Granada was founded by Hernandez de Cordoba in 1524 on the western shore of Lake Cocibolca (Lago Nicaragua).
The city’s importance grew, and it eventually shared regional control with Antigua, Guatemala. With its rise in prominence, Granada became a more appealing target for enemies of Spain.
English, Dutch, and French pirates attacked the city after navigating the Rio San Juan and Lake Cocibolca.
Its greatest loss came under orders from William Walker, the American filibuster whose men burned Granada to the ground in 1854 as they were driven from town.
In spite of its scars and scuff-marks, many travelers fall in love with Granada at first sight.
The central plaza (Parque Colon) is lined with symbols of a glorious past.
Visitors to Granada can enjoy the red and yellow Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral, colonnaded Casa de Los Leones, and grand luxury hotels (some lovingly restored).
Two blocks northwest sits the pastel blue Convent of San Francisco and its collection of pre-Columbian stelae and statues from the lake’s Zapatera Island.
To the west, the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced offers panoramic views of both the city and nearby lake.
Leisure Travel Activities: Birding & Hiking
Visitors interested in leisure travel activities in Granada can enjoy:
- Carriage Rides Through Granada
- Kayaking Through a Cluster of Volcanic islands (Las Islitas)
- Local Cigar Factory Tours
- Tours of Nicaraguan Coffee Farms
For a more poignant outing, stop at Granada’s elaborate cemetery.
Visitors to the Granada Cemetery will find the humble tombs of very young Sandinistas, alongside the ornate monuments of presidents, generals, and famous poets.
Volcan Mombacho, a cloud-forested giant located just south of Granada, makes for a fine day trip.
Mombacho’s slopes are lined with trails. The forest is home to three species of monkey and over 160 species of birds.
Market Town of Masaya
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— locally-known as Vulcan Masaya.
The volcano’s active crater is topped with a huge crucifix, carefully placed by a priest to keep the devil from escaping.
This is one of only three calderas in Central America that can be reached by car.
Parking signs recommend orienting your vehicle nose-out, in case a speedy escape is necessary.
Getting to Granada
Granada is easily reached by car from Managua (30 miles to the northwest) or as a day trip from the Pacific Coast beach resorts.
In general, the best time to visit is December through March, when rains have subsided but the landscape is still fresh and green.
September and November mark the height of the May-to-November rainy season.
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