Granada is the oldest colonial city in Central America, and walking through its streets feels like you’re literally stepping back in time.
The Spanish classic architecture surrounds you, with beautifully embellished doorways, crown molding, and a well-kept colorful facade.
Now with only two full days in this city, I found three grand ways to enjoy Granada. And this glimpse of the city was not only gorgeous, but also budget-friendly. 😀
1. Stroll the Streets
The first thing I did on arrival was walk the city streets, where I found details that make this city absolutely exquisite and unique!
I saw beautifully ornate tiles lining the city sidewalks.
There were horsemen riding carriages down the cobblestone streets.Little girls in traditional dress were playing tag outside the church.An old cobbler was taking a nap on his shoe-shinning stand.I found an old fashioned barber shop giving haircuts in a retro atmosphere.And for an added bonus, I even found this unexpected street art. ❤Anyway, I found strolling the streets to be a photographer’s dream, and the best part was, it’s absolutely free! That being said, to get a grand look at the city from above, I paid 1 USD to climb to the top of Iglesia La Merced.
2. Learn How to Roll Cigars
Now although I don’t smoke cigars, I love learning new things, so I decided to take a free tour at the Doña Elba Cigar Factory.On the tour I learned about the different types of dried tobacco leaves used to roll cigars. The inside of the cigar is made up of three types of leaves: ligero, seco, and volado. These leaves give strength and flavor to the cigar. I also decided to make my own cigar by rolling up a combination of the leaves, placing them into a mold, tightening that mold with a cigar press, then wrapping up the finished product.
I chose to make mine light, with mostly volado leaves, as a gift, but they also make stronger cigars as well.While I was there, I also met three guys from the States who are here working on a non-profit called Beauti of Hope. The man in the middle owns three Aveda salons, and is trying to give back, by putting local girls here through beauty school. He’s always looking for volunteer beauticians who want to come down for a week or two, to share their skills, and also enjoy the beauty of this country. 😀 Cost: Free tour and 5 USD to roll your own cigar
3. Tour Las Isletas
The city of Granada sits next to Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, and within that lake are Las Isletas- over 365 mini islands.
The islands were formed thousands of years ago, after Volcano Mombacho erupted, throwing huge rocks all over this lake.
Some of the islands are now owned by local fishermen, since the lake is teeming with tarpon, sawfish, and even bull sharks! 😮Other islands are now owned by fancy hotels and even millionaires, like the vacation home of the owner of Flor de Caña Rum.That being said, many of these islands can also be rented for less than 500 USD/weekend, with houses accommodating up to 15 people. Even further, some of these islands are for sale, starting at only 325,000 USD! 😮Although I’d love my own private island, I’m still on a backpacker’s budget, so I decided just to tour the islands instead. 😉I took a boat tour with Erick Tours, which lasted three hours, and included a stop at a fortress, a monkey island, and an island with a hotel pool.On my tour was a group of college students, who are down here completing an internship in Costa Rica.The boat ride began by passing through mangroves and low-hanging trees, home to heron and even caiman. From there, we rode out onto open water, where we were struck by the strong heat of the sun, and also saw the truly massive size of this lake. Here we cruised by kayaks, as well as, cormorants, all trying to keep cool. Now the first island we visited housed an old fortress that used to protect the city of Granada from pirates. Granada was an important trading center from the 17th-19th century, which made it a prime target for pirate attacks, including ones from the well-known Captain Henry Morgan.From there we went to an island with three spider monkeys, apparently owned by a veterinarian. It seems to be a big attraction now, with many boats puttering by to feed them food.
The last island we stopped at had a hotel with an outdoor pool. Here, I decided to enjoy a coconut water and relax in this tropical paradise. 😎 🌴
Cost: 14 USD. (the tour price was 20-30 USD but I haggled down to 14) Every price here seems negotiable! 😛
Overall, these are just three grand things to do in Granada, with many more activities yet to be explored. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the city. Up next I’ll heading to the beach, to try my hand at surfing. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then. 🙂
Where to Stay:
I stayed at Oasis Hostel, which had a friendly staff and a nice pool. I also liked how they included a free gym pass at Pure, since it was nice to workout, and do something non-touristic for a change. 🙂
Cost: 10 USD/night including free pancake breakfast, free coffee and purified water, and free WiFi
To get from León to Granada, I took local transportation. First, I took a minibus to Managua, the capital, then I took a chicken bus to Granada. It cost less than 3 USD total and took about 3 hours.