Tropical, warm, colorful, and a low-key vibe is just a bit about what’s waiting for you in Granada, Nicaragua.
If you didn’t know already, Nicaragua is an absolute gem … and one of the best kept secrets in Central America depending on who you ask. Full of jungle adventures, towering volcanoes to hike, hidden swimming holes and waterfalls, plus vibrant cities, it’s easy to see why a semester in Nicaragua might not even be enough time to see it all.
Come see what life here is really like
Volunteering in Nicaragua
But here’s where ILP volunteers luck out: They are living in the city of Granada, which is one of the most popular destinations to visit for its iconic yellow cathedral and relaxing vibe. Here’s your guide to exploring the city you’ll call home:
- Enjoy The Vibe
- Things To Do
- Our Favorite Day Trips + Weekend Adventures
Enjoy The Vibe
It’s not really a thing to do, but you have to understand that Granada’s essence is just captivating. It’s a warm and colorful city with colonial roots stretching back from 1524 that can be described as “chill”, “low-key”, and “relaxing” … not bad for the city you’ll be living in, right? The climate is warm, so between the colorfully painted streets you’ll find swaying palm trees and big open squares and walking streets to explore.
Like we mentioned before, enjoying the vibe isn’t really something you can cross off a bucket list but it’s an essential part of experiencing Granada — so, go out, walk around the neighborhoods, feed the pigeons, people watch, and just explore to uncover all the gems hiding in this part of Nicaragua.
Things To Do
Kayak On Lake Nicaragua
Lake Nicaragua is home to over 300 little islands that you can kayak through. Some are home to elaborate mansions, others are totally inhabited by hoards of spider monkeys and white-faced monkeys. You’ll find multiple tours to take you out for about three hours. It's the perfect thing to do after teaching or on a Saturday. Usually tours are around $3 or so, with multiple time slots to choose from during the day.
See The Sunset From This Cathedral
There are some stunning cathedrals found in your city. You’ll probably notice the Cathedral of Granada right off the bat — towering and painted yellow, it’s pretty hard to miss. However, we also think the Iglesia La Merced is worth visiting, especially if you climb up the stairs to explore the bell tower at sunset. You can also get a few pictures like this one below at the Iglesia La Merced cathedral.
Iglesia La Merced Address: It’s on Calle Real Xalteva
Cost: 30 Cordobas (about $1) to go up the tight spiral staircase.
Concerts at Parque Central
Previous ILP volunteers suggest just hanging out at Park Central for a few reasons: “The environment is fun and sometimes there would be concerts on the streets or live music in cafes you can always check out.” This area is the center of the city and the best starting off point for wandering (just pick a colorful alleyway and start exploring).
Head towards the yellow Granada Cathedral and you’ll run into it.
Get A Chocolate Massage
Take the time to relax with a chocolate massage. At the Mansion de Chocolate, you can spend an hour or so being massaged with rich chocolate, which is supposedly very good for your skin and a total luxurious deal. Get more details about a chocolate massage here.
Bike Around The City
Overall, the city of Granada is a bit spread out so maximum your time by renting bikes one afternoon to see if you can spot some pastel streets that aren’t on your normal route to the city. You can find bike rentals in the main square (Parque Central) and should be able to haggle down the prices for about $5 for a half-day which is plenty of time for you to ride around and find some more photo-ops.
Shop At The Central Markets
As an ILP volunteer, all of your meals at home will be covered, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out the local markets. Particularly we recommend the Central Markets where you’ll find narrow alleyways stuffed with everything from handcrafted shoes, fish stored on ice, accessories for your hair, fabric, sacks of dried beans (and rice of course!) etc.
In the mood for a snack? Find piles of oranges, bunches of bananas, towers of melons and pineapple, and more. You’ll also spot some food vendors selling local dishes. My opinion? Try vigoron — marinated pork topped with a pile of cabbage, drizzled in vinegar. Yum.
Opens around 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM until the afternoon. It’s best to visit as early as you can.
Calle Atravesada, Granada, Nicaragua
Our Favorite Day Trips + Weekend Adventures
This is an absolute must-happen on your semester. Ometepe is an island found in the huge Lake Nicaragua. And on that island are two volcanoes to hike, plus a beautiful oasis you can swim in. The island is also home to some volcanic pools a handful of beaches, and lush jungles to explore. Volunteers tend to visit on a weekend or come a couple of different Saturdays to check everything out.
We have specific info on how to get to Ometepe and other details to help you out.
Found near Masaya, you can swim in a volcanic pool (which just sounds awesome). Sections of the shore are owned by hotels while others are totally public access and free. Grab a swimming suit and a towel and relax on the shore or jump in for a refreshing dip. Plan on taking a one-hour bus to get there from Masaya (So, about 2-3 hours to get there from Granada) but it’s well worth it.
Get information about the Apoyo Lagoon on our Masaya Guide.
Found just an hour or two away from Granada is the city of Mayasa which has a few things to keep you busy. Just a couple suggestions include hiking Masaya volcano to peer into a glowing lake of lava, or the chance to shop at a local market for things like colorful hammocks or painted jewelry.
Here’s more about visiting Masaya, Nicaragua.
Dive deep in the the dense jungles of Nicaragua to climb Mombacho volcano, and see the whole city of Granada spill out below you if you can make it to the top. It's one of the most picturesque hikes you can take in the country and easily done in a weekend for our volunteers living in Granada.
This guide to Mombacho volcano has all the info.
San Juan Del Sur
A definite weekend trip, head to San Juan Del Sur for a couple of days of beach-and-surf-filled adventures. It’s a cheap (but 4-hour) bus ride, or you can pay more for a shuttle directly there. Either way, a weekend in San Juan Del Sur gives you the chance to lounge on three or four of the best beaches, take a yoga class, and eat some bomb tacos.
Get our weekend guide to San Juan Del Sur right here.
Call the city of Granada your home for a semster
Each semester, ILP works with schools in the Granada area so college-aged volunteers can spend a semester in Nicaragua teaching English part time and exploring part time. If that sounds like your kind of adventure, let's get some questions answered: