On a recent trip to Nicaragua, I visited the country’s prized colonial city of Granada. Filled with immense charm and an abundance of colors and markets, I discovered the much-revered Masaya crafts on display in homes and hotels, and the locals’ love and respect for Lake Nicaragua, which creates much of the fishing and boating culture in the city. Nowhere is this more evident than venturing off dry land to the Isletas de Granada, a small collection of islets dedicated to fishing and aquatic life. Granada has a style that is truly its own, and a talk with locals will have you falling in love with the city’s Nicaraguan culture and craft-making roots. Here’s what you need to do while you’re visiting.
1. Climb the Iglesia de la Merced tower for the perfect aerial view of the city. As soon as I arrived to Granada, the sun was just an hour shy of setting. I climbed the Iglesia de la Merced and was astounded by the wrap-around view of the city. The sun was giving off a dreamy haze, creating a yellow hue against the church’s white exterior. Catedral de Granada was in perfect view, the colored houses of the city could be seen for miles, and the cloud-covered shape of Volcán Mombacho lingered in the distance.
2. Stay and enjoy the design aesthetic of Tribal Hotel in Granada. Tribal Hotel in Granada is the prized boutique property of the city. The 7-room hotel captures much of Nicaragua’s authentic craftsmanship, and many specially made Masaya crafts can be seen on display in the hotel’s poolside lounge area.
3. Take in the view from Isleta el Espino. Located in the Isletas de Granada, Isleta el Espino is a sustainably built eco-lodge just a 15-minute boat ride from the Granada port. With two treehouse suites and one bungalow located on the island, it’s a serene getaway. Lounging on one of Isleta el Espino’s pool chairs is quite the surreal experience, with the view of Volcán Mombacho hazily lingering ahead. The scenery is wild and inspiring, and much of the lodge’s culinary creations are grown on the premises: Mango, lemongrass, spinach, basil and dragon fruit are sourced fresh from the island, and fish are caught in the surrounding waters. It’s easy to pass an entire day relaxing, watching local fisherman sail back and forth from the port.
4. Enjoy the abundance of mariposas (butterflies). The Isletas de Granada attract an array of native wildlife, including many species of birds, fish, lizards and monkeys. The most impressive and ethereal of all, however, were constant wave of butterflies circling the grounds of Isleta el Espino.
5. Explore the local art scene, and visit the house of Juan Manuel Diaz Aleman. A trip to Masaya is a quick drive from Granada, and a vital stop on a visit to the city. The market houses the work of many inspiring artists, and leather shoes and beautifully designed clay pottery are on display. Art is also an important aspect of the Isletas de Granada. With such abundant nature and inspiring views from every angle, it’s no surprise that much of Juan Manuel Diaz Aleman’s inspiration is drawn from the landscape. Isleta el Espino can arrange a boat tour to the artist’s home, where you can see him paint in real time.