Granada, Nicaragua

With its colorfully painted buildings, cobblestone streets, and Spanish colonial architecture, Granada is a picturesque town that wears its history on its streets.

With its colorfully painted buildings, cobblestone streets, and Spanish colonial architecture, Granada is a picturesque town that wears its history on its streets. The colorful architecture is carefully preserved. It’s reputed to be the oldest city in the Americas. It’s a charming place to decompress and take it easy for a while. The pace is leisurely, the locals friendly, and the food and drink good. In terms of Central American travel, it doesn’t get much easier.

Sharing similarities with Antigua, Guatemala, and Valladolid, Mexico, and a host of other Spanish colonial towns throughout Central America, the historic heart of the town is the Parque Central, with streets radiating from there in a grid.

Church steeples, bell towers, and clock towers are the only really tall structures in town, standing far above the otherwise low-level buildings. Many of the city’s beautiful historic buildings have been damaged or destroyed and rebuilt over the years.

It was a target because of its wealth and strategic position. Founded by Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba (after whom the currency is named) in 1524 on the banks of Lago Nicaragua, it lays claim to being the oldest city in the Americas. It was later discovered that the Rio San Juan, linking Lago Nicaragua with the Caribbean Sea, was navigable by boat, which enhanced the city’s importance as a strategic trade hub. In the 1660s, pirates used that route to launch raids on the city.

The city rebuilt but suffered again in a civil war in the 1850s when it was torched by the self-declared president of Nicaragua, American William Walker. That prompted yet another round of rebuilding, creating the basis of the charming city we see today.

Photos of Grenada

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Nave of La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora.
Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

A different view of the Cathedral of Granada, this time from the bell tower of the nearby Iglesia de la Merced. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Along the waterfront of Lake Nicaragua. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Cathedral of Granada on the main square. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Lake Nicaragua Centro Turistico, a park area along the waterfront a little removed from the main town. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Some of the ornate above-ground tombs at Granada Municipal Cemetery. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

A vendor cutting fresh yuca for sale at the Mercado Municipal. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Granada City Hall. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

The bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced. As you can see from some of the other photos here, you can climb to the top of it (after paying a small entry fee, of course). Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Calle La Calzada, one of the main streets running off Parque Central and a hub for the thriving expat community. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Cathedral of Granada. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Horse and carriages wait for tourists along the main square (Parque Central). Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Altar piece in Cathedral of Granada. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

A dome of Iglesia de la Merced silhouetted against the setting sun. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Entrance to Iglesia de la Merced. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

Statues near the altar of the La Capilla Maria Auxiliadora. Photo by David Coleman. How to license & download this image.

What to Know Before You Go

  • Granada is about a half-hour drive southeast from Managua airport (MGA / Augusto C. Sandino International Airport). You can, of course, take a taxi, but most hotels can arrange a private airport pickup to take you directly and that can work out more economical as well as more practical if you’re a larger group or have a lot of luggage. It’s also possible to take a chicken bus if you’re traveling light and trying to keep costs to a minimum.
  • The historic old town is easily walkable (although mind the uneven sidewalks and occasional pothole). It’s also bike friendly. If you’d prefer not to be trudging by foot through the heat of the day, taxis are easily available. There’s also the occasional tuck-tuck, and, if you’re so inclined, the horse-drawn carts next to Parque Central can take you between many of the tourist sites.
  • There’s a thriving expat scene in Granada, so there are a lot of English-speaking bars and restaurants.
  • There are also quite a few Spanish immersion schools where you can learn Spanish on location with native speakers for as long as your budget and schedule permits. They’re often surprisingly affordable, even with the optional homestay packages.
  • The tap water isn’t drinkable, but any of the bars catering to tourists will probably be using purified water for their ice, cooking, and food preparation. That said, it’s a prudent habit to ask. Bottled, purified drinking water is readily and cheaply available for purchase from street carts and stores.
  • At the time of writing, the CDC does not consider Granada city to be a malaria risk area. But if you’re using Granada as a launching off point for nearby areas such as the islands on the lake, those areas might be quite different. And things change, so it’s a good idea to check with a specialized travel clinic and the current CDC recommendations for Nicaragua, which you can find here. Moreover, malaria isn’t the only disease mosquitoes carry; chikungunya and dengue are others that are common in the region.
  • Here’s U.S. State Department travel information for Nicaragua and here’s the travel advice from the British Foreign Office.
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
Get Directions

License Photos of Granada, Nicaragua

If you’d like to download any of my photos from Granada, Nicaragua, you can license them directly from Alamy here. It includes most of the photos displayed on this page, as well as others. Pricing depends on the type of use, and there are licenses for various types of uses, including personal use and editorial publication.


/>

Travel Advice for Nicaragua

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Nicaragua (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Nicaragua here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Nicaragua here.

Share