A City Most Definitely Worth a Visit
Jess Reed is a recent graduate of Heidelberg University who is volunteering in Nicaragua as part of the Outreach360 Caminos program. The Caminos program volunteers recently took a cultural excursion to the colonial city of Granada. This is Jess’s story:
Upon my arrival to Nicaragua, I was positive that if I spent my full 12 weeks as a Caminos Intern in Jinotega I would leave happy. I was content with that commitment. So imagine my surprise when Carmen and I were informed that we were going to spend a night in the historic city of Granada! Outreach has always gone above and beyond my expectations, and this was no exception. Carmen and I excitedly packed on Friday night and were ready to go first thing in the morning on Saturday.
After saying goodbye to two lovely volunteers at the Managua Airport, we departed for Granada. Stop one was the Market at Masaya. Within minutes of stepping into the labyrinth of sights and sounds (and smells!), we got to work on our bartering techniques. Even though I was not able to purchase all of the beautiful things I ogled, I walked away with some choice items including my favorite: a hammock which I recently named Emilio. Among the loot of Carmen and I were a coffee mug for my mom, a backpack and bracelets for Carmen, and, as the dear sweet roommates we are, matching headbands for the two of us. After finding our way out of the market, we headed back on the road. Driving through Masaya was beautiful. It seemed to be a cultural center of Nicaragua, with plenty of open markets and people and signs depicting when the next festival would be.
Before reaching Granada we stopped in Catarina, the “City of Flowers.” We got to look out over one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, the Apoyo Crater Lake. Vast and bright blue and surrounded by gorgeous foliage, it was absolutely breathtaking. We ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the beautiful view and shared many laughs amidst our delicious dishes. After eating, we packed up and actually headed out with our final destination being Granada.
Upon arrival, I thought I had been magically transported back to Spain, where I once spent a semester abroad. The beautiful architecture full of bright colors and large archways looked like they were straight out of Seville. I was already enamored with the city just by driving through it, and then we went on the boat tour. We weaved through hundreds of little islands in Lake Nicaragua, formed by the eruption of volcano Mombacho. The breeze, the water, and the view of the volcano were breathtaking. I even got to feed a monkey that lived with some of his primate friends on one of the islands! After the boat tour we drove to our lodging for the night, Hotel con Corazón.
Oh. My. Goodness. I thought I liked the city before we stepped into the hotel. Not only were the staff incredibly kind and welcoming, the hotel itself was incredible. From top to bottom, Hotel con Corazón was beautiful. Inside and out, the people, the building, and the accommodations were top-notch. We settled into our snug little rooms and took a leisurely swim then we were off to explore the streets of Granada. During our exploring, we walked along streets full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. The city was so different from Jinotega, but still seemed to hold some of the beautiful Nicaraguan culture I had come to know and love during my 5 weeks spent in the mountains up North. We ended our evening stroll at El Tercer Ojo, The Third Eye. A fantastic new-age restaurant where we were able to dine exquisitely and share many stories and laughs. We then meandered back to our hotel, stopping in at a gelato shop and a small store connected to the Granada Chocolate Museum.
A restful night’s sleep and a morning swim later, we were ready to greet the day. Breakfast at the hotel set us off for a morning of adventure. We explored around the central square and park, including a stop into the previously mentioned Chocolate Museum where we learned all about the delicious confection. We then ambled into some shops nestled above a small plaza. After checking out of the hotel, we drove around for a little while searching for the famous coconuts one of our Team Leaders raved about. Finally, right by the beach, we found them! We exited our van and bought some delicious coconuts, which we drank the water from as we took in the view of Lake Nicaragua. Being the opportunists that we are, we decided to take a horse-drawn carriage tour of Granada. Thirty minutes later, we had arrived at our lunch destination and now had knowledge of the oldest park, church, and private home in Granada. How fun! We did a bit of shopping after lunch and then headed home for Jinotega.
Even though I spent roughly 24 hours in Granada, that city will forever have a special place in my heart. From the fantastic food and the vivacious views to the historic atmosphere, Granada is a city most definitely worth a visit. The city is beautiful and welcoming and we Caminos Volunteers are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to see more of what Nicaragua has to offer.