Granada, Nicaragua

Kaleidoscopic in style – each adobe house wears a different sun-kissed hue – and left with a treasure trove of historic landmarks after centuries of invasions and pirate attacks, Granada is an eye-catching culture clash. It was settled in the 16th century by (somewhat self-proclaimed) ‘founder of Nicaragua’ Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, and gradually the city’s been elaborated with Italianate villas, colonnaded neoclassical townhouses and Moorish flourishes – its crowning glory is the buttercup-yellow cathedral ruling over the centro storico. The cobbled streets are too narrow for cars, they were built for horses and carts (which can still be seen), but they’re just right for tranquil walks through to peaceful plazas. Savvy travellers make this their base for exploring the wild wonders that lie yonder: hikes and hot-spring soaks around the base of Mombacho volcano, animal spotting in lush rainforests, hopping around the Isletas de Granada and cooling dips in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Laguna de Apoyo. And for a history lesson that’s a little less overwritten, Zapatera Island’s pre-Colombian petroglyphs are a short boat ride away.

When to go

November is the start of the dry season – ideal timing for rainforest exploration and volcano treks. The rainy season starts around May, but if you can stand the showers it shows the landscape at its most luxuriant. Avoid Easter and christmas when the region fills with holidaying <i>Nicas</i>.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Fly into Augusto C Sandino airport (www.eaai.com.ni) in capital Managua; Granada is a one-hour drive from there. There are direct flights from major US cities, including New York, LA and Dallas, and international flights usually connect via one of these.
  • Automobiles

    It’s easy to acquire a hire car in Managua; however, driving in rural areas can be unpredictable – a slightly ‘make it up as you go along’ road code can rattle the uninitiated. First timers may wish to rely on taxis and transfers – be sure to agree on a fare in advance. If you plan to explore, go all out with a four-wheel drive, so those little country offroads that lead to adventure aren’t kept out of bounds.