Granada is a beautiful colonial city in Nicaragua, and is one of the most-known cities in the country.
Located right on the shores of Lake Nicaragua - Granada has so much to offer with its fun, charm, and laid-back atmosphere.
We stayed there for 4 wonderful nights, and had the adventure of a lifetime!
No Nicaragua backpacking itinerary would be complete without a visit here and, with so much to see and do you'll want to allow at least a couple of days here.
To help you plan your visit, I’ve taken the time to write out the best things to do in Granada, Nicaragua!
Plus some extra information that you will hopefully find useful!
Granada is the central point on the typical Nicaragua itinerary, so it’s usually a middle spot for people and easy to get to.
Just like the rest of Nicaragua, there is no Uber or ride sharing apps (unless you’re in the capital), so you will need to get around by Tuk-tuk, taxi or foot within the city.
If you are taking a tour, then your transport will be included, and if you’re visiting sights within the Granada city, you can get to everywhere via foot.
Taxis are much more expensive than other parts of Nicaragua, so haggle hard for a good rate.
Another popular way to get around Granada is by horse-drawn carriage and you will find them all over the city. This form of transport usually consists of a 1.5 tour that will show you best sites.
However, as with anything to do with animals we also say to look at the condition of the horse first. If they don't look like they're being well looked after - definitely give this a miss!
Some people even choose to hire a moped to explore but that's not really necessary here as you will find local buses running in the city. Although it can take a while to get around by bus the tickets are so cheap!
Granada has lots of different options when it comes to hotels. Everything is actually well-priced and you will be spoilt for choice.
I’ve recommend 5 top hotels in Granada, including the hotels Bradley and I stayed in which are both perfect for couples.
You can find our roundup of the best hotels in Granada (Nicaragua) here.
Okay, so now for the part you came for: the top things to do in Granada. You can easily see all these things within a 3-4 day period!
If you're looking for things to do in Granada then don't miss out on visiting the main plaza or Parque Central de Granada as it's often known.
This part of the city is famous for its beautiful fountains and market stalls selling souvenirs so allow some time to just wander around.
You'll also find plenty of restaurants and ice cream vendors here too so you've got lots of dining options.
However, the Main Plaza is most famous for its spectacular cathedral as its architecture is pretty special. With it's colonial design and bright yellow/orange colour - this cathedral is definitely worth a visit!
Although you can visit here in the day, this area of Granada gets lively at night so I'd recommended spending some time here after the sun has gone down.
The Granada cathedral is probably the most beautiful building in all of Nicaragua (in my opinion).
It’s bright, stunning and well worth a visit, especially with it's wonderful colonial design and bright yellow/orange and white coloring.
This cathedral dominates the city skyline with two distinctive bell towers and a dome. Of course you can get your pictures from the outside, but it’s actually very beautiful inside too.
Even better - it's FREE to enter so is the perfect attraction to visit if you're looking to save some cash.
Try and visit when a service is on too and you’ll get to experience everyone singing hymns which is quite the experience.
Trust me - visiting this cathedral is one of the top things to do in Granada!
When you get to the cathedral, you’ll notice you will have a hard time trying to get a picture of this magnificent building from the front without the trees blocking it.
However, don't worry as I've got the perfect solution for you!
You can head up to Iglesia La Merced which is another beautiful church nearby and walk up its bell tower. At just $1 it's a steal to enter, especially once you get to see the views from the top.
Once you've climbed up the bell tower, you'll be rewarded with stunning views of Granada Cathedral and the city in general!
This makes for a beautiful sunset location so could be a nice romantic place to go in Granada if you’re travelling with a partner. You'll also want to make sure you've got a great-quality camera to catch the moment!
READ MORE: Getting around Nicaragua
This is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Granada! And I’ve got some money saving tips for you.
Now, the Apoyo Lagoon is like a “crater lake” and it’s between volcanoes. It’s a massive lake that’s a perfect swimming temperature, and it’s great to tube in, paddleboard and kayak.
When you’re chatting to the tour agencies, they will quote you around $20-25 for a day to this area.
That will include your transport, your entrance to the hostel on the lakefront, use of kayaks, tubes and that’s it.
The name of the hostel you go to is Paradiso and it’s the standard place all the tours go to. It’s right on the beach front and it’s the hostel that gives you free access to tubes, sun loungers and kayaks (small fee for paddle boards) included in the entrance price.
Actually if you message them on Facebook and book DIRECT it costs $10 per person, for transport there and back, all the stuff I mentioned above, and free tea and coffee. 10!!!
The agencies are charging 20-25, when it actually costs 10. They pick you up from your hotel/hostel and drop you back there.
Pick up is around 9 am, and you get taken home at 4pm. You can actually do a volcano tour with them (that I mention below) for $25, and you go to the volcano and then they drop you home. (including the day at the lake too and everything mentioned above)
The hostel itself is great, there is a great bar serving a wide range of fantastic food of different cuisines. Dishes are around $6 but the food is fresh and delicious. I had a mozzarella salad!
Drinks are available and excellent. It’s $2 for a nica libre (Which is white rum).
But you simply spend your day relaxing as you wish. Catch up on your tan, swim in the lake, float in tubes in the lake, kayak around the lake, or read a good book, play cards or board games, play pool or paddle board!
I warn you, it is super warm there. I put layers and layers and layers of suncream on, and I still got badly burnt (I write this 10 days later and I still have burn marks- yes seriously).
Eventually I just had to stay in the shade to avoid burning. So be careful.
This is an excellent day out to unwind and chill!
So, I love volcanoes, I really do. I’ve been fascinated by them since I learnt about them in Geography lessons as a child and on my bucket list I wanted to climb volcanoes (check), see a crater lake (check), surf down a volcano (check) and see REAL magma...CHECK!
You take this tour in the evening, and it doesn’t involve any hiking.
You drive to the national park, and you stop at a museum to learn about the volcanoes in the area and Nicaragua in general, then you drive up to the top of the very active Masaya volcano (which is small- hence why you can drive).
Going at night is obviously better so you can see the bright color of the magma!
You look down into the crater and you’ll see burning lava. It’s not lots and lots and it’s not “close” to you, but you can see it clearly and see it move as it burns red. It’s AMAZING and one of the best things to do in Granada.
I found it to be a memorable experience. You only spend about 15 minutes up at the crater because the sulfur starts to get really strong (to the point you’re choking) and you have to drive away.
The tour costs $25 ish, and that includes the $10 entrance fee into the park at night. It’s quite pricey since it only lasts 2 hours, and you could arrange a taxi to take you up and down (but I doubt it will be cheaper)
But it’s worth every penny and a must-see whilst in Granada!
If you'd prefer to pay extra and have a certified guide with you at all times, then this epic night tour is one of the best options! You'll also have hotel pick-up and drop-off included, as well as transport.
Visiting Mayasan Volcano is one of the top things to do in Granada - so don't leave it off your itinerary!
Selina is a hostel chain throughout central and south America. They provide really cool rooms for all travellers, but their hostel in Granada is in the central plaza in a prime location.
But, that’s not what you’re here for, every night they hold different events (like beer pong tournaments), but on Saturday night they host a BIG party that everyone in the area including locals head too. The music is LOUD, the drinks and flowing and the party is going.
It’s free entrance if you stay at Selina and if you want to party, then this is your spot.
Another side note: if you’re a digital nomad, Selina have a co-working space you can pay to spend 24 hours in and it’s awesome.
High speed wifi, in an air conditioned room with meeting rooms, comfy chairs for laptops, and everything you need- plus coffee, a fax machine and printer.
$5 for non-visitors
$2.50 for those staying
Granada is filled with bright multi-coloured buildings that are worth exploring.
You can simply wander around the streets and take photograph after photograph with a backdrop of greens, blues, pinks and yellows!
Some of the most iconic colonial buildings in the city include the Granada Cathedral, San Francisco Church, and Iglesia Xalteva. You'll also want to walk past the San Francisco Convent.
However, it's not just the main buildings you'll want to photograph as some of the houses are beautifully coloured too.
Granada is safe so don’t be afraid to wander!
Along the way, you’ll find quaint and unique little coffee shops to relax in and plenty of quirky buildings.
Walking tours are a great way to learn more about a place and to discover spots you may otherwise not have heard of.
There are countless tour agencies selling walking tours of Granada and they usually take 3-4 hours and take you around all the best spots you’d like on a “things to see in Granada” list.
A tour will give you the chance to ask questions and get real answers from people who live here. They generally cost around $15-20.
But, when we were discussing tours with an agency, they said if we booked two other tours with them, they’d throw in a city tour for free...so you could do that if you wanted.
Or you can book tours that include extra destinations too, which is always a good decision!
This fantastic city tour includes a certified guide who will take you on a private tour of the city. Not only that, but a trip around Las Isletas is included to!
You can also take a look at this Granada city tour, which includes a guided tour of the city, a visit to Masaya Volcano, and a boat trip around Nicaragua Lake.
This is one of the things to do in Granada that Bradley and I missed out on. I wanted to do it initially, then I just simply decided against it. We were tired from travelling and I wanted to sleep haha
But, it looks fantastic and great. The islets are hundreds of little islands and you can go via boat or your own kayak to visit them.
This is at Lake Nicaragua.
The boat will take you to a few islets then allow you to spot an array of animals. The tour via boat only lasts a couple of hours, but if you decide to kayak yourself, it will take longer and be aware of the sunshine hitting you!
Either way, it looks beautiful and I spoke to a couple who went and they said it was amazing, so definitely include it if you want something unique.
It’s around $25 for a tour, or you can arrange your own transport (it’s only about 15 minutes away) and rent out a boat or kayak from the “dock”.
If you'd prefer to do a tour, then this sunset tour of the islets is the perfect option! Not only will you go on a cruise of the lake, but you'll get to see the 'Island of Monkeys' and El Castillo Fortress.
What better way to experience local culture than by learning how to cook the local cuisine?
With a cooking class in Granada, you’ll have the chance to buy fresh ingredients from the markets, then learn how to make a variety of dishes.
It’s a cool skill to learn and you can recreate the dishes at home for family and friends, or if you’re craving the food - which you definitely will once you leave!
Nicaragua as a country has delicious food and there are so many incredible dishes to try!
You'll find plenty of cooking schools in the city to choose from but you'll just need to compare the prices to find the best deals.
One of the most popular options is Spanish School Express who are primarily a language school, however, they do offer cooking classes!
Wandering around the markets is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Granada!
There are a variety of markets in the area that run on different days, so there will be always be one to explore.
Whether you're looking for a food market, to buy clothes, or you're looking for a souvenir - this city will have something for you!
You can even find market stalls that sell local chocolate so make sure that's at the top of your list.
If you're looking for something specific or you're unsure, you can always speak to a local or your accommodation owner. Seriously, they’ll point you in places you didn’t know existed!
Just make sure you head to the main market during your trip which can be found near the Main Square.
This is definitely one of the more unique things to do in Granada, and it’s done at the same Apoyo lake we mentioned above.
It’s a project ran by Volcano Divers Nicaragua and is a must for any adventure-seekers out there!
Although diving into a volcano sounds super crazy, you'll actually be diving into a crater lake which sounds much more pleasant.
You’ll get to discover crazy rock formations left over from ancient eruptions, and see numerous thermal vents releasing hot water from deep within the Earth’s crust.
If you choose to do this you won't regret it!
Volcano Divers Nicaragua are actually hoping to increase the number of crater lakes possible to dive into, so there may be more opportunities in the future too!
If you want to read more about diving in this volcano lake, then read about this guy's experience!
Granada is actually one of the cheapest places in Nicaragua to learn Spanish, so whether you’ve got a week free, or a month, you can spend some time learning the language.
It will be super useful if you plan on backpacking the rest of Central America, South America, and Spain of course.
You’ll learn quicker in an environment where everyone speaks the language, than say learning at home. So it’s well worth it!
There are plenty of awesome language schools to choose from including Casa Nica Spanish, SOL Spanish School, and Casa Xalteva.
Just have a shop around and decide how long you're staying in the area. This way, you can decide how many lessons you want and compare packages.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! I’ve found the best thing to do in Granada for you….
You can visit the Choco museum, take a chocolate workshop and create your own masterpiece, or even take a trip to a cacao farm.
You’ll get to learn about the history of chocolate making first, and then you can take chocolate in its pure form and make your own! You can even make it how it was first used in Central America, then moved to Europe!
This is a great way to learn about one of Nicaragua's most popular productions, and create a unique souvenir for family or friends back home (or eat yourself!)
Chocolate workshops (Direct purchase on website) is $21 per person lasting 2 hours.
Farm tour: $89 per person
Over the years Mombacho Volcano has transformed into a cloud forest. You can visit the volcano on your own, but with tours coming in at around $30, it’s often more convenient to just go with a guide.
As you walk through the beautiful, and cool cloud forest you’ll find lots of wonderful trees and animals, and it’s good to have a guide to tell you more about them.
You might even spot tree frogs! You can peak the volcano, or you can just wander through the cloud forest. Either way it’s one of the great things to do in Granada and you can Read more about it here...
You'll plenty of tour operators who offer this activity, but this guided tour of Mombacho is a fantastic option! You'll hit one of the hiking trails in the cloud forest and your guide will help you spot local wildlife.
PS, you can also take a zip line tour through the trees in Mombacho and as someone who ADORES ziplining, i really wish I did this.
You organise it through a tour and I think it’s a really good thing to do in Granada with kids.
The best way to learn about a new country or city is to explore the nearby museums!
Luckily, Granada has plenty to choose from so I'd allow sometime to wander around and get to know the area's history.
The museum's in Granada area are all pretty small so they won't take too long to visit, and they're cheap too.
You've got the choice of Casa de los Tres Mundos, Mi Museo, and the San Francisco Convent.
Each one has something unique to offer, and exhibitions tend to change throughout the year!
Casa de los Tres Mundos is more of a cultural centre, but they do have displays you can explore making it worth the visit.
Although many people choose to explore Granada by foot - hiring a bicycle is a great option!
It offers you a quick and easy way to get around, and you'll be able to visit more attractions.
One of the best places to explore by bicycle is the waterfront so you can take in the breathtaking views.
If you make your way down to Calle Calzada, you can then cycle along the Malecon which is a beautiful area overlooking Lake Nicaragua.
Hiring a bicycle is easy in the city as there are plenty of rental shops to choose from! Just make sure you shop around for the best deals.
Exploring La Polvora Fortress is one of the best things to do in Granada so don't miss this place off your itinerary!
This place has been around since the 1740s and was originally built to protect the city from pirates. Today however, it's a military museum and there are plenty of awesome exhibits to see.
Not only is this fortress FREE to visit but you'll get spectacular views from here too.
During your visit, make sure you walk up the fortress tower as the views from the top will truly take your breath away.
You'll get panoramic views of the city of course, but you'll also get epic vistas of Lake Managua and Mombacho Volcano.
If you wondering what to do in Granada, make sure you head up this tower!
Now, all this exploring is going to make you extremely peckish!
Luckily, Granada is full of awesome restaurants and cafes serving a wide variety of cuisine.
One of the most popular spots in the city is the famous Garden Cafe which focuses on sustainability and wholesome foods. They prioritise the environment by providing filtered water instead of bottled, and by having a 'skip the straw' campaign.
Another fantastic restaurant in Granada is the Monna Lisa which serves delicious thin crust pizzas. It's the perfect place to eat if you're craving some international cuisine.
If you're still not convinced then you can head to Kathy's Waffle House, Restaurante El Zaguan, or Pita Pita!
So, if you're wondering where to eat in Granada - just pay some of these places a visit.
If you’re only spending your main bulk of time in Granada, then it’s possible to take some great day trips from there. Below I discuss my favourites.
Leon is about 2 hours and 30 minutes from Granada and one of the most popular reasons for visiting here is to learn about the Nicaraguan revolution and try your hand at Volcano boarding!
Aside from those two, there are plenty of things to do in Leon as well!
Whether you're looking to hike up a volcano, relax on the beach, or party the night away - this small town has something for every type of traveller.
You'll also get to visit the largest cathedral in Central America so there's lots to see! Just make sure you start your day trip early as you won't want to rush your time here.
To reach Leon you can hire a moped, take the tourist shuttle, or hop on one of the local minibuses.
Want to surf!? Then head to the coast of San Juan Del Sur! Even if you don’t want to surf, you can relax by the beach and dine at one of the beach front restaurants - with 2-4-1 margaritas you can’t complain.
Like with Leon, to reach San Juan Del Sur you can take a tourist shuttle, hop on a local bus, or hire a moped. You can even take a taxi but expect to haggle hard for the price!
The journey will take between 1.5-2 hours, and you'll want to get there early!
There are tons of fantastic things to do here like hiking up to the Christ of Mercy, heading out on a catamaran ride, and horseback riding on the beach. Sounds like a dream right?
If you want to visit the capital to explore the area or visit a TGI Fridays (I know I know, but we visit them all across the world and it’s new!), then Managua is only an hour away via shuttle bus that leaves every 15 minutes just off the central plaza.
This makes it the perfect day trip from Granada!
Managua is one of the largest city's in Central America so it's quite the experience.
Located on the shores of Lake Managua, this city is beautiful and has so much to offer!
You'll find plenty of attractions to visit here including the iconic cathedral, the scenic waterfront, and Revolution Square. Here's some more information on the things you can do in Managua!
The “peak” season to visit Granada is during November to April as this is the dry season which greets you with long days of hot sun...very hot sun!
It does mean some waterfalls aren’t going to be the best, so some people choose to visit between April and June.
However, we visited in March and the weather was perfect!
There are so many awesome things to do in Granada so I recommend staying at least 4-5 nights. This will give you plenty of time to see the best attractions and head out on some day trips without having to rush.
However, if you're looking to relax to then it might be wise to add an extra day or two on the end of your trip!
As with many other countries in Nicaragua, Granada is very cheap! You'll find endless budget-friendly accommodation options, cheap food, and many of the attractions are FREE too.
For this reason, you can get by on around $35-40 per day, but add a bit more to this if you want to go on plenty of tours!
You can certainly book a tour for Granada and you'll find plenty of options! This fantastic city tour offers you the chance to explore Granada with a guide, but you'll also have a trip around Las Isletas included too.
Or why not check out this Granada city tour? Not only will you get to explore the city's colonial architecture, but this epic tour also includes a visit to Masaya Volcano, and a boat trip around Nicaragua Lake.
After visiting Granada, you have a few choices of your onward destination, depending on what way your route through Central America has taken you.
If you have come from Costa Rica, then you may find yourself wanting to visit San Juan Del Sur, or heading to Leon, which is a natural stop before venturing into El Salvador (don’t skip El Salvador and head straight to Guatemala, you’re missing out on one of the greatest little countries!)
If you have come from El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras direction, then head to Ometepe next and discover more stunning volcanoes, hot springs and epic sunsets.
So there you have it, my guide to the top things to do in Granada. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it informative.
If you think there is anything I have missed out, then please do comment below.
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