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krisek Granada - A travel report by Krys
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Granada,  Nicaragua - flag Nicaragua -  Granada
7317 readers

krisek's travel reports

Stunning! Granada, Nicaragua’s pearl of a city.

  10 votes
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I was a little concerned about going to Central America, since its reputation of being amongst the most crime affected countries was not welcoming. But I went to Nicaragua’s city of Granada, I forgot all about it. It was charming and friendly.


Granada travelogue picture
I went to Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) with a colleague and we decided to be a little extravagant, so we rented a car in each country. This way we could see as much as possible in relatively short time. It was a good choice. The only trick was to get from one country to another - drop a car, get transport to the border, cross it, get to the capital and pick up the next car. The entire trip was planned on a spreadsheet, and we stuck to it as much as possible. It was important to be in the next country’s capital on the right day to pick up the vehicle. All car reservations (absolutely essential) were made on the Internet. Good job we took the printouts with us. Often the car rental companies claimed the car was not available or tried to impose a different price. Auxiliary items of course trickled in onto the itinerary eventually, as locals would indicate what else there was to see, particularly when the car could take us anywhere anytime. It was important to benefit from that precious local knowledge.

Once the richest place in the Americas, Granada, had its glorious times just after Columbus’s arrival. It is a pretty colonial town, a pearl of urbanisation with colourful houses, clean streets, interesting balconies, almost a perfect square lined up with column-supported grand mansions and palm tree park, and really friendly people. I was so proud of myself that it was my idea to spend Christmas Eve in Granada - a pretty and friendly place. A perfect plan - yeah!

Initially, I got lost on the approach of the town (it was my job to navigate). There was a particular hotel we were looking for, close to the city centre, and I simply lost myself on the map. I asked a middle-aged doña for directions (it was already after dark) and she simply dropped everything down and suggested she got into the car and show us the way. It was so kind of her.

Favourite spots:
Granada travelogue picture
Granada was really worth visiting, it was worth staying a few days, although I did not. The city was very well organised and it was close to other interesting places, like active volcanoes, colonial places, lakes, the jungle, the beaches…

It was peaceful (well, not quite at night - just read on to see what I mean). People took it easy, did not rush. Relaxed. Just near the cathedral there was this man, lying at the blue door after the night of the Christmas Eve, easy, ‘it’s just ten o’clock in the morning’ mood – ‘it’s the day off, it’s Christmas, what’s going to happen?!’

My favourite spot was the Parque Central with colourful, majestic grand mansions, the cathedral, cannons and palm trees. I seriously did not know such places existed. It was remarkable to see how engineered Granada was. It was the main square (the parque) that gave it away, and made it obvious. I stood in the middle of it bewildered. And scratching my head - how could I photograph it to convey the character of it.

What's really great:
Granada travelogue picture
Granada made its best first impression on me in the evening, exactly upon of our arrival. It was actually completely dark, just starfull skies and dimmed street lights, gentle lights from the bars and restaurants, candlelight from private homes that all made the ambiance so special. Two or three streets had single or dual storey building squeezed one to another leading to the main square. The rest of the streets were home to simple households, more accurately representing the wealth of the locals.

In the morning, however, it did not look too bad either. All the pastel colours of the small, colonial buildings made them very photogenic, by the way. They composed a look of Granada being so… liveable, like you wanted to stay there, forever. Even the shacks of very poor people were painted in bright, vivid colours.

And the Granadians were so great and inviting. Their hospitality must have been in their blood. Granada was popular and many people visited it. Still, they welcomed all!

Sights:
Granada travelogue picture
Apart from the Parque Central, a few churches, the Convent of San Francisco, a fortress and the lake, the numerous colonial houses all deserve attention. But the greatest way to admire Granada is just to go on wandering about the little streets, the grand colonial streets, talk to people. There're so many fine examples of colonial architecture that it's impossible to overemphasise the glory of the city, its magnetism makes Granada one of tourists’ most favourite places in Nicaragua. It was definitely one of mine (but I also loved Leon - there's a great rivalry between the two, actually). As I was taking a walk in the more budget class part of the town, where the buildings and structures were less glamourous, people and their friendliness were making up with their attitude and welcoming. I was a little ill-at-ease when they kept inviting me to conversations. I thought I perhaps my heavy camera might be invading their privacy. But it was them, who encouraged me to take pictures.

Accommodations:
Granada travelogue picture
When I was on the roof of the Hospedaje Cocibolca, a hotel where we stayed, aiming to take an interesting shot of one of the upper-class streets of Granada, a group of teenagers spotted me and I could not believe how friendly their reaction was - see a picture opposite for their reaction captured! I was there (almost hidden) on the roof taking shots like a sniper with a gun, and they started smiling and waving at me! How wonderful!

The hotel was superb, by the way. The rooms were just slightly better than basic, but the colonialism of the place, its main lobby and the layout made it feel like it was a boutique hotel that should have cost hundreds of dollars per night. Its genial furniture, its gardens and the entire ambiance made it look like a palace and it cost just a few dollars instead. It was very central. The personnel was very friendly and extremely professional.

Nightlife:
Granada travelogue picture
Granada on Christmas Eve meant there was a lot of action everywhere - all around the city. People were out enjoying themselves. Tourists, of whom there was a considerable number actually, were sitting in many cafes and restaurants based in grand Spanish-like mansions and grand haciendas - sitting at candle-lit tables having meals and drinks, chatting, enjoying themselves. Christmas was in the air and it was hot, hot, hot. In addition, there were petards, simple, home-made fireworks, made of newspapers, and devil knows what else. Great! It finally felt safe, after being in slightly dodgy Costa Rica - there was a civilisation! (maybe because there were many more tourists there than on average could be seen in Central America - well at that stage of my trip, anyway)! The atmosphere of this great city combined and the festive ambiance of the evening already made a spectacular impression. It was such a fabulous place to be, and to see the locals so happy brought warm feelings to my heart.

Hangouts:
Granada travelogue picture
It was so great to sit at a table in the street, saying ‘hi’ to people passing buy, drinking local rum, best rum in Central America in fact, ‘Flor de Caña. The little bars, cafes and restaurants with their little tables by the windows, or window frames, and those, which occasionally put a few of them on the pavement, offer superb opportunity to watch the life going by, meeting local, who were often the first, who said ‘hello’. And yet, there was another great way to kill time. In the Parque Central, there was this little juice bar (where I made a mistake forgetting to tell the merchant not to add any ice), where locals hovered chatting or just hovering.

And being there for Christmas, it was brilliant to see people in a good mood, in a country far, far away. Happy, joyful, blissful, delightful, singing, dancing, firing those noisy and light makers!

Restaurants:
Granada travelogue picture
Granada might have had the highest concentration of pizzerias in the country, or perhaps in Central America. Calle La Calzada was the best place to try them. Don Luca, a pizza restaurant claiming to be Italian, was a stunning colonial decor and the two young cooks were excellent, serving ten inch, 12 inch and 14 inch pizzas. The largest one costing $4! It was a challenge to finish it, but it was so delicious that every bite was like going to Italy! Plus the oven was in the middle of the restaurant, so you could see exactly what was happening.

Another pizza place, very popular with the locals, was the basic Telepizza. It was definitely less Italian, but they gave you a choice of a thick or thin base. Their prices were even lower - less than $2 for a medium pizza. They also did deliveries, and delivering to your hotel was their routine.

Other recommendations:
Granada travelogue picture
Volcan Masaya, near Granda, is considered to be one of the largest natural air polluters of in the world. It is an active volcano and it blows sulphur related gases almost continually. It was actually very hard to breathe there at the crater. Normally visitors are asked to leave the area when an increased activity of volcano results in the emission of large amounts of gas. Such activity is even considered as a risk of an unpredictable eruption. It is unpredictable because scientists cannot estimate when exactly the mountain could explode. Yes, yes, there is apparently a method in the madness of studying volcanoes - but the rangers still ask visitors to park their cars back to the crater, so it would be easier to escape. I was actually impressed that people were still allowed at the crater then. Standing at a mouth of an active volcano, an open gate to the Earth’s heart was overwhelming. To hear it groan, to see the Earth’s soul making its way to the top was awesome. And thrilling!

Published on Monday February 25th, 2008


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Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 03:49 PM rating by alfonsovasco

oh, there is another granada in nicaragua. we have a lovely granada in spain. thanks for the info.

Tue, Feb 26 2008 - 04:30 PM rating by rangutan

Brilliant experience very well described. A few too many 'I's but still interesting to read. You can avoid some of them like instead of; "Not far from Granada I went to see Volcan Masaya." one could write "Not far from Grenada is Volcan Masaya". Another example; "I was actually impressed that people were still allowed at the crater" could better read "It was impressive that people were still allowed in the crater". A trick around this is also to use "we" and "us" occasionally. This a very high **** say 4.4 can be improved. By reducing the 16 I's to about 10 or 12 would improve the impressions and the rating too.

Tue, Feb 26 2008 - 09:17 AM rating by davidx

Another amazing report with impressive pictures. Thanks.

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