It took me a few days to get used to Nicaragua, and Granada was the perfect place to ease into the culture.
First good surprise: Nicaragua is very cheap compared to Costa Rica. Everything is about half price, food, accommodation, etc. It also has a great mix of culture and outdoor experiences and the country is beautiful.
In a way, Granada reminded me of Antigua, in Guatemala: a nice colonial city, big enough to explore and small enough to walk around, the brightly painted buildings, the volcanoes around, the laid-back yet sophisticated feel and the mix of culture and natural beauty.
I spent three nights at La Casita, a small hostel on Calle Libertad. Not that the names of the streets matter here—although I find this one lovely—because locals invariably use the “media cuadra” system. When you ask for direction to, let’s say, the supermarket, instead of saying “oh, it’s on Calle 3 and Avenida 2”, they step out of whatever place they are and gesture with conviction toward the street: “See this street? Okay, not that one. Walk two blocks this way, one block that way, go up half a block and then it’s only three blocks on your left. Easy, right?”
In Granada, everything is happening around the Parque Central, La Calzada (the main pedestrian street with all the restaurants and bars) and the Atraversada (a chaotic street leading to the market). I didn’t want to eat on La Calzada, where food is overpriced and not so good (I didn’t come to Granada to eat a freaking pizza!) so I hunt for local digs. I found a great one, on Calle Atraversada: Los Bocaditos. This local eatery had it all and made gallo pinto like no other, for just $4-$5 for a full dinner.
From Granada, I explored Las Isletas, took a day trip to Masaya and another trip to Volcan Masaya. I walked everywhere, from the busy market to the quiet residential neighborhoods, from the tourist district to the shore of the Lake Nicaragua.
I loved it. I didn’t want to leave… but at the same time, I didn’t want to stay too long. Better leave on a good impression.
You can see the complete set of Nicaragua on Flickr.