Exploring Granada and surrounds.
25.10.2012 - 31.10.2012 27 °C
Up until fairly recently, I couldn’t tell you a thing about Nicaragua. I may have even looked for it on a map of Africa. But now, after visiting I can tell you lots. I can tell you all about the country’s spectacular scenery, the smiling people, the gorgeous historic city of Granada and even its interesting though terribly sad history. What I can’t tell you is why this country, the largest in Central America, doesn’t have a higher profile.
— Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and home to 6 million people.
Most of our time in Nicaragua was spent in the colourful city of Granada. Historic buildings, sun-splashed streets and a postcard-perfect central park are just some of the city’s assets. Sure, there are plenty of tourists but Granada still feels ‘real’. You only have to go to the haphazard market, just a couple blocks off the main drag to see locals going about their everyday life. You can even see farmers delivering their produce by horse and cart.
— Our tour group.
— The Cathedral of Granada.
— The bustling market.
— The biggest hammock in Central America! It's part of an inspiring project which teaches people who are deaf, blind or mute the craft of a hammock making.
Granada is a perfect base for exploring the region. Just a short drive out brings you to the Masaya National Park, home to abundant wildlife, two volcanoes and five craters. I asked our guide when the last eruption was, expecting him to say “in 1640” or even “in 1965”, instead he said “April”. This is not what you want to hear as your mini-bus climbs closer and closer to the rim of the active Masaya volcano. Then again, we were given hardhats...
— We all know the best protection from an erupting volcano is a yellow plastic hat.
It’s an amazing feeling to peer over the edge of an angry volcano, spewing smoke and sulfur gases. It was breath taking…literally! The gases get caught in your lungs and it’s difficult to breath. In fact, visitors are only allowed to spend 20 minutes up there. It’s not hard to see why the Spanish thought of Masaya as the entrance to hell. The indigenous people were terrified of it too, offering it children and virgins to stop its anger boiling over. Just a few decades ago, people opposing Nicaragua’s dictatorship were thrown in too.
— Brayden about to be sacrificed...and very happy about it.
— The cross was erected in the 16th century by the church in an attempt to exorcise the Devil.
Next on our grand tour of Granada’s surrounds was a stop at the little town of Catarina. Situated about 500 metres above sea level, Catarina is the best place to see the country’s largest volcanic crater lake, Lake Apoyo.
— The crater of Apoyo was formed more than 20 thousand years ago after a volcanic explosion. Today it's considered to be a sleeping volcano.
— Check out Bray's scabby elbow after falling of his scooter on Roatan Island!
The indigenous people of the region are famous for their pottery and we had the chance to see how it was made at the town of San Juan de Oriente. The process hasn’t changed in centuries, nor have the beautiful designs. I could have bought the whole showroom! I instead settled for photographing the whole showroom.
— Future potters.
We finished our day with a cruise on Lake Nicaragua. Earlier in the day we had visited the Masaya Volcano, the gateway to hell and now we were in heaven. The lake has a collection of 365 small islands formed after a volcano blew up. Most of the islands are covered in vegetation and teeming with bird life. Some have luxury properties built on them, while one island is home to a colony of monkeys!
— Lake Nicaragua is the second largest lake in Latin America (after Lake Titicaca.
— Watching the sunset from the Fort of San Pablo, built to protect the city from pirates in the 18th century.
Granada is great for nightlife too. There are plenty of top restaurants, many of them with tables spilling out onto the sidewalk. On one of the nights we were there, the final of the World Series baseball was being played out between San Francisco and Detroit. Baseball is the number one sport in Nicaragua and the locals were loving it.
— When the sun goes down, the city comes alive.
— Baile de los gigantes.
From Granada we made our way via a packed chicken bus to Ometepe, an island formed by two volcanoes jutting out of Lake Nicaragua. When I first saw it from the ferry I immediately understood why it’s described as something out of a fairytale book. Wow!
— The most overcrowded bus we've ever experienced. Look at the misery on some of the people's faces.
— Ometepe, the world's largest island in a freshwater lake.
— The perfectly cone-shaped volcano Concepción.
There’s lots to do here but we were happy just chilling out by the water. We also trekked up to a lookout to watch one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.
— Bonfire on the lake shore.
Next stop Costa Rica.