Granada, Nicaragua. An Overview.   Leave a comment

Granada, Nicaragua is the oldest mainland city in the Americas.  Its origins date back to 1524 and much of its colonial heritage is still to be found in a leisurely stroll through the city.  Being a city of small area, you can find a wealth of history within a short walking distance of the main square, and Granada has quite a history.

Granada was founded on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the 19th largest freshwater lake on the planet.  The area upon which the city was built is flat and the lack of inclines makes it a cyclists or walkers paradise.  Many of the cities inhabitants use bicycles to get around.

Volcan Mombacho - an impressive backdrop to the city of Granada

Volcan Mombacho - an impressive backdrop to the city of Granada

Wherever you find yourself in Granada, two main features will dominate the landscape.  The city lies at the foot of Volcan Mombacho, an active stratovolcano that towers to 1344 m (4409 ft) above the city.  It can be seen from many vantage points on most of the city’s streets.  The volcano is a national park and lies an easy bus or taxi ride from the city centre.  The park service provides regular departures in transport trucks from the park entrance up to the summit of the volcano.  Once at the top, the views of the surrounding plains interspersed with lakes and volcanoes are outstanding.  Looking down on Granada you can see just how small the city actually is.  You can see Lake Nicaragua with its islands, Las Isletas, caused by an eruption of Mombacho itself.  On a clear day you can see Laguna Apoyo, Volcan Masaya and in the opposite direction, the island of Ometepe with its twin volcanic peaks of Volcan Concepción and Volcan Madera.

Street View of Mombacho Street view of Mombacho Flat in all directions.

Within the city the dominant feature is the Cathedral, originally built in 1583, but destroyed several times and with the construction of the current neoclassical style building having been finished in 1915.  The cathedral provides a colorful backdrop to the main square which is surrounded by hotels and restaurants as well as serving as the starting point to walk down La Calzada, the main street leading from the town centre down to the lake front.  La Calzada was recently pedestrianized and at sunset the boulevard comes alive with welcoming lights, sounds and smells as the many bars and street cafes brim with people enjoying a night out.  There is also a lot of interesting and often amusing street entertainment as well as stalls selling locally made jewelry.

Cathederal dominates the city skyline The plaza in front of the cathedral Sice view of cathedral

Granada is hot and dry most of year round.  The pace of life is very relaxed; nobody here is in a hurry.  Many of the taxis are horse drawn carriages, the taxi rank being found in the central plaza at the opposite side of the cathedral.  If you are witness to a funeral procession, again, the hearse will be drawn by horses.  It is as if life stood still in Granada.

Taxi rank - Granada style Hearse - Granada style

There is another side to the city though.  Whenever there is the opportunity for a celebration or festival, the local populace wholeheartedly embraces the occasion.  Many times I have witnessed street parades, fireworks and what would appear to be religious processions, without actually having any idea of the event being commemorated.

All in all, Granada is a wonderful city in which to spend some time, just to relax and enjoy the local culture or as a base to explore many of the wonderful historical, geological and natural landscapes that are just a short trip away from the city limits.  The people are welcoming and friendly and it always is with sadness and a heavy heart that I have to leave it all behind.  But I always know that I will be back and sooner rather than later.


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