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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

A Grand Time in Granada

NICARAGUA | Thursday, 20 December 2012 | Views [313] | Comments [1]

We caught the local bus from San Juan del Sur to Rivas and from there we jumped on to a connecting service to Granada.  Or so we thought but it turned out it was only going most of the way.  However, at a roundabout junction we were bundled out of the bus whereupon a Granada bound bus was flagged down for us.  The bus stopped in the centre of town which is small enough to walk round so we set off to find somewhere to stay.  The first couple of places were okay but felt too much like being in someone’s house.  They clearly had lots of rooms vacant so we didn’t think we’d struggle to find somewhere more suitable.  In the end we settled for Hostal Cocicolba which was fairly basic but then you can’t expect much for $16.  It was located in the heart of the city on a pedestrianized street – perfect.

Granada is billed as Nicaragua’s most touristy destination but again we didn’t find the place over-run or spoilt.  It’s a small, unassuming colonial town on the edge of Lago de Nicaragua – yep, that same body of water we ferried across to Isle de Omepete.  Many of the buildings have been lovingly restored or at the very least given a lick of brightly coloured paint.  There’s further improvement work going on with the pedestrianized street being extended down to the lakeshore.  The main cathedral dominated square has places to sup a cool drink under the trees and people watch.  City tours can be made whilst sitting in a carriage listening to the clip clop of your pony’s hooves.  We declined but it looked like an interesting alternative to the more typical hop on – hop off bus.

The following day we jumped on a chicken bus for the short ride to Masaya which is reputed to have one of the best artesian markets in the country.  The bus dropped us in a litter strewn dustbowl of a terminal and we wondered if we’d made a poor decision.  We looked to see where most people activity was taking place and plunged into the fresh market.  All very colourful but ordinary for us; we regularly purchased our veggies in just such an establishment.  As the row of vendors fizzled out so did the town – we’d picked the wrong route.  There had to be a good reason for the Lonely Planet to bang on about this place so we weren’t to be defeated.

Not wanting to push our way past plantains and potatoes again we doubled back through the shabby back streets until we found a main road.  This did indeed lead us to town and we found the craft market which is housed behind stone walls with pretty gardens inside.  By this point we were thirsty so went in search of a fresh fruit juice.  It took way longer than is healthy to find a place that wasn’t only selling beer or pop!   Then the juice we did have cost twice as much and wasn’t as tasty as tropical fruit juices tend to be.  We had a mooch around the market stalls but nothing really caught our eye – not that we were shopping.  To be honest you can see all the same stuff in the main square in Granada. We had a walk down to the lake which afforded great views of the volcano before backtracking to Granada.

Our final port of call before leaving Nicaragua is Managua, the capital city, which we are only going to in order to catch our bus to Honduras.  There’s nothing to do and see in the city but with the bus leaving at 5am we needed to be there the night before.  So instead of rushing away from lovely Granada we went down to the lake for a boat trip.  We’d looked into tours but they all seemed a little pricey so decided to go straight to the bloke with a boat.  We agreed on a 2-hour trip that would take us around several islands, albeit a fraction of the 600 odd they reckon to have.  It should have been a lovely little trip but in the end it was frustrating as we clearly weren’t getting the deal we’d settled on.  We quickly established that we had minimum Spanish and just wanted to enjoy the scenery and any birds that happened along.

Not only did he keep talking to us but the tour was more like a guided tour through an aqua housing estate.  Admittedly they were wonderful properties and it must be satisfying to live on your own island in a beautiful house.  But, we didn’t need to know that Bob from Boston lived in the white one and some rich Nicaraguan business tycoon owned another.  It displayed the stark contrast between the ostentatiously wealthy and abjectly poor peoples of Nicaragua.  As with many countries around the world the rich have gained their wealth through corruption and cheating.  We tried to get the message across to our boatman that we wanted to see the natural islands.  It looked like he’d got the message but then puttered along so slowly that we became increasingly tense.

An hour and a half into the journey we indicated that it was time to go back as we’d negotiated a 2-hour trip.  There was all manner of confusion / debate over the time and timings but we’d already sussed that he was spinning it out to try to get more money later.  Plus he was going so slowly that we were only getting the 1 hour route but paying for 2 hours.  On trying to explain that we didn’t have the luxury of time as we had to check out of our hotel he finally got the message and returned to shore.   It’s a shame the trip hadn’t been as straight-forward and relaxing as sitting back, watching the scenery go by whilst looking for birds.  The area is beautiful and we saw lots of birds so ultimately we were glad we’d done it.

By midday we were on another bus and an hour or so later in the capital city.  It doesn’t look or feel as dodgy as San Jose, Costa Rica but were not going to bother to investigate.  We’re staying in Hostel Los Felipe which is literally round the corner from the Tica Bus station where we need to be at 4.15am.  The $20 rooms are basic but just fine for a night before getting up at some ungodly hour!  The grounds are extensive and it’s a shame they haven’t made more of them with places to sit and maybe a simple little café.  I presume they feel they don’t need to bother as the only reason people are staying here is to catch an onwards bus.

Nicaragua may have niggled at times but that was only really the tours.  Other than that we’ve enjoyed our brief stint here and would love to come back and explore further one day.  There’s a laid back, simplistic feeling to the country that reminds us of Sri Lanka 15 years ago.  I’m sure tourism will steadily develop here but I hope not to the detriment to the country’s charisma and natural beauty.




As a fellow WorldNomads blogger, I really like your perspective on Granada! It's one of my favourite places, and like you said it's rather unspoilt. When I hear people critical of Granada because it's touristy I look at them like "what are you talking about?" Granada has a special place in my heart and one of those places permanently ingrained into my memory! Keep up the great work!

  kiwiaoraki Jan 9, 2013 6:39 PM

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