Granada is a magical place. As the oldest city in North America, founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (a Spanish conquistador), Granada’s charm has been attracting people from all over the world for decades. Her captivating colonial architecture, whimsical colorful streets, and gorgeous culture is enough to make you want to plant yourself at one of many outdoor cafes on the main plaza and watch the world go by for days.
Unfortunately I only had 24 hours in this lovely colonial treasure but I made sure to cram in as much as possible. I spent the morning on foot touring the four main colonial churches and rambunctious streets, ate wonderful meals at Granada’s delightful outdoor restaurants, took an evening sunset tour of Las Islets, and the next morning climbed neighboring volcano Mombacho. It was an awful lot of rushing around in a short amount of time but I’m glad I did it because Granada is amazingly delightful. It is also a photographer’s dream!
Come take a walk with me and see for yourself.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Granada was check into my lovely hotel, The Hotel Plaza Colon. It was the perfect place to base myself for my visit to Granada, centrally located right on the main plaza with a gorgeous front patio and private balconies offering a spectacular view of the plaza and main cathedral. The staff was warm, friendly and helpful and I specifically enjoyed the delicious cafe shop and wine bar with outdoor seating.
Once I figured out my game plan for the day, I set off on foot in the hot, tropical weather common almost year-round in Nicaragua. I had a guidebook but honestly never read it as I prefer to discover a new place similar to opening up the first page of a new book. I like to slowly unravel it with no preconceived notions and read about it after I’ve seen it.
I left the hotel with only a map and some basic instructions by the concierge on where to go and what to see. Given the relatively small, compact size of Granada, it was very easy to find my way around and see everything over the course of 3-4 hours. There were also plenty of tourists so I never felt uneasy being alone.
My first mission was to visit the main churches of Granada which warrants an entirely separate post (that is coming soon). From the top of the bell tower at the Iglesia La Merced, I got a stunning 360-view of the city. It was the perfect vista to begin my tour of Granada.
Despite it being the dry season and a five-year devastating drought in Nicaragua, I was surprised by how green it was in Granada. It was much more verdant than the coast of San Juan del Sur which was shockingly brown and barren. The greenery juxtaposed with the intense, colorful hues of the buildings brought this city to life. I could hardly contain my joy at photographing all the brilliantly painted buildings and homes.
Just like Antigua, Guatemala, another beautiful colonial city I’ve visited, I adored the terra cotta roofs, the various stages of decaying and chipping paint, and the antique light fixtures. Like most Central American countries, it was impossible to avoid the pell mell of electrical wires in my pictures. But in a sense, that adds to the feel of the place as that is Central America.
I loved watching and photographing every day life in Granada. As the tourists hummed by speaking English, French and other European languages, the Nicaraguans went about their daily life shopping, going to school, and taking their siesta at noon. As soon as it hit lunch time, the once lively city became a ghost town with shuttered windows and doors and not a soul on the street except me.
After a couple of hours walking in the intense afternoon heat (it had to reach at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit) it became apparent why the siesta is needed. I almost collapsed in exhaustion but at least I got these beautiful pictures. But maybe they would have been better if there were some people in them.
By there o’clock I had enough of the heat, so I went back to the hotel and dove into the cool waters of the pool. I would have loved to have stayed there all day long relaxing but time was ticking. I had much more to see of Granada before the sun set. I took a quick shower, and was off again photographing the afternoon light and life of the city as it began to reawaken.
Exhilarated by my fantastic day in Granada, I finished it off by eating dinner at El Tercer Ojo. I laughed in surprise when I realized the translation of the restaurant is “the third eye”. How fitting for me? It was a wonderful day in Granada and if I go back to Nicaragua, I will be sure to use Granada as my base since there is so much to do around there and it is a wonderful place.
If you go:
Granada is located only about an hour’s drive from Managua and is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the area. I hired a private driver from my hotel in Managua who brought me directly to my hotel in Granada for $50. I stayed at the Hotel Plaza Colon which I would highly recommend. It is beautiful, reasonably priced, and in a perfect, central location. The fantastic concierge, Victor, set me up with all my tours and was extremely helpful.