When planning our trip to Nicaragua, I was told that we had to visit Granada. Granada was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba and it is considered the first European city in mainland America. Granada is Nicaragua’s 4th largest city and it is rich with history and beautiful architecture. I was excited to visit Granada, but after our driving experience on Day 1, none of us were looking forward to the 2+ hour journey to get there. However, after establishing a better road strategy we managed to make it to Granada without getting pulled over!
We arrived in the historical center of the city and immediately began to appreciate the colorful buildings and colonial architecture. We walked around the Parque Central (town square) to get a nice view of the Cathedral and the streets lined with horse-drawn carriages.
View of Cathedral from Parque Central
For lunch, we decided to eat in the Parque Central at what appeared to be a popular outdoor restaurant. The food was delicious and very inexpensive. I ordered gallo pinto (rice & beans) with pork for about $2.
Eating in the middle of the town square had its downsides though. We were constantly bombarded by street vendors selling food or crafts, and children begging for money and/or some of our food. I had some leftover food, but I didn’t give it to the begging children. I gave it to this beautiful (well-mannered) guy…
I was getting some strange looks from the kids (and other bystanders) when I fed the dog rather than the children! I may not speak Spanish, but I am pretty sure I could read their thoughts….”WTF! You are going to feed that mangy mutt instead of giving your food to me?” Short answer…yes, that is exactly what I am going to do. I’m sure a lot of readers will think I am heartless, but I really don’t even feel bad about it. And, as it turns out, according to Wikitravel, I actually did the right thing:
“Social workers in Granada strongly advise to not give money or food to begging children. In Granada the homeless situation is not nearly as severe as in other poor cities. Orphanages and charity organizations take care of homeless children, and poor people have access to charity kitchens. The kids that beg and sell items to tourists do this to make easy money, and are being exploited by adults. Anything you give to these children keeps them from the place they belong: in school.”
(Even without Wikitravel’s blessing, I still prefer dogs over children.)
After lunch we decided to walk down to the waterfront. Granada is located along the coast of Lake Nicaragua, one of the world’s largest fresh-water lakes. Fresh-water lakes sound safe, right? WRONG! Lake Nicaragua is home to the Nicaragua shark (a.k.a. the Bull Shark) and they are extremely aggressive. Don’t believe me? Check out this article that lists Lake Nicaragua among the Top 10 Shark Infested Beaches in the World!
On our walk back to the Parque Central we passed the beautiful Guadalupe Church.
Then we stopped at Lilly’s Café for a refreshing smoothie. Lilly is an expat that has been living in Nicaragua for about 20 years. We had a nice conversation with her about what it is like to live in Nicaragua. Despite the issues with police corruption, she seems to be extremely happy living there. Before we left, Lilly recommended we go to the La Merced Church and climb the Bell Tower of Iglesia for the best view of the city and the Mombacho Volcano. There was a $1 entrance fee to climb the bell tower, but the view was more than worth it.
La Merced Church
View of Cathedral and Lake Nicaragua in the background
We enjoyed our visit to Granada and amazingly we made it all the way back to Playa Coco without getting pulled over!