Things to Do, See in Granada
Once you arrive in Granada, head to Parque Central, around which the city was built after Christopher Columbus discovered the area. Parque Central is the city's social gathering center. This is your spot if you want to find souvenirs, the perfect spot to enjoy lunch, do some people watching or sip local rum in an outdoor café.
There is so much to see and do. A few are listed here or visit a tour operator that will help you set up a schedule.
Colonial Home Tours
Tours meet every Tuesday at 10 am
Cafe de Arte – Behind the Ole Boutique (side entrance)
1 block east of the Central Park down Calzada Blvd.
Or, call in Nicaragua: 8457-8423, to arrange special tours
$15 Person – 100% of Proceeds Benefit Children’s Education
Behind Closed Doors……
If you’ve been lucky enough to have participated in one of the colonial house tours in cities such as San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, you know how amazing old colonial houses can be. Finally, Granada has begun tours of its magnificent beauties and all the proceeds benefit educational projects.
The Churches of Granada
Granada is a colonial city and there are six main churches reflecting the architectural style of a bygone era. The Cathedral, La Merced, Guadalupe, Xalteva, San Francisco and María Auxiliadora all have interesting historical backgrounds and yet are very different. All are within easy walking distance of the Parque Central or use the horse carriages to get around. Taxis are very inexpensive.
Painted Pony Horse Tours
Horse rides through the countryside of Granada and a stop at the brink of Laguna Apoyo where can dismount, take some photos or just rest. For details go to www.paintedponytours.com.
Also, riding lessons, rent a horse and other horsing around.
Bella del Mar Double Decker Boat Ride
Take the Bella del Mar boat ride on Lake Nicaragua (Cocibolca) and go down the water slide when they stop to let people swim in the lake. The tour is available from Thursday to Sunday, 11:00 AM departing from O'Shea's Restaurant on Calzada. http://labelladelmar.com/
Granada Ferry to the Isletas
Sundays at 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM $2 tickets.
Fortaleza La Polvora
The Polvora is an 18th century fort (built in 1748) that's open for tours. A few historical exhibits are available on the main level, you can climb the towers for views of the quiet city streets, or wander through the lovely courtyard. Supposedly this was built to protect Granada from pirates but its location makes this suspect unless the pirates left their ship and marched down Xalteva to attack. You can even rent the fort for a party or wedding.
Lake Cocibolca is also known as Lake Nicaragua and is the 10th largest fresh-water lake on earth and is inhabited by Bull Sharks, informally named the Nicaragua Shark. During the day this is a nice place to catch a breeze and there are many Nicaraguan families that come here to pass the time. Vendors pass selling all kinds of food. Walk along the parks there and at the end of the road is where you can get a panga for a tour of the Granada islands. Try fishing.
The local market is definitely worth a glimpse, it's chaotic little market stands are where you can get almost everything. The market is open everyday except holidays around and in the old Market hall, you can't miss it. It’s hard to define the market area since it encompasses the old Market Hall and many of the streets leading to it. We’ve seen DVDs there before they were released in the states. Fruit, vegetables, clothes, shoes, spices, bicycle parts, you name it. Be careful since it can be crowded and many a camera and wallet has disappeared there.
The streets themselves with their charming Colonial colored houses are always worth a wander. Granada is sometimes called the city of doors for a couple reasons. First, most of the doors are massive and tall. Second, they are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get. In this case, you never know what you will see on the other side of the doors. A similar door may open to a hovel with dirt floors or a beautifully restored colonial home. People are friendly here, they may invite you in to see the house.
Panga Boat Tour of the Isletas
Take a boat tour of the Granada islands which were formed when Mombacho volcano blew its top off. Boats leave from the marina at Puerto Asese. Your guide will tell you how all the islands are owned by millionaires tough there are actually some that you can buy reasonably. You will even visit an old fort that is on an island. Not to mention you will see monkeys that live on one of the islands. You can stop at eat at an island restaurant.
Tierra Y Agua
These are four rural cooperatives located on the slopes of the volcano Mombacho, on Zapatera Island and nearby in Granada. Four different locations where you will discover and explore amazing landscapes, volcanoes, islands, lagoons and pre-Colombian archeological ruins. You can work along a farmer or a fisherman to see their lives. Accommodations, typical meals, local guides, transportation, bike- and/or horseback-riding are all available. firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 2552-0238
Come and help the families of a very poor quarter: La Prusia. "Casas de la Esperanza" helps them to build their homes and offers development courses. You have the opportunity of volunteering for free in their projects: www.casas-de-la-esperanza.org. Be sure to see the Helping Nicaragua section of this website for many volunteer opportunities.
Take a canopy tour, where you will go flying on cables through the rainforest trees on the side of Mombacho Volcano. I had never tried this and I don’t like heights but by the fourth tree I was doing it Superman style. Quite a rush!
Try Interesting Drinks
You see the locals drinking fluids of every color in little plastic bags, some are liquid and some are frozen. Try some out but they like things real sweet here. And don’t forget, the best coffee in the world is available here.
Try Real Fresh Fruit
You think fruit is fresh in the grocery store back home? Try the fruit down here. How about 25 kinds of bananas, especially the red bananas or apple bananas. Mangos are practically given away when in season.
Ride a Chicken Bus
A chicken bus (Spanish: "autobus") is our name for the colorful, modified and decorated US school buses which were donated to Nicaragua and is now a transit bus that transports goods and people between communities. The word "chicken" refers to the fact that rural Nicaraguans regularly transport live animals on such buses, a practice that visitors from other countries often find remarkable. Take a bus to Masaya and visit the local handcraft market. Some are comfortable and some still have the seats for little people. I was able to find a bus from my old USA school district still having the high school name on it.
Visit a Volcano
We have 28 volcanoes in Nicaragua and 19 are active. Be tough and trek up or down one. Relax and visit a volcano crater lake like the Laguna de Apoyo. Stay at Norome or San Simian and spend a couple days there. The Laguna de Apoyo is a deep Volcano crater lake and presumed to have the clearest water in Nicaragua, you can swim and even snorkel in there.
The Choo-Choo Train
There's a multi-colored weird train that goes all around town, originally for kids, but so what, you’re on vacation. It plays the latest reggaeton-tunes over and over again and it only costs five cordobas. Hop on where ever you find it.
Casa Tres Mundos (Casa de Leones)
This is the cultural center where there's often art shows, concerts or movies shown. It has a gallery of local artisans which are happy to show you around.
Horse Carriage Rides
What is more colonial? Go to the lake, see the churches or just go around the park. Be sure to nail the price before you go. There are three prices here: those for the locals, those for the expats living here and those for tourists. The latter are higher.
Most of the dance clubs are now down by the lake and are located near each other. The action doesn’t start until 10 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Good places to practice your salsa and reggaeton. They like it loud here so get on the dance floor, if possible, and just vibrate.
Much, Much More
Many of the Granada events are posted at http://granadahappenings.com/. Check with your hotel or a local tour operator for more activities, details and prices.