also several natural attractions nearby as well like the islets, lagoon or volcanoes.
During my trip through Central America from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama I would say Granada in Nicaragua and Antigua in Guatemala by far had the most tourists and were both very safe places. Granada is certainly one of the most well-known places in the country other than Ome-Tepe, one of it’s most famous attractions. I’ve taken some time to share some of the things to do in Granada while I was there.
How Long Should I Stay In Granada?
Granada is probably Nicaraguas most famous and attractive colonial towns full of charm and fun activities situated in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. The average recommended stay duration is typically 4-5 nights from other tourists who have been here. Having personally spent 3 nights here I found that even though I was actively doing things every day, there were still some things I wasn’t able to see. If I had another couple days I would have for sure been able to see everything in the area but I had to stick to a pretty strict schedule as I still had to visit Costa Rica and Panama before flying back to the States. If you want to stay for a few extra days just to relax then I would recommend spending up to a week here.
Things To Do in Granada
Explore The Main Plaza
Head on down to the main plaza where there are always people hanging out day and night as well as vendors selling goods like ice cream and souvenirs. It’s famous for its beautiful cathedral, fountains, market stalls, music, restaurants, and places to chill. It also makes for a super convenient place to meet up with other people or just go on your own and people watch.
Avenia La Calzada
This beautiful cobblestone street is the heart of Granada and has most of the popular tourist bars and restaurants with music and happy hours. You could spend all night bar hopping and sit outside at any of the various bars along this popular part of town. The atmosphere provided is enough to come and hang out for at least a night while you’re in here. This is especially true if you’re interested in some souvenirs, all you gotta do is just sit at a streetside table and you’ll have plenty of people and kids asking you to buy stuff.
The Granada Cathedral
The Granada Cathedral aka Our Lady of the Assumption is one of the most prominent buildings in the entire town. This church may be only a couple stories high but it literally towers over the town which is mostly made up of one and two-story buildings. It can literally be seen from miles away, and if you want a really good view of it then you can see it from another popular church not too far away which I’ll mention below. You just can’t miss this beautiful Spanish colonial building in the heart of town, making it another excellent landmark to meet up with others. This was historically the second temple to be erected dating back to 1751 and is known by the locals as “La Iglesia Bonita,” or “The Beautiful Church.”
Iglesia La Merced
Get a view of the town from above the town from the Iglesia la Merced which is conveniently located next to the popular Hostel de boca en boca. This church may look a little run down on the outside but it’s actually super popular for the views it provides. You can get stunning views of the surrounding area from the bell tower and the entrance fee is only $1. There are usually couples sitting out front of the church waiting for the sunset views or just the laid back atmosphere provided by this old church which has long been a centerpiece of the town.
Check Out The Colorful Colonial Buildings
Granada is historically one of Nicaragua’s most important cities, economically and politically and has a rich colonial heritage that is on display in its architecture and structures. You can wander the streets all day exploring these bright multi-colored and churches throughout the area. This town reminded me a lot of Antigua with its colorful streets, although they painted their town in more recent history as a tourist attraction rather than the Colonial past from which they transpired here in Nicaragua. I felt super safe walking around Granada during the day and even at night and at no point did I feel like I was in danger so put to rest any fears or misconceptions you may have about visiting here.
Go On a Horse Carriage Ride
I’m not super keen on recommending anything related to animal labor or riding animals etc but unlike many places where I’ve been like Bagan or the Philippines where the horses were often clearly being neglected and malnourished, I was pleasantly surprised at how well taken care of most of the ponies were here. What a better thing to do in Granada than explore the city on a classic horse-drawn carriage? With really low car traffic in Granada, I would imagine this could be quite an enjoyable and romantic experience.
These are especially helpful for people who are older or may have a disability which would make walking around in the heat difficult, if not impossible. With that being said, there are almost 30 carriages in Granada, all of them pulled by two horses and providing space for up to four people. In general there are enough carriages available and the drivers will all invite you to hop in. You can set out your own route, or just let the driver decide. The standard rides last for either about 30 or about 60 minutes and can range from $5-20.
Walking tours are a great way to learn more about a place and to discover spots you may otherwise not have heard of. There are countless tour agencies selling walking tours of Granada and they usually take 3-4 hours and take you around all the best spots. Having a tour guide allows you to learn about the culture and history of not only the town but the entire country and people of Nicaragua. If you decide to take a tour you can usually book one for around $15 or take a “free” tip-based tour which some people also offer. If you don’t feel like paying and aren’t super concerned about getting a history lesson then you can easily team up with some other travelers and explore on your own at no cost.
Support Local Vendors
There are plenty of things to see on your way around Granada, some specially designed for tourists like the small souvenirs they’re constantly trying to sell by the bars. But outside of town, you can find things like fresh coconuts and friendly little birds for fun photo-ops as well. There’s a variety of markets and entertainment held throughout the weeks with different activities and shops during different days. You can get clothes, gifts, food, coconuts or even pose with a cute and very photogenic parakeet.
The islets of Granada
Another really fun thing to do in Granada that is really near the town is taking a boat tours around the islets. You can take a boat ride around lake cocibolca, which is the second-largest lake in all of Latin America, second only to Lake Titicaca. If you plan on coming to Granada I would recommend you contact my buddy Fernando Gaitan whom I met through Couchsurfing and ended up being a really cool guy and also a local tour guide. A normal one hour boat ride around the islets is usually $24, but he was able to get us an hour tour for only 500 cordobas, which is only like $15.
Lake Nicaragua ake Lago Cocibolca is just southeast of Granada and and is made up of a group of 365 small islands scattered about the Asese peninsula. The islets are of volcanic origin, they were formed when the Mombacho volcano blew much of its cone into the lake thousands of years ago, thereby creating the archipelago. Most of the islets are covered with vegetation and rich with birdlife. Many of the islets are occupied. Some are privately owned and hold homes or vacation houses. There are facilities for the residents and for tourists. Hotels and shops are established on some of the islets, and boating tours are available.
How To Get To Granada?
Granada is centrally located in Nicaragua and is a very popular tourist destination along the way down past ome tepe and other attractions making it very easy to get to. I gotta be honest though when I arrived in Managua from Honduras I was pretty concerned with how sketchy and dangerous the countries capital city was. Fortunately, I only commuted from there and didn’t end up staying more than a couple of hours but I had seen enough in that amount of time.
Chicken Bus: I took the chicken bus from Managua to Granada for only a couple of dollars. I was also able to talk down the taxi driver to half his initially quoted price to bring me from the Transnica bus terminal to the University public transit station.
Fly: If you fly into Managua then you can transfer to Granada for about $25-30.
Drive: If you or a friend has a car or vehicle then it should be a pretty easy drive.
Buses: If you are coming from Guatemala, El Salvador or Costa Rica, you can get a bus to Granada with Transnica or Ticabus.
Shuttle: You can also schedule a shuttle bus with a tour agency, this is especially useful if you’re traveling with a group and need to stay together.
Things to do in Granada Nicaragua
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