This truly Nicaraguan city on the northwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua ought to be on the itinerary of every tourist visiting this Central American country.
It is easily reached from Managua, the capital, by bus or in a limousine. The highway is busy but wide enough, and well maintained for a leisurely speed.
Granada, a city of 110,000, was founded by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba in 1524 and is rich in its colonial heritage.
The city witnessed invasions by French, Dutch, and English pirates due to its wealth and fame in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the most audacious of all was the American, W.Waller, a freebooter, whose general Charles Frederic Henningsen set the city ablaze before fleeing, and in the process destroying Granada’s downtown.
The city escaped the tumultuous years of the Sandinistas orchestrated by Manuel Ortega.
Lake Nicaragua is relatively large, and the River San Juan flows out of it into the Atlantic Ocean. It is wide and deep enough for large ships. During the planning stages of a canal to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, widening and deepening of the river to connect with the lake was considered to reduce both construction costs and time, but abandoned because of politics and the possibility of volcano eruptions.
Mount Mombacho nearby is an extinct volcano and coffee-producing region. While the road to the top from the main highway connecting Managua to Granada, is in poor shape, it can be accessed by a four-wheel drive. The view is rewarding and well worth the effort.
Granada offers several museums, Mi Museo, San Francisco Church and Museum, and many others.
As is customary, Granada founded as a colonial city by Spanish crown has many churches and cathedrals – Central park Cathedral, Church of San Francisco, Church of Xalteva, Guadalupe Church, and the Palace of the Episcopal. All are solidly built, and very impressive.
The Plaza de la Independencia and Central park should be the start of any sightseeing, but any tourist must walk the downtown streets of Granada to appreciate the colonial architecture with residences opening to huge, cool, and tranquil courtyards.
A boat trip on the Lake will enable tourists to appreciate small islands interspersed just off the shore. Rich citizens of Managua privately own most. Fishing is rewarding.
Coffee, banana, plantain plantations around the city are vast and supply Managua.
Granada is a tourist hub for retired or soon to be retired Americans and North Europeans who buy property (mostly colonial houses) either to use when they retire, or to spend cold northern winters in the balmy climate of the city.
The La Gran Francia Hotel, a renovated colonial home, and Hotel Plaza Colon, close to the Central Park, also a renovated mansion, are recommended.
Managua is relatively easy to reach from Miami by air (two hours).