Granada was founded by Hernandez de Cordoba in 1524 on the western shore of Lake Cocibolca. As the city's importance grew (eventually sharing regional control with Antigua, Guatemala) so did its appeal as a target for enemies of Spain. English, Dutch and French pirates attacked the city, after navigating the Rio San Juan and Lake Cocibolca. Its greatest injury came under orders from William Walker, whose men burned Granada to the ground as they were driven from town.
Despite the scars and scuff-marks, many travelers fall in love with Granada at first site. The central plaza (or Parque Colon) is lined with symbols of a glorious past: the yellow and red cathedral, the colonnaded Casa de los Leones, and grand hotels (some of which have been lovingly restored). Two blocks northwest are the pastel blue Convent of San Francisco and its collection of pre-Columbian stelae and statures from nearby Zapatera Island. To the west, the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced provides panoramic views of the city and lake.
Visitors to Granada can also enjoy carriage rides, kayak trips through the nearby cluster of volcanic islands (Las Islitas), and tours of local cigar factories and coffee farms. For a more poignant outing, we recommend a stop at Granada's elaborate cemetery; amid the ornate monuments are the humble tombs of very young Sandinistas.
Volcan Mombacho, a cloud forested giant located just south of Granada, makes for a fine day trip. Mombacho's slopes are lined with trails and home to three species of monkey and more than 160 species of birds.
The market town of Masaya, 30 minutes to the west, is famous for its hand-carved masks, finely detailed pottery, and guitar shops. Masaya's landscape is dominated by its namesake volcano. The volcano's active crater is topped with a huge crucifix carefully placed to keep the devil from escaping. This is one of only three calderas in Central America that can be reached by car; instructions recommend parking nose-out in case a speedy escape is necessary.
Granada is easily reached by car from Managua (30 miles to the northwest) and private transfers can be arranged. In general, the best time to visit is December through March, when rains have past but the landscape is still fresh and green. September and November marks the height of the May to November rainy season.
Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Granada and throughout Nicaragua. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
"There is taste in variety, and variety in taste."