We continued driving south towards Granada located on the bank of Lake Nicaragua.  Founded in 1524 by the Spanish conqueror Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, Granada is considered the most beautiful city in Nicaragua and has wonderful European colonial style architecture everywhere.  As I thought about the date of the founding of the city I realized that it was just 32 years earlier that the Europeans learned of the Americas after the visit of Columbus; this is a truly old city.

We arrived just before sundown and had a chance to wander around in the park central.  The Cathedral de Granada sits at one end of the plaza and the park is always full of locals and tourists; it is a great place to have a coffee or pastry, to take a stroll or to chat with the locals and brush up on your Spanish.

Old horse-drawn buggies are popular with tourists and for a nominal fee the driver will take you around town to show you the sites.  The photo below is shot on the opposite side from the cathedral and you can see some of the beautiful architecture and one of the horse buggies.

Jeff and I found a decently priced hostel just down the block from park central; we stayed at the Hospedaje Central hostel.  Our rooms were only $5 per night and a check of recent prices show that one can stay at any number of hostels in Nicaragua for $5 to $10 per night.  As of 2011, Nicaragua still seems to be an affordable location for backpackers.  The hostel had its own restaurant and bar and was full of eclectic trekkers from all over the world.

In the photo below, Hospedaje Central is just on the right (you can see its sign in the photo) and is located right in the heart of the city where colonial architecture is everywhere.  Walking around the city you might think that you were in old town Lisbon or Madrid.  The people were very friendly and you got a feeling of a “small town” atmosphere.  Everything seemed to close down early and there wasn’t much “night life” to speak of save for the bars at the hotels.

Our waitress at the hostel’s restaurant was very friendly and had a wonderful working knowledge of the English language.  Isabella knew all about the city and gave us hints and travel advice for how to get around the city and Lake Nicaragua.  Like so many other Nicaraguans that we met she was friendly and always smiling.  I was really beginning to have a liking for this country…

Just outside of the town square we could see the lake.  Jeff and I shot a few photos and we could see how large the lake was.  Lake Nicaragua has a few points of notoriety; it is home to the world’s only species of fresh water sharks.  Their numbers were estimated over 30,000 in the 1970′s but Communist leader Ortega sold most of them to a Japanese fishing company for quick revenue to support his junta’s government.  The Japanese set up nets across the lake and captured thousands of sharks and then turned them all into shark fin soup.  The shark population was decimated and is still in peril; it will take decades for the sharks to recover their numbers.

Also, Lake Nicaragua has the largest island in the world that is located inside a fresh-water lake.  Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanoes that rise up from the center of the lake and have joined in a narrow land bridge between them.  In the photo below I’m standing on the bank of Lake Nicaragua at the edge of the town of Granada.

I really enjoyed my time in Granada – it was very very laid back and peaceful.  The locals and the travelers seemed to be in no big hurry to go anywhere or do anything and one could spend the day reading or sipping a cup of strong coffee.  If you are ever in Nicaragua, I highly recommend a visit to this tranquil and idyllic town.


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