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18 Fantastic Things To Do In Granada, Nicaragua [2019]

Written by:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last updated:
March 15, 2019
Travel stories
Granada is the colonial beauty of Nicaragua and a popular tourist spot. Discover my list of the top things to do in Granada and where to stay below...
things to do in granada
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Granada is the colonial beauty of Nicaragua and it’s truly a place of fun, charm and atmosphere! It’s probably Nicaragua’s most well known area and Bradley and I stayed there for 4 nights.

There is so much to see and do that 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!

When is the best time to visit Granada Nicaragua?

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 may visit from April to June time.

But Bradley and I visited in March and the weather was perfect!

horses in granada

How long should I stay in Granada Nicaragua

I would say 4-5 nights is a great amount. We stayed 4 nights and we got to do everything we wanted to. If you wanted a couple of extra days for relaxing then you could stay longer.

What is the best way to get to Granada Nicaragua

Granada is the central point on the typical Nicaragua itinerary, so it’s usually a middle spot for people and easy to get to.

Fly: You can fly to Managua (the capitals airport) and get a transfer to Granada for about $25-30 via car, or hop on a chicken bus/shuttle.

Drive: If you’re driving around Nicaragua, you can easily get to Granada via the highway.

Buses: If you are coming from Guatemala, El Salvador or Costa Rica, you can get a bus to Granada. Sometimes they will take you to Mangauga then you will have to transfer yourself.

Shuttle: Some tourist companies run shuttle services to Granada, this is quite common from San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe and Leon. (all worthy stops!)

Top things to do in Granada Nicaragua

Okay, so now for the part you came for: the top things to do in Granada Nicaragua. You can easily see all these things within a 3-4 day period!

1. Explore the main plaza

The main plaza is famous for its beautiful cathedral, fountains, market stalls selling souvenirs, a couple of dining options and places to sit and relax in the sun. It’s very European and it’s very beautiful.

You’ll always find people selling ice cream here, so grab one and relax on a bench.

plaza granada nicaragua

2. Visit the famous cathedral

The Granada cathedral is probably the most beautiful in all of Nicaragua (in my opinion). It’s bright, stunning and well worth a visit. Of course you can get your pictures from the outside, but it’s actually very beautiful inside too, and it’s free to enter.

Try and visit when a service is on and you’ll get to experience everyone singing hymns which is quite nice.

cathedral granada

3. Check out the cathedral from above

When you get to the cathedral, you’ll notice you will have a hard time trying to get a picture of the cathedral from the front without the trees blocking it.

No worries, you can head up to Iglesia La Merced and get a stunning view of it from above, and the surrounding area. 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!

It’s $1 entrance to the bell tower.

4. Day a day trip to Apoyo Lagoon

This is without a doubt my favourite of the 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!

lake apoyo

5. Go see real life magma in Masaya volcano

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 ovi better so you can see the read.

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 moves 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 last 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!

masaya volcano granada
real magma

6. Party at Selina on saturday night

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

selina granada

7. Check out the colorful colonial buildings

Granada is filled with bright multi-coloured buildings that are worth exploring. You can wander around the streets and take you photo with a backdrop of greens, blues, pinks and yellows!

Granada is safe, so don’t be afraid to wander, you’ll find quaint and unique little coffee shops along the way.

colonial granada

8. Take a walking tour

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.

buildings in granada

9. Visit the islets of Granada

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 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”.

10. Take a cooking class

What better way to experience local culture than learning how to cook the local cuisine!

With a cooking class in Granada, you’ll have the chance to buy your fresh ingredients, then learn how to learn 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.

11. Hit up the markets

There are a variety of markets in the area that run on different days. If you’re looking for something specific, like a food market, or even places to buy local chocolate, then speak to a local! Seriously, they’ll point you in places you didn’t know existed.

But there are markets that sell clothes, trainers, tourists gifts, coffee and much more. You’ll find everything you need.

12. Dive into a volcano

This is definitely one of the 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.

You’ll get to discover crazy rock formations left over from ancient eruptions, numerous thermal vents releasing hot water from deep within the Earth’s crust and sulphur encrusted outcrops. This company is actually hoping to increase the number of crater lakes possible to dive into.

So if you want a unique memory, then consider this! Read more here from this guy who did it.

main plaza granada

13. Learn Spanish

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 visit 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!

14. Visit the chocolate museum

Chocolate lovers rejoice! I’ve found the best thing to do in Granada for you….

You can visit the museum, take a chocolate workshop ad create your own masterpiece, or even take a trip to a cacao farm.

You’ll learn the history of chocolate making. Inside the museum you can take chocolate in its pure form, make your own, and 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

churches in granada

15. Check out the Mombacho Volcano Cloud Forest

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 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 Nicaragua.

Read more about it here.

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 things to do in Granada with kids.

Day trips from Granada

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.

16. Leon

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! Definitely worth a visit.

17. San Juan Del Sur

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.

18. Managua

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.

cerro negro volcano
Cerro Negro: Leon

Hotels in Granada: Where to stay

Granada has lots of different options when it comes to hotels. Everything is actually excellent priced and you will be spoilt for choice.

I’ve recommend 5 top hotels in Granada, including the hotel Bradley and I stayed in which is perfect for couples.

Hotel Adela Boutique: Bradley and I stayed here 3 nights. It’s a beautiful 4 star hotel in colonial building transformed into a small and inviting hotel with a great swimming pool, beautiful and spacious air conditioned room and a great breakfast. Perfect for couples and families.

Selina: If you want a backpacker vibe but with air conditioned rooms, then this is a great spot. They also have a games room, library and cinema, oh and a swimming pool too. Perfect for backpackers.

Hotel Dario: I actually discovered this place from having lunch in it one day. The building is breathtaking, probably my favourite in all of Granada. The grounds are stunning, and as I looked further, the rooms are too. It’s a great price, in a great location.

Mansion De Chocolate: It’s part of the chocolate museum, so chocolate lovers should stay here. Rooms are nicely decorated and a spa and swimming pool are on-site.

Oasis Hostel: When I was looking at hostels, this is the best one I liked. I know them because they organise great tours to the Laguna. Rooms are really nice and it has a nice vibe. It was really busy when we went!

You can search for all accommodation in Granada here.

crater lake

My Granada Nicaragua packing list

Below I’ve made a quick list of things you should pack with you on a trip to Granada, and Nicaragua in general, including the equipment we use for photos and videos.

Suncream

Deet

Canon G7X Mark II

Memory Cards

Go Pro

hotel dario granada

Getting around Granada

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 you’re 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.

Where to next?

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 Nicaragua. 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.

Happy travelling!

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things to do in granada

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