Approximately one hour south of Managua lies the beautiful little city of Granada. Granada is situated right on the shores of the huge lake Lago Nicaragua. Whereas Managua was once almost completely destroyed by a mega-earthquake, Granada has retained most of its historical colonial architecture and charm.
We boarded a microbus in Managua for the 1-hour drive to Granada, at the exorbitant price of 20 cordobas per person (76 cents in gringo money). The microbus is pretty much the successor to the famous “Chicken Buses” of Latin America. They are the inexpensive transportation of choice used by most locals, and a few gringos. In this case we were the only gringos onboard (which we tend to prefer). Anything, and everything, can be seen and experienced on these little buses—packed to capacity and beyond (standing room only for those boarding farther down the route), folks bring aboard bundles of clothing, vegetables and even the proverbial chicken on occasion.
Old Cathedral in “Centro Historico”
Arriving in Granada, we were immediately struck by the similarities to a couple of other favorite towns of ours: San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico and La Antigua in Guatemala. It lacks the cobbled streets, but in most other respects the towns are very close in appearance. The population is about the same at approximately 130,000 people, and the old Spanish architecture is very familiar, as are the plazas and mercados.
Our hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the center of town (the main tourist area), and Nicaragua now enjoys the reputation of being the safest country in all of Central America. Our morning walkabouts have taken us into some of the neighboring barrios, and also along the lakeshore, and we’ve never felt unsafe or threatened—quite the opposite in fact. Nicaragua, and its people, have been very welcoming and friendly. Bienvenido Nicaragua. And, best of all, we have a cigar factory and lounge right around the corner from us: Mombacho Cigar Factory & Lounge. The factory is named after one of the local volcanoes: Vulcan de Mombacho. Mombacho features cigars that are superior to anything I ever smoked in Cuba (at least in my opinion—and I’ve smoked a lot of cigars in my time), and boasts an 18-year old rum that rivals the finest Scotch Whisky’s.
Steve Hoisting a Slow Burner
Mombacho Cigar Factory & Lounge
We’ve booked lodging here for at least 15-nights, and we may very well extend that stay. But, then again, there is much in Nicaragua we still want to see. Nicaragua is being touted as the new Costa Rica, and for good reason I think. It is beautiful, it is safe, it is unspoiled (so far at least) and it is inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is rapidly becoming the new Mecca for American and Canadian expats—it has been my personal experience that expats rarely bring anything positive to their country of choice. They see it different of course, but I have strong philosophical differences with most expats that I meet. Whereas they should be trying to assimilate into the local culture, the vast majority would prefer to import their culture—turning these beautiful countries into small America’s and Canada’s. I have no patience for that kind of thinking. Visit, enjoy and learn—but if you’re unwilling to assimilate then please leave and go home after your visit. I visited Costa Rica 5-years ago, and will be revisiting it again soon, but by all accounts it is becoming very touristy, expensive and plagued by expats buying up all of the prime real estate and inflating values to the point that it drives the local’s out and impacts their economies. I witnessed the same thing, first hand, in Yucatan, Mexico. There are some great expats, but there are many more terrible expats. End of rant.
I have included a small photo gallery of images that I’ve taken over the last few days while on my daily walkabouts. Some were shot in Centro Historico (the tourist district in the center of town), some were shot in the local barrios and some were shot on the shores of Lago Nicaragua. I’m sure that I will be sharing many more photos in the days to come, and I usually post daily on Facebook. If you would like to follow my adventure(s) on a more timely basis please send me a Facebook “Friend Request.” Also, at least temporarily, I have a new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org (my old @ymail.com address is not working for some reason). Final note: Please click on images below to enlarge for better viewing.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Reporting from Granada, Nicaragua . . .