When I first saw the crumbling facade, it reminded me of some of the earthquake ruins in Antigua, Guatemala.
But behind the facade is a living, breathing church, and one of the most important in Granada.
It's located about three blocks west of Parque Central and dates to 1539. But, along with many of Granada's landmarks, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times in the centuries since. The current facade, looking in need of some repairs, dates to the 1780s. More damage in the 1850s led to the interior being rebuilt in 1862.
The Clock Tower
A highlight of Iglesia de la Merced is its bell tower. You can climb to the top, where you'll get 360-degree views over the rooftops of Granada. To the east is the Cathedral of Granada and Lago Nicaragua. To the south is Mombacho Volcano. In all directions are the tiled rooftops of the city.
As you go up you come across the exposed ropes for the church bells. Nearby are signs, in several languages, asking visitors quite emphatically not to ring the bells, a sure sign than mischievous tourists have done just that.
What to Know Before You Go
- There's no entrance fee to the church itself. Tickets to climb the bell tower are $1 (or whatever the equivalent in cordobas is at the current exchange rate). Buy tickets from the counter just inside the door at the base of the tower.
- The clock tower closes at 5:30 PM.
- The climb is short but very steep, up a tight spiral staircase.
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.