We took a couple of chicken buses (local buses) from San Juan del Sur to Granada, first to Rivas and then we hopped on a connection to Granada. We didn’t realise that this would involve actual chickens on the bus… The local guys found it hilarious that the chickens and ducks just thrown in bags shocked us. I guess when you live in such a poor country then animal welfare is not high on your priority list. Everyone was really friendly so it made taking local buses in Nicaragua very easy and also very cheap.
When you get off the bus in Granada you arrive in a very rubbish filled and slightly dodgy part of town. We were grateful that we arrived in daylight, but this still didn’t stop the odd catcall, even though Andrew was right next to me. The beautiful colonial buildings and cobble-stoned streets of the centre of town soon dispelled this first impression of Granada. We loved exploring the city and beautifully restored buildings. Mango trees lined the streets and many mangoes littered the ground, which wandering horses took advantage of.
The food in Granada was very good. We tried the local dish called Vigaron, this is mashed yucca (similar to potato) topped with sautéed cabbage and pork rinds. It was very delicious and you can get it from most street vendors around the central park. The Nicaraguan version of gallo pinto (beans and rice) was not as good as its Caribbean counterparts; it lacks the spices and depth of flavour that the Caribbean coastal towns seem so good at utilising. Other dishes we loved were the Chalupas de Pollo (fried tortillas, beans and chicken), and the many Quesillos, which is a tortilla with traditional cheese (similar to cheese curds), onion and cream.
Our absolute highlight of Granada was getting to see the active Volcan Masaya. A guide picked us up from our hostel in the early evening – you can only go up the volcano with a guide. We were very pleased we went with our particular guide, as he knew how to get things done. Before going up, we stopped at a bakery for some bread rolls and Coca Cola. Once we arrived at the gates, the guard was given some bread and Coca Cola and we were let through right away. At the second gate the guard there was also given some bread and Coca Cola, so we skipped the queue and were the first ones let up the volcano. This is key because you are only allowed to spend 20 minutes up there from when the first car arrives. This is due to the sulfurous fumes that the volcano was spitting out. Our guide drove like a formula one driver and we arrived at the top and got to spend a whole 5 minutes there uninterrupted. It was spectacular; it is one of the most incredible sights we have ever seen. From a viewpoint you look down into the volcano and you see waves of lava just crashing into the sides. The sound of the waves is loud and every wave knocks more of the rocky sides into the molten mass below. We were in awe. We were also surprised we were allowed to get so close. The fumes finally got to us and by the time the 20 minutes were up we were all coughing quite a bit. It was a fantastic experience that we could not recommend enough.
A neat day trip just outside of Granada is Laguna de Apoyo. It is a volcanic crater lake, and is the perfect place to just chill out, swim and escape the heat of the city. There are free paddle boards and kayaks to use, and also a pontoon that you can swim to in the lake. The water was really clear and we just loved wallowing in it.
After a few days in Granada, it was time to leave. We really enjoyed our time in this city that had so much to offer and had the bonus of being incredibly cheap. However, we were looking forward to getting to our next stop, Leon, in order to learn some much needed Spanish!
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days:
Budget = US$168 (NZ$240)
Accommodation – US$48
Activities – US$74
Food/Drink – US$47
Travel (incl. Taxis) – US$6
Total spent – US$175 (NZ$250)
So we were US$7 over budget (NZ$10), which was not bad at all. Granada is an incredibly cheap city, which was a good change from San Juan del Sur.