After 10 blissful days in Guatemala, Jeff and I continued our southbound journey through Central America. I have to admit that I was a bit heartbroken to leave Guatemala; it’s so easy to fall in love with the culture and jaw-dropping scenery there. In terms of the countries we’ve visited, Jeff is trying not to “choose favorites,” but I have no qualms stating for the *permanent record* that Guatemala is my favorite and the BEST EVER. That said, we can always return, and I’m sure we will someday.
On the advice of our Antigua pal, Veronica, we made our way to Granada, Nicaragua for four nights. Having spent many hours on chicken buses and the like in Belize and Guatemala (some more pleasant than others), we decided to splurge on a quick flight from Guatemala City to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.
Note: I have received more than a few messages from friends and family reacting to my descriptions of our harrowing transportation experiences, so perhaps it’s necessary to share that we — surprisingly — had a shuttle van ALL TO OURSELVES on the 3-hour trip from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Copa Club at the Guatemala City Airport thanks to Jeff’s fancy airline status.
Before we could get too full of ourselves, however, we were back on the chicken bus headed for Granada. A couple hours later, we were strolling through Granada’s Parque Central, a bustling hub of the downtown area and home to many street vendors whose wares ranged from generic, airport-y souvenirs to beautiful artisan woodwork. Fresh fruit — including mango, my personal favorite — is also available all day in Parque Central. For about $0.33 USD, you can purchase a large bag of pre-sliced mango at virtually any time of day. HEAVEN, guys.
Granada is located on the northeast shore of Lake Nicaragua; it’s large enough of a lake that you could confuse it for the ocean (ala Michigan’s Great Lakes), but all told it’s only about 200 square miles in surface area. The town has a nice string of public parks and recreation areas lining the lake, and wild horses can be seen casually grazing on and around the beach (actually we asked someone, and the horses aren’t wild, per se, but let’s just suspend disbelief for the sake of the narrative, k?).
Moving right along: on our first full day in Granada, we signed up for a kayak tour of Las Isletas, a chain of 365 islands on Lake Nicaragua. Our guide, Ricardo, was very knowledgeable and pointed out all kinds of flora and fauna that we would have otherwise overlooked. In my book, kayaking is fun for exactly 45 minutes: anything after that becomes progressively more boring and uncomfortable. So two and a half hours was a touch long for me personally, but Jeff absolutely loved it.
In the evening, we went to check out the Masaya Volcano’s active lava pool, which is best viewed at or after sunset. I had never seen real lava before, so that experience was pretty spectacular! The pictures don’t really do it justice, so you’ll just have to take my word for it:
Other highlights in Granada included relaxing at PURE Gym, Spa & Yoga, where one can take a yoga class, enjoy a 60-minute massage AND have a healthy vegetarian lunch — all for $31 USD. Another afternoon, we rented bicycles and ventured to Cementerio de Granada: Central America’s oldest cemetery. I don’t want to gush too long about it, but y’all know I love a good cemetery and this one was truly memorable. Acres upon acres of white marble mausoleums — monuments, really — mark the final resting places of some of Nicaragua’s most important residents (including 6 former presidents).
We also caught Superbowl LI from Granada with a handful of our fellow expats at an Irish bar on the main drag (Irish bars are everywhere, guys!). Jeff warned me that it was bad juju to post a gloat-y “buh-bye, Patriots!” message to Facebook before the game was over, but I couldn’t help myself…and he was right. Nevertheless, we had a great time.
I should also note that we loved our little hotel, Hotel de Jardin. The staff was so friendly and accommodating; Gerco and Leo were just awesome. And we were grateful for the hotel’s pool when the power in Granada went out for several hours on a hot day, as we’ve become used to in Central America. The resident pup and cat — Georgie and Fernando, respectively — also made us feel at home during our stay.