8 days - January 2018
After the young and bubbling Leon we went to Granada, 3 hours south of Leon.
The atmosphere and history of this city is quite different but they both have in common having been destroyed by an earthquake. Granada has been rebuilt in the 19th century hence the buildings well preserved.
They all have many different colours making Granada really charming. It was really hot again and we had the feeling that the locals start their life around sunset, getting out of their houses and playing soccer or cards in the streets.We did the same going out after 3pm and enjoying drinks on the main street :)
Granada in itself is not that big but there are many things to do around !
On our first night we met 3 fellow frenchies (Antoine, Florie and Amandine) with whom we ended up spending the week!
# Baseball game
Baseball is the most played game in Nicaragua. We were in Granada during the Latin America competition and took a public bus to reach Managua and attend one of the game. It was Curacao (I discovered it was a country !) vs Mexico so nobody was interested and we were a maximum of 30 people in the stadium . Actually there were more staff and policemen than people in the audience !
Still a good experience though. Apparently during the right season you can see national games in Granada and Leon.
# Isletas of Granada
Granada is next to a lake where a lot of mini islands have been formed. With our new friends we took a boat and discovered many of them including one with monkeys! So cool. Today they belong to rich Nicaraguan who come here on holidays. They do have some nice villas.
We had views on Mombacho volcano as well (every second day it's covered by cloud though). A great mini cruise in good company.
# Mombacho volcano
Speaking about Mombacho volcano always covered by clouds (like if it had a mini hat !), we decided to hike it and convince Florie and Amandine to follow us. From Granada we took a colectivo (a local bus that leaves once full and by full we mean like super full like Parisian or Japanese metro during peak hours !) and stopped at the national park.
From there you have 2 options to start the hike:
- pay $22 usd and get there by 4X4. We found this option really pricey for 7kms...
- walk 7kms , 40% steep to reach the summit and start hiking.
We didn't want to do any of the following options so we hitchhiked and convinced an American who had a 4x4 to take us there. The rangers from the park are super careful and checked many times that the guy knew how to drive a 4x4. We think a tourist got stuck once !
Arrived to the top we were in a micro climate. It was 30 degrees and super sunny in Granada but only 12 degrees, windy and rainy on top of Mombacho. I think Florie and Amandine are still mad at us ;)
We did the crater hike which took us 1h. We could see the crater of the volcano which is now a cloud forest. I now understand what a cloud forest is: a forest always in the clouds ! It was so lush (no wonder considering how much rain there was...) but we didn't enjoy any of the views because of the mist. It's in the cloud most of the days apparently but we did see it many times uncovered (and we still picked the wrong day !)
Still cool though. 3rd volcano hike for us in Central America!
# Masaya volcano
Among the many volcanoes surrounding the city there is one still active and with lava!
One night we took a tour to see that phenomenon. So impressive . We could see the smoke and the lava 20 meters behind us. The whole experience is great even though a bit like Disneyland with many shuttles and tourists. Still recommended though as it's not everyday you can see lava !
# La Merced Church
We went to the top of La Merced during sunset and stayed there around 2 hours to enjoy the views and ringing the bells ! Impressive views on the Mombacho (no clouds on that day!) and the cathedral in front of it on the main square.
The Cathedral is on the main square and easy to recognise with its yellow colour. The inside has some funny, recent murals about "Noah's Ark and picturing giraffes, elephants etc. A bit weird for a church but why not ?
The rooftop offers good views on the Isletas and on the Merced Church.
# Laguna de Apoyo
30 min from Granada can be found a Lagoon in a volcano crater. Laguna de Apoyo is a perfect getaway to enjoy fresher air and relax.
We went on a day trip there by public transport . Going first to Catarina by Colectivo (1 month from the trip we still yell "Catarina Catarina" similar to the driver trying to load its bus and yelling that every minute!) we headed up to the lookout: beautiful views on the lake. It's huge !
From there we were looking for a hike but never found the path so we took a tuk-tuk and headed to Diria to start a downhill hike to the lake and that was not really good actually... the highlight were the monkeys but the rest is not really interesting. Besides it was way longer than we thought and not really touristy so we couldn't find any public transport from the lake to the main road and had to ask a lift to an hotel. So while the lookout is amazing, I don't recommend the hike but just chilled out on the lake platforms. (Something we didn't have time to do because of the hike!)
That's it with Granada! We spent 1 week there, working more than usually and exploringthe city and the surroundings. A definite must-do while in Nicaragua !
# don't do the cruise on the Isletas with an agency. Go straight to the lake and negotiate there. It costed us $5usd per person for 2hours vs $15usd in agencies
# Mombacho on a budget:
Take a colectivo from Granada (20 cordobas). Stop at the national park. And then hitchhiked hoping a 4x4 takes you to the summit. Or walk but this part is not really interesting and so steep! Don't go if it's covered by clouds ;)
# you have to take a tour or rent a car to do the Masaya Volcano as they don't allow tourist to walk into the park after 4.30pm. We negotiated it at $15usd ($10 going to the national park).
# La Merced: $1 USD. At sunset it's really nice to see the colour changing and dominate the city!
# Laguna de Apoyo is a must-do while in Granada but don't spend any time doing the hike. Catarina Mirador is really nice though and you can go by colectivo.
# to go to Managua there are chicken buses every 30 min pretty much for 29 cordobas ($1 usd). It takes 1h15.