Granada, Nicaragua – Travel Guide

Granada is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot of beautiful cities. The streets of Nicaragua’s oldest colonial city are lined with charming yellow-painted houses, laid-back mango sellers and delicious courtyard cafés.

Things To Do in Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, though Nicaragua’s sixth largest city, is really quite small. It’s the ideal city for exploring slowly, and if you have a couple of days, there really is no need to rush.

Amble Through the Streets

Granada’s beauty really lies within its streets. Endlessly ambling around was one of our favourite things to do in Granada because we had plenty of time to take in the surroundings and appreciate the colonial architecture.

Streets of Granada Nicaragua - Charlie on Travel

Cycle to Lake Nicaragua

Once you’ve exhausted ambling the city, rent a bicycle and peddle your way down toward the lake. If you cycle too far to the right, you’ll end up in a strangely colourful ghost town of beach bars and climbing frames out of season (I don’t know what it’s like in high season!)

Climb the Bell Tower of La Merced Church

The bell tower of La Merced Church is the best place for incredible city views. We saw the bell ringing first hand – it was loud! – while we were skirting our way around the edge of the tower.

Charlie on Travel in the red bell tower

Things We Decided Not To Do in Granada, Nicaragua

As with all touristy places, there are some activities that you should think twice about before signing up.

A Boat Tour of the Islets

We were originally keen to take a boat tour of the islets, but when we took a closer look at some of the tour operators, they all boasted photos of monkeys jumping onto the boats and performing for tourists. A further look at TripAdvisor revealed a lot of negative reviews, some which mentioned that the monkeys were not native to the islands, but had been “imprisoned” there for tourism.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride

We never found any information to suggest that anything unethical is going on, however a horse-drawn carriage ride around the hot city isn’t our thing. Not only is it reasonably expensive and unnecessary to see the city this way, but we were further put off when we saw two horses pulling a carriage laden with seven people.

Lake Nicaragua - cycle Granada Nicaragua - Charlie on travel

Places To Eat in Granada, Nicaragua

Breakfast at the Garden Cafe

This place is no secret, which means it’s much quieter in the mornings than it is around lunchtime. Enjoy a locally-sourced breakfast of fresh fruits, yoghurt and granola, or oatmeal with dried apricots and almonds, in the garden courtyard.

Eat Healthy at Cafe de los Suenos

We discovered this place, which is down the quiet end of the main strip, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. The menu is filled with healthy options, from passion fruit juice to Greek salad.

Eating Greek Salad at Cafe in Granada - Charlie on Travel
Greek salad with goat’s cheese and almonds.

Grab an Espresso at Cafe Fitzcarraldo

The best espressos in the city can be found here at this little French style café just off of Central Park. The caffe frappes are delicious too.

Luke outside cafe fitz in Granada Nicaragua

Try Street Food in Central Park

There’s not a massive variety of street food in Granada, but what they do have is pretty good. For vegetarians like us, freshly sliced mango is sold on the street corners by day and corn is grilled up by night. Pupusas – flat, circular corn tortillas – are cooked up on hot griddle plates and served in large leaf.

Charlie eats Pupusa con queso in Nicaragua granada - Charlie on Travel
Eating pupusa in Central Park in Granada, Nicaragua.
Pupusa con queso in Nicaragua, granada - Charlie on Travel
Pupusa con queso (with cheese).

Places to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

After arriving late and crashing for the night in an average hostel, we moved the next morning and stumbled upon De Boca en Boca Hostal. Tucked in the corner next to La Merced church, this new little hostel had just been opened by a couple of total lovebirds. The owners, a French guy and his Nicaragua girlfriend, were friendly, happy and completely in love. A double room for $14 per night was perfect for us as a couple on a tight travel budget.

Are you tempted to travel to Granada, Nicaragua, or maybe you’re already been? 

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

30 thoughts to “Granada, Nicaragua – Travel Guide”

  1. OMG you just had my mouth watering at the Garden Cafe. We stayed in Granada for a month and went there way too many times trying everything on the menu!

    We also avoided the touristy things – like you we felt a little uneasy. Although I do have to say that every time we went past those carriages they were always feeding/watering the horses, so it seems like they’re pretty well taken care of, all things considering.
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    1. I know right, I wanted to try everything on their menu too! Especially the breakfast and smooth menu!!!

      Yes, uneasy is the word. The horses seemed content most of the time, though a long time standing in the heat and a few too many passengers at times. But, as I say, it was more us feeling uneasy and not wanting to do things where we weren’t completely sure about the treatment of the animals.

  2. I’m not well travelled myself, so love your blog and never miss reading and looking forward to the next posting.
    Perhaps where the more ethically and socially aware traveller like yourself boycotts some of the tourist activities for one reason or another, including not wanting to be apart of animal cruelty, do you think that there would be a way of travellers being able to share their sustainable, acceptable and desirable pursuits, not just in their blogs, but by informing the local tourist information authorities in each Country/region in some way? Is this too idealistic? I was just thinking small acorns!
    For example, one of your previous blogs highlighting chained elephants and not riding them, but seeking to wash and feed them perhaps with the help of the locals, and then discovering like minded travellers seeing and thinking the same thing. How could we find someone in authority wanting to listen. What do your readers think?

    1. This is a great question, Sharon, and one that is really difficult to answer too. I’ve read that in this instance, a lot of tourists have let the boat tour guides know that they weren’t happy with the monkey island situation, and some who have taken individual tours (not with a group of people) have asked guides specifically not to take them to that part of the boat tour. It’s a good start, but the problem lies within the fact that there are still lots of tourists who do want to do these activities, and when there’s money coming in, people are still selling. I wouldn’t like to comment on the situation with the horses as I don’t have any credible information on how well they actually are treated.

      Certainly many countries don’t have quite so strict ethical guidelines, especially relating to animals, and sometimes this treatment of animals is culturally rooted. With the elephants in Vietnam, for instance, there were no government restrictions on the treatment of wild elephants and many villagers involved elephants in their work – knocking down bamboo, carry logs etc. Now that the elephants are endangered and laws are in place, locals who have lived this way for generations can’t understand why these things re going on.

      I think that as the discourse of these topics grows – from bloggers, travellers commenting to guides, word of mouth, and news articles – better treatment and ethical awareness will come with it. You’re very right, small acorns.

  3. Such a lovely post! Seems like the perfect transition from the quietude of your previous stops and experiences in Costa Rica. Judging the photos and your description it must be really pleasant place indeed. Especially the cafés look fabulous!
    Enjoy your time and keep exploring… :)
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    1. The cafes were some of the most delicious I’ve ever been in – which was wonderfully unexpected :) We’re now back to Costa Rica to house sit in a much more touristy area then before, so it’s been a good step up to that you’re right, especially after becoming near recluses in that gorgeous mountain house!

  4. So glad you enjoyed visiting Granada. I was just going to mention that on Sunday’s there is a ferry that goes to the Isletas. You take the ferry at the Pier at the end of La Calzada. You can’t miss seeing it. Nicaraguan families love to take the ferry as an outing. There is usually a clown to entertain the kids or they might have a troop of break dancers and blaring music. Think its like $100 cordobas for an adult. I love it when we leave the pier and the ferry toots its horns and the view you have of Granada is spectacular. The ferry skirts the isletas and then finally pulls in to turn around in an old dock yard and then stops at the Old Fort. Everyone gets out and usually has lunch there or takes photos. We always bring friends visiting Granada on this tour, they love it. We usually take the 11:00 am ferry and I think they have one at 2:00 also. You can buy food and drinks on the ferry and its all very inexpensive. Way more entertaining than taking the expensive boat tours to see rich people’s houses on the isletas.

    1. Hey Gordana – thanks for the tip! An expat mentioned this to me on Facebook but didn’t give me all the details. How long is the trip? A couple of hours?

      Not sure about the clowns.. but the stops sound much better, as does the price, compared to the boat tours. Unfortunately I wasn’t in Granada on a Sunday, but I’ll definitely look this up if I’m lucky enough to get back there =)

    1. Haha, I’ve not been to the one in Spain yet! It was really delicious – those particular pupusas had cheese in the mixture, but you can get them without cheese in other places. You can also get plain tortillas with shredded cabbage in some places too :)

  5. I was just wondering, what camera do you use? Your pictures are always beautiful and very sharp and colorful. Is it the camera or do you alter them with a program later?

    1. I use a Canon 550D. And thank you :) I originally bought the camera to use for video filming, which it’s supposedly better at than general picture taking (for the price) but actually, I find the photo quality is better and the video quality not so great. That might also be because I’m rubbish at knowing what settings to use.

      I don’t really edit my photos much. I just open them on windows and up the contrast. Sometimes I up the saturation or the yellow tint, but not always – only if it was a dull day or darker light.

  6. I love that your first idea for what to do is amble through the streets. That really should be the top thing to do in any city, but sometimes is overlooked by attractions. Your photo with the bell is awesome. What a lovely composition.

    I would love to travel more in Central America. I’ve only been to Honduras and not for a good few years. Maybe soon!
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    1. Yes, I definitely think it should be top of the list for nearly all places (with the exception of a few big cities where that’s not the best thing to be doing).

      How’d you like Honduras when you went? Costa Rica and Nicaragua are the only countries I’ve been to so far, am looking forward to eventually working my way up though.

  7. Ambling through the streets is always the best thing to do in any city – it lets you discover so many cool places that you otherwise would never find. Granada looks absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go there next year!

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