Beautiful, colonial, Granada, is surrounded by volcanoes, lakes and lagunas. We decided to set “camp” there and explore the area from there.
If I was to write only 1 thing about what made these few days so special, I would write AirBnB (wait…wait!). We stayed in the most gorgeous colonial house with the greatest hosts: Erik (Dutch) and Bertha (Nica – by the way, this is how they call themselves in short for Nicaragüense and is not offensive although it could sound it). Not only they had the lovely Rosa looking after us (cooking the nicest breakfasts) but they also had Batman & Robin (cuddliest cats) and Thor…the cutest Sharpei puppy ever #superheroes123. If you ever go to Granada and want a little haven of peace for your stay, lots of comfort, and a pool to cool down after a hot day, contact Erik. If he’s already full, look into Miss Margrits – Chris (a Londoner) has a beautiful and huge colonial guesthouse that he made into a hotel there. Of course this isn’t the budget/broke backpacker option.
My first impressions of Granada:
- There’s a lot of expats – but they’re young and entrepreneur.
- They live off tours: hike a volcano, swim in a laguna, zip line a jungle, visit an artisan market and a former political prison or learn the ancestral ceramic making techniques…
- They’ve got a lot of cute cafés and horses roaming free by the lake
- It’s hot
- They have gorgeous colourful doors
- They have amazing sets of indoor rocking chairs – we so want one for London!
- Colonial houses almost all have indoor patios opened on the rest of the house
As we didn’t have much time there we decided to go the “tourist” way and go on tours.
First tour: Laguna de Apoyo
If you ever hoped that both Jurassic Park and The Beach were real…you have to go to the Laguna de Apoyo. This place is a little eerie, and beautiful. The Laguna is actually a crater lake, so the water is naturally warm, and meant to be good for the skin with all its minerals. We borrowed a kayak and went on a little tour to see the shore from the lake: it’s green and lush and just beautiful. I was told it is home to species endemic to that laguna (and I’m picturing something like the Loch Ness…). We welcomed anything to escape the city heat with open arms but this was way more than “anything”.
Second tour: Mombacho hike
We’re rebels. So we asked for the tour no one does…the LONG hike at the top of the volcano. It took my cabbage sweetheart a bit of convincing as I’m not the best hiker but in the end it went a bit like that:
Me: hum..I’m not sure, they said you had to be in good form and that some of it was pretty steep…!?
Cabbage: don’t be a pussy. We’re adventurous.
Me: if you put it that way. Let’s do it.
The guide we had was great and made the nearly-4h hike really worth it. A 4×4 takes you nearly to the top of the chain of craters, where you can taste coffee and you hike the top. Some of it WAS pretty steep but it I didn’t regret it – although I might have said “we’re never going on a hiking holiday, ever”… Not that much for the striking views of the Isletas or the lake as it was overcast and we couldn’t see much but the jungle was gorgeous and we learnt so much about survival plants and flowers (we even ate some), we had some good laughs with the guide (we learnt that ‘cochon’ here can mean gay and/or coward) and we saw the pretty red-eye tree frog, it’s eggs, a sloth (he was even moving…at a decent pace, on our way in he was moving from the branch and by the time we came back, he’d made it to the one just on above) and a few howler monkeys.
The path was full of big spiderwebs, their inhabitants growing confident that no one was ever walking them anyway… By the end, my legs were shaking, I felt like my body temperature had gone up 10 degrees and also that the humidity had made me gain 5kg is sweat…but I did it. #superhero4 – ok maybe that wasn’t that superheroic but at least I have taken on the challenge and even managed to enjoy it.
There is another volcano close to Granada, called Masaya, and that’s an active volcano with REAL lava that you can actually see! Sadly, they closed it a couple of weeks before we arrived and it reopened a couple of days after we’d left… (Check the next posts to see if I manage to come back and do it on my own!).
I’ll be posting a video of the frog, proof it’s not plastic!
Third tour: Pueblos Blancos
This tour includes a few things: Masaya artisan market, the school of ceramic, Coyotepe fortress and the laguna (that we had already seen). There isn’t much to say about the market but the Ceramic school and the fortress were very interesting and we learnt quite a bit. Coyotepe fortress was originally built in 1893 to protect Masaya from North American troops. Under Somoza dictatorship in 1944, a dungeon was built below and it became a political prison and although it changed hands when the Sandinistas took control in 1979, it was used as a prison until 1983. I was 2 years old. I say that because this wasn’t just your normal prison. They had 3 levels of dungeons with torture cells, some cells had no light at all. In some, they crammed prisoners in so they couldn’t sit, in some others they couldn’t stand for days… We saw those cells, walked in even and some still have the stains of blood, feces and marks made by prisoners going crazy as they didn’t see the light for months… It could “host” up to 800 prisoners at once and 90% were men (I’ll let you imagine what happened to the 10% of women in there…). Locals believe it’s haunted and even the local dog doesn’t want to go down the 2nd level…I can’t blame him. That was less than 30 years ago. But it’s now owned by the scouts who finally gave Coyotepe’s tortured past some peace… We only took a few photos and they don’t relay the horror of it.
Other things we did:
- We went out clubbing! Erik happens to own Weekends which is a club on the beach (lake) #coolkids
- Cabbage played a spontaneous gig on our last night, at Café de los Sueños (opposite the school), with our hosts and their friends. It was of course a success! #superhero5
- Play with Thor as much as possible and run after him every time he’d steal one of our smelly socks #superhero vs #vikingGod
- Made friends #❤️
If I was to summarise I can’t really say that much about Granada as a city, we stayed mainly in the touristy center but Erik and Bertha shared not only their home with us but also their pets 😁 and most importantly their friends and kind hearts and that sure made it a success!
Next up soon…our adventures in the land of corn a.k.a Corn Islands