I’ve been living in Granada, Nicaragua for just about three months now. Though I absolutely adore the city, I also appreciate that it’s easy to take day trips for a minimal amount of money and time.
Here are three day trips from Granada that I’ve enjoyed:
Masaya is famed for its many artesanías, and its market is known as the best place to buy souvenirs in all of Nicaragua. I agree.
It features aisles upon aisles of Nicaraguan delights, and unlike in many souvenir markets, you barely have to bargain. All of the prices are reasonable enough that I mostly just said, “Oh, okay” and agreed. What a treat!
The market has everything from paintings to clothing to wood carvings to pottery. It’s attached to the city’s municipal market, where you can buy spices, chicken heads, and whatever other standard Nicaraguan fare you fancy. I was shocked at how few gringo tourists I saw; the only people shopping in the artesaníal section were speaking Spanish.
It definitely had more local flavor than other touristy markets I’ve been to. Though I was slightly disappointed by the lack of yummy comedors, I loved the section of men fixing shoes. They were very friendly and loved having their pictures taken.
It’s important to note that there are two markets in Masaya: Mercado Municipal and Mercado Viejo. The municipal market (where I went) has everything from souvenirs to cabbage, and the Mercado Viejo is specifically for tourists. I’d highly recommend going to the municipal market, as I’ve heard the prices at Mercado Viejo are almost double.
How to get to Masaya Market from Granada by bus:
Go to the bus station that’s one block south of the parque central and catch any bus headed towards Managua/Masaya. Tell them you’re going to “el mercado Masaya.” It should take around 30 minutes and cost 12 cordovas (50 cents). You’ll be dropped off on the side of a highway, but don’t panic. Just hail a taxi and tell them “el mercado MUNICIPAL.” This is important — if you just say “el mercado,” they’ll assume you want to go to the Mercado Viejo, where you’ll have to shop alongside a bunch of gringos and pay way more. And nobody wants that. The taxi takes about 5 minutes and should cost 10-15 cordovas (30-60 cents).
Laguna de Apoyo
Granada is HOT. And though it’s on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, it’s nowhere that you want to swim. You could go to my favorite pool (located at the Hotel Spa Granada), or you could head out of town to the beautiful Laguna de Apoyo.
The laguna is a lake formed in an ancient volcanic crater. It’s rimmed by green hills and is the perfect escape from the city. The laguna’s depths reach almost 700 feet, which makes it the lowest point in Central America. There are even some local legends about people going out to the middle and getting taken by the continued seismic activity — so swim with caution!
Along the laguna’s edges, there are several different hostels that will allow you to use their beaches. Based on recommendations, we spent our day at The Monkey Hut. Admission for the day is $6, and it includes use of the kayaks, floating dock, and water tubes. There’s also a high dock that’s perfect for jumping off of. (Please, NO diving — it’s too shallow!)
If you go in a group, they’ll usually let one person in for free. Mixed drinks cost $3, and they have decent pizzas for $8. All in all, it’s a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I’ve also heard it’s lovely to take the bus to Catarina and hike down to the laguna, but I haven’t tried this yet.
How to get to Laguna de Apoyo from Granada by bus:
Go to the bus station that’s one block south of the parque central and catch any bus headed towards Managua/Masaya. It should cost 12 cordovas (50 cents) and take around 20 minutes. Tell them that you’re going to the Laguna de Apoyo, and they’ll let you off on the highway. Cross the road, and several taxis will be waiting to take you up the hill to your hostel of choice. The ride should cost $1 or $2 per person.
Mombacho is the 4,400 foot volcano that towers over the city of Granada. It’s beautiful, green, and begs to be climbed. Though it’s active, it hasn’t erupted in over 500 years, so have no fear.
There are three different trails to choose from, each varying in difficulty. We decided to take the 4 km hike, “El Puma,” which is the most difficult, but also affords the best views. It took us around three hours, and you’re required to take a guide. The guide costs $15 for a group of up to 5 people, or $20 if you want your tour in English.
The hike was moderately challenging, with lots of ascents and decents. If you’re in remotely decent shape, you’ll be fine. The views were beautiful, as you could see Granada, Laguna de Apoyo, and Isla de Ometepe. It was a lovely little jaunt through cloud forest, with lots of fun orchids, salamanders, ferns, and mushrooms.
We didn’t get to see any monkeys, but I did see my FIRST SLOTH EVER. Not that I could really see it, but being in the presence of such a cool animal was a pretty big moment for me. Though not the most mind-blowing hike I’ve ever done, it was a nice way to get out of the city and enjoy some great views.
Since it’s high, it’s much cooler than Granada, so bring extra layers if you get cold easily. Don’t forget an ample supply of water and snacks. There’s a small restaurant at the base; among their offerings are chicken and rice ($6), veggies and rice ($4), and sandwiches ($2). Clouds generally start rolling in during the afternoon, so it’s best to go in the morning.
How to get to Mombacho from Granada by bus:
You’ll have to go to the bus station in Granada’s mercado. Head down Calle Atravesda, past Pali, and take a left at the gas station. It’ll be on your right. The cost of a bus to Mombacho is 8 cordovas (30 cents) and takes about 30 minutes. After you get off, you can walk the 1.5 km up to the ranger station, or take a taxi for 10 cordovas/person (40 cents). The walk is steep and boring, so I’d recommend the taxi.
Once you get to the station, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to the park. It costs $15 with transport up to the base, or $3 without transport. Again, the walk from the station to the base is boring and steep, so if you have the extra $12, I’d go for the transport. Supposedly, the transport only goes at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m, but it didn’t seem to be on any set schedule when I was there. Note that the reserve is only open Thursday through Sunday.
Have you been on any of these day trips from Granada? Any other ones that you’d recommend?