If you arrive in Granada post the liveliness of Leon you could be forgiven for feeling a little dissapointed. A walk along the previously touristic, but now abandoned river, feels a little post apocolyptic. Empty hostels and restaurants line the water, coupled with tour guides desperate to sell you boat trips to the nearby Isletas. But don’t be too disappointed, because once you scratch the surface you’ll find there’s plenty to keep you entertained on your stay. From bubbling volcanoes to a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s best cigar brands here’s my definitive guide on 10 awesome things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
1. VOLCANO MASAYA
Volcano Masaya, just outside of Granada is one one the worlds most active volcanoes. Everyday, tourists flock to make the ascent to the peak of the crater and watch the liquid hot magma bubble away. Most tourist operators in Granada will charge you about $20 – $25 US. But if you’re keen to DIY and save some money check out my guide on how to get to Volcano Masaya for less than $7.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $14 – $25USD | TIME NEEDED: 3 hours | VERDICT: Don’t miss
2. EAT LUNCH AT GARDEN CAFE
While the delicious Garden Cafe will set you back a few dimes it’s somewhere to head when you’ve had enough of rice and beans. And trust me, after 2-3 weeks in Nicaragua, you will have. The huge fresh salads, sandwiches and wraps will keep you full until well past dinner and are the perfect taste of home.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $6-$10 | TIME NEEDED: as long as you like | VERDICT: Worth checking out. This was one of my top things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
3. HIRE BIKES AND RIDE AROUND THE TOWN
When wondering what to do see in Granada Nicaragua, hiring bikes should be first on your list. The town is quite spread out and combined with the numerous hills and intense heat, it makes for an exhausting walk. Luckily Granada’s paved roads are perfect for riding. After some haggling you should be able to rent a bike for $5USD p/d. Cycle to the Isletas, the Mombacho Cigar Factory, around the park and just generally take in the cute painted houses.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $5 for the day | TIME NEEDED: half-day | VERDICT: Must-do
4. snap a pic in the colourful streets
The houses in Granada are extremely colourful. We spent an hour or so finding the perfect spot for our next Facebook profile pic.
QUICK FACTS: COST: Free | TIME NEEDED: 20 minutes | VERDICT: A great pit stop while exploring the town
5. VISIT The MOMBACHO CIGAR FACTORY
When researching the top things to do in Granada Nicaragua. I was surprised to see the Mombacho Cigar Factory tour come up again and again. However, Nicaragua is one of the planet’s largest producers of cigars and Mombacho (named after a nearby volcano) has garnered some of the world’s highest awards for quality. All of the cigars are handmade with numerous quality checks. The tour ($4USD) takes you through each stage of the process and you can even roll and smoke your own cigar for another $6USD. As a complete non-smoker the attention to detail that goes into every cigar was really interesting.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $4+ | TIME NEEDED: 1 hour | VERDICT: Must-do (If you haven’t been to Cuba)
6. Try Vigorón
Vigorón, pictured above, is a typical Nicaraguan dish comprised of slow cooked pork, yuka, fermented cabbage and a mouthwatering spicy sauce. You can grab this version at El Gordito on one of the corners of Parque Central. It’s is the best I’ve tried so far. Parque Central is also one of the nicest places to visit in Granada Nicaragua. So sit and chat with the locals while you enjoy this filling dish.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $3.5 | TIME NEEDED: 1 hour | VERDICT: Must-try
7. Climb the cathedral
Unlike the cathedral in Leon, we were able to climb this one without any issues. It’s almost like they wanted to take our money?! Weird. The climb takes about 3 minutes and will set you back $1USD. Head up here for 360 degree views of the city and some cool photo ops in the circular windows of the church.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $1 | TIME NEEDED: 30 mins | VERDICT: Must-do
8. Eat street food in parque central
At night Parque Central becomes a favourite amongst locals to chill and take advantage of the free wifi. There are a number of street-food vendors located around the park selling items from hot dogs to papusas. And while they’re not your traditional Nicaraguan fare they’re tasty and will fill you up for about $1.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $1+ | TIME NEEDED: an hour | VERDICT: worth it if your need to have a cheap day
9. Take a day trip to laguna de opoyo
The Lonely Planet dubs this as the best swimming spot in all of Nicaragua. For Nicaragua’s sake I hope this isn’t true. While the lake is huge and quite pretty, formed in the crater of an ex volcano. The ‘beach’ is rocky and uncomfortable. Add this to the music blaring out of the nearby restaurants and you don’t have a very pleasant atmostphere. There is the option to head to one of the nearby beach clubs and rent a bed for $6USD which includes the use of the facilities including kayaks. Which is probably recommend doing if you’re not on a scrimp day.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $3 for transport | TIME NEEDED: Half day | VERDICT: Only if you have time and aren’t heading to any beaches in the future.
10. A tour of las isletas
Another must-do according to the Lonely Planet. Honestly this was a pretty epic fail. What was promised to be a delightful morning checking out the local wildlife and stunning views via boat ended up being a tour of rich people’s houses. If you are really keen to check this out for yourself, head down to the lake (maybe take those bikes I mentioned earlier – they’ll let you take them on the boat ) and you’ll be approached by heaps of guides. Don’t pay anymore than $5 for an hour. And don’t bother with the two hour tour (they just drive the boat at half the speed).
QUICK FACTS: COST: $5 for transport | TIME NEEDED: 2 hours | VERDICT: Fail. I’d only head here if you’ve run out of things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
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