Travel in Nicaragua: Grand Sights in Granada

Granada is the oldest colonial city in Central America, and walking through its streets feels like you’re literally stepping back in time.

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Cathedral of Granada

The Spanish classic architecture surrounds you, with beautifully embellished doorways, crown molding, and a well-kept colorful facade.
DSC_3106Now 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. 😀DSC_3266

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!

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Flor de Caña Rum signs for a vintage feel

I saw beautifully ornate tiles lining the city sidewalks.

DSC_3115There were horsemen riding carriages down the cobblestone streets.DSC_3170Little girls in traditional dress were playing tag outside the church.DSC_3125 - EditedAn old cobbler was taking a nap on his shoe-shinning stand.DSC_3116I found an old fashioned barber shop giving haircuts in a retro atmosphere.DSC_3295And for an added bonus, I even found this unexpected street art. ❤DSC_3173Anyway, 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.

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Iglesia La Merced

From there I had 360° views of the mountains, the lake, and the charming colonial buildings, covered with red roof tiles.DSC_3276DSC_3284DSC_3291DSC_3292 - EditedG1276995_1495841468623_high

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.DSC_3127On 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. DSC_3128I 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.

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In addition to the three leaves for flavor, there is a binding leaf used to wrap everything together.
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Here I am, looking confident at the cigar press. Hah! 😛

I chose to make mine light, with mostly volado leaves, as a gift, but they also make stronger cigars as well.DSC_3162While 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. 😀DSC_3161 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.

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las isletas

The islands were formed thousands of years ago, after Volcano Mombacho erupted, throwing huge rocks all over this lake.
18673324_10106814286247617_1964258835624404856_oSome of the islands are now owned by local fishermen, since the lake is teeming with tarpon, sawfish, and even bull sharks! 😮DSC_3189Other islands are now owned by fancy hotels and even millionaires, like the vacation home of the owner of Flor de Caña Rum.DSC_3240That 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! 😮DSC_3218Although I’d love my own private island, I’m still on a backpacker’s budget, so I decided just to tour the islands instead. 😉G1256915_1495841590566_highI 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.DSC_3184On my tour was a group of college students, who are down here completing an internship in Costa Rica.DSC_3176The boat ride began by passing through mangroves and low-hanging trees, home to heron and even caiman. DSC_3248DSC_3263From 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. DSC_3192DSC_3213Now the first island we visited housed an old fortress that used to protect the city of Granada from pirates. DSC_3205Granada 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.14533e8a14e216f03a0e173a1cd82cffFrom 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. :/DSC_3233

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mango for the monkeys

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. 😎 🌴DSC_3463
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. 🙂

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TL: Oasis common area, ML: Pure gym, BL: Adorable tortoise at Pure, R: Oasis pool

Cost: 10 USD/night including free pancake breakfast, free coffee and purified water, and free WiFi

Getting There:

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.

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