Located in the middle of Nicaragua, Granada is a small city filled with stunning architecture, great markets and well know nightlife. Although Granada is a well-known tourist hub in Nicaragua (and nothing is better getting off the beaten track) we couldn’t miss the chance to visit Granada. If you to are traveling through the country, chances are you too will pass by, so why not stop in and check it out! This is our guide to the top things to do in Granada and how to get there.
Getting to Granada
Since entering Nicaragua, chicken buses (old school buses likely from the US) have been my preferred transport. Cheap, easy to navigate and the best way to mix in with the locals. Although it’s not always the comfiest way to get around, it is the most interesting.
The chicken buses from the Costa Rica border with San Juan del Sur heading north all connect in Rivas. From Rivas the bus is two hours and runs direct to Granada. They depart every hour, however, the taxi drivers will tell you different (don’t listen to them). Cost – C$30 or US$1
From Leon in the north I simply needed to catch a bus from La Terminal de Buses, Leon to Managua. Here I transferred to another bus straight to Granada at the same bus terminal. The entire journey took 2.5 hours the whole way. Cost – Leon to Managua C$60 or US$2,
Managua to Granada C$29 or US$1
Many hostels and tour companies offer small shuttle buses that are air-conditioned and will pick up and drop off at your hostel. These are rather more expensive though can save some time and offer a lot more comfort.
The prices listed are from other travelers who took this option. The company they all went with was Gekko Trails Explorer, they have more prices on all their routes on their website.
Cost – San Juan del Sur to Granada US$12 pp
– Leon to Granada US$12 pp
– San Jorge/Rivas to Granada the taxi’s offer 4 people for US$25
*Please note – I have used this company from Leon, Nicaragua to El Tunco, El Salvador (12 hour journey at night). They are in no way a luxury service and our bus was more overcrowded than the chicken buses. Although I have heard no complaints on these shorter routes, it’s something to keep in mind.
Where to Stay in Granada
In Granada I stayed at two hostels, both had completely different vibes and styles.
1. Hostel Azul – This hostel had a quiet chilled vibe with good facilities and nice staff. The atmosphere here was still very social however also still quiet at night. This place is perfect for those wanting to relax in Granada and have a good night’s sleep.
2. Hospedaje La Libertad – This hostel is more for those wanting to party. Libertad had great drink specials a pool and Ping-Pong table, however, bathrooms are limited and not always clean.
Top Things to do in Granada
Visit the Masaya Volcano
This is my top pick of things to do in Granada. The opportunity to stare into an active volcano and watch lava splash up the craters walls was one not to miss. At night the Volcano glows like a forest fire in the horizon and it’s impossible to look away. Although you can visit the park during the day, it’s amazing at night and I highly recommended if you visit Granada. Also, this is one of the few volcanoes in Latin America which is completely accessible by car, no hiking required!
Cost/Other info – Through our hostel (Hospedaje La Libertad) we booked the tour for US$15, this included the entrance fee of US$10 and transport to the volcano. The tour was 3 hours from pickup to drop off with about 20 minutes spent at the volcano edge.
*Please note – The lava level can change day by day and the day I went was just visible. It could be smart to ask around to pick the best night to go when the lava is highest.
Visit Laguna de Apoyo
Although highly rated in other travel blogs I found this place to be somewhat of a disappointment and my least favorite of the things to do in Granada. The lake water is quite warm and doesn’t appear to be that clean. On the other hand, the trip to the lake is cheap and if you have half a day free it could be nice to get out of the city.
Cost – Getting there is easy, first go to the Masaya or Managua bus terminals (located near the city center at the markets) and tell the driver you are going to the Laguna (this cost C$20). The driver will then drop you on the main road at the second turn off (I got super worried when he simply drove past the first). Here, taxis will be waiting and are happy to make the trip for C$90 for a full car. Getting there cost me C$50 in total and the same coming back.
*Please note – I read a blog saying you could walk from the main road, however, please be aware it is 5km and not even close to being flat! It looked like a terrible walk.
Walk the colonial city and visit the Cathedral
As with most cities in Latin America, the buildings from the colonial time still stand and offer amazing photography opportunities. Near the main square the newly restored buildings allow you to step back in time. Also located in the main square is the Cathedral, for C$30 you can even climb the steps to the top. Visiting the Cathedral was well worth it and the views offered at the top were amazing. This is another top pick for me in terms of things to do in Granada.
Go Shopping at the Markets
Although not really my thing, Bailey did drag me around for a look. From what I saw advertised and according to Bailey, the clothes were very cheap. This is also the best place to get your fruit and vegetables, with prices as cheap as Bolivia! Avocados were C$10 (like $0.35)!
Where to go next
Leon – This is where the famous Volcano boarding is located. Cerro Negro is the only active volcano in the world where you can sandboard down and the views are breathtaking! This is a must do!
Isla de Ometepe – Wake up to the view of an active volcano, visit a spectacular waterfall and swimming in a natural spring are just some of the activities on Isla de Ometepe.
San Juan del Sur – A surfer’s paradise and a party animal’s playground. San Juan del Sur is my favorite destination in Nicaragua and also offers the best sunsets!
Granada is well worth checking out, though most activities are located outside of the city it makes a perfect base to explore. The city is also really cheap and if you’re coming from San Juan del Sur you will be in shock at the price difference. I hope you enjoyed this guide of things to do in Granada, please let me know in the comments below.
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