Things to Do in Granada
The Granada Cathedral rises above the city skyline in a vision of red domes and lemon-yellow walls backed by the towering Mombacho volcano. Well recognized for its beauty, the Spanish Renaissance cathedral—whose first stone was laid in 1523 and took 181 years to complete—is a quintessential image of Nicaragua and a popular Granada attraction.
With an Aztec name that translates to “Steep Mountain,” the Mombacho volcano certainly lives up to its name. Its 4,410-foot (1,344-meter) peak towers over Nicaragua’s colonial city of Granada, creating both a beautiful backdrop and a huge backyard ripe for adventure and exploration.
A crystalline lagoon just a short drive from Granada, Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve (Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo) is one of the most popular natural attractions in Nicaragua. Get away from the city for a few hours of kid-approved water sports, or hang out and relax all day in a lounge chair poised on the rim of this beautiful crater lake.
There are several churches in Granada to visit, but the Iglesia de la Merced, not far from Parque Central (Central Park), is noted by many as the city's most beautiful. The church on this site dates from the early 16th century, although it has been damaged twice (to the point of nearly-complete destruction once) and rebuilt, most recently in the 1860s.
Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake, is home to an archipelago of 365 islands. Formed by the eruption of Mombacho Volcano, the Islets of Granada include uninhabited isles, traditional fishing villages, private residences, and luxurious resorts. Explore as part of a “best of” Nicaragua or Granada tour, or with a private guide.
Lake Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) is Central America’s largest lake and an outdoor activity destination for locals and visitors alike. Nature lovers will enjoy bird watching from the shore, boating to the lake’s islands, or hiking the island’s volcanoes. Plus the cities around Lake Nicaragua offer many archeological sites, historic churches, and local markets to explore.
The San Francisco Convent is both an active Catholic church and a museum with historic photographs, culturally important paintings, and statues from the Zapatera Island archaeological site on Lake Nicaragua. With a history dating back to 1529, it's among the oldest churches in Nicaragua and remains one of Granada’s most memorable sights.
Spend an hour learning about pre-Columbian Nicaragua on a visit to Mi Museo, a small and privately owned collection of artifacts. Not only is this Granada museum a great introduction to Nicaragua’s diverse indigenous cultures and histories, but it’s also very low cost, making it a quick and easy destination to tick off your sightseeing list.
Originally built by the Spanish in the 1740s as a fort to ward off pirates, today the Fortaleza La Polvora is a military museum and popular tourist stop in Granada. This sturdy medieval fortress consists of several lookout towers connected by stone walls with a huge arched main gate and the views from the tower make it worth the visit.
On the forested flanks of Mombacho volcano, high above the cobbled streets of the colonial city of Granada, the family-run Hacienda El Progreso is where Nicaraguan coffee was born. This coffee plantation and ecotourism hot spot is best known as a lead supplier for Nicaragua’s biggest coffee chain, Café las Flores.
More Things to Do in Granada
Stroll down Calle La Calzada after dark to see why this street is the heart of Granada’s nightlife: live music blasts from bars, outdoor tables overflow with revelers, and artisans hawk their wares. During the day, the street is a main thoroughfare with shopping and dining venues in Spanish colonial buildings—it’s impossible to miss.