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After scouring photos on Pinterest, I was immediately convinced that making a stop in colourful Granada was imperative while on our short little backpacking getaway. Short being a keyword. We were staying in Playa Maderas, which is about 30 minutes (when you take the dusty, hilly roads into factor) from San Juan Del Sur. This is on the west side of the country. Granada is northeast of San Juan Sel Sur and takes about an hour and a half to get there from San Juan Del Sur. I was traveling with my friend Kara and we both agreed we wanted to visit it, but knew we would be a bit rushed. We planned one night there in a Colonial hotel that was once the home to the president of Nicaragua.
We accidentally took the chicken bus, which ended up being really great other than the fact that we lost $15 American because we paid for a semi-private shuttle at Casa Oro (a hostel that houses surfer's and has TONS of shuttle options to get you to many places). We ended up saving on the way back though because we knew about the bus. The chicken bus is simply the local bus - you can catch it directly across from Casa Oro hostel - it's just a yellow school bus. Sometimes it's a different colour, but it's a school bus full of locals and it costs about $3-$4. WINNING! I want to say that before you get on the bus, make sure you have gone to the washroom, you haven't drank any coffee or liquids in over an hour because there are no washroom breaks. I mentioned this before, but I had to pee the entire way and nearly started crying by the time we were 10 minutes outside Granada because I had to pee so bad. That was my only bad experience on this bus.
When we got there, I had various first impressions: Cool run-down colonial buildings, colourful, hectic and anxiety. lol. I have crowd anxiety. I didn't tell Kara this because I didn't want to ruin her experience but here's what was happening in my head: the following day after we arrived I got my period - so I was probably already grumpy with PMS, I had to pee really REALLY bad, there were so many people who spoke a different language than us and I knew the poverty level was pretty high in this city, so I was even more anxious about walking through the crowd. But I went pee in a bakery (I used a bathroom lol, the woman at the counter sensed how anxious I was and showed me to their bathroom) and I took a deep breath and walked down the busy street that was a market with people walking, cars driving without traffics rules and cyclists heckling Kara lol. It wasn't that bad once I got comfortable with my surroundings and I really started to appreciate the culture in the city.
What you have to expect as a woman is cat calling from the men there. Just ignore it, they eventually stop. But taking photos as a blogger is hilarious. The men will whistle, smack their lips and cat call. I'm not comfortable with this. In Toronto I would probably yell something obscene at them, but in Granada, I just rolled my eyes.
The buildings and the beautiful tiles on the sidewalks with make it all worth your while. The architecture is just so cool. Pink, yellow, blue, terracotta, orange, turquoise...There's just so many colours. When we got there we both needed some time to relax. So we went to our awesome hotel pool and drank margaritas and chatted with two women who were traveling alone. I couldn't imagine coming to Granada solo, but kudos to them! We quickly realized that we were wasting the day away so we got dressed and headed out to the square. If we had more time, we for sure would have done one of the horse and carriage rides. Apparently, if you get a guide who speaks English really well, you will learn a lot about the history of the city - Granada is very enriched with interesting history! You'll also get to see a lot of it too. We unfortunately didn't have time. Our main purpose was to see lava :)
We headed back to the hotel to book a driver for the evening. If you want to see Masaya Volcano (which you should!), book your tour at night. The walk tour is during the day, but in the evening, a driver will take you to the park. It cost us $57 US each (jaw dropping I know...) and $10 US to get into the park. You wait in line for a while too - so bring some sort of entertainment. A beer, a book, a bottle of wine, music, snacks etc. Seriously, you can wait up to two hours. I believe it took us 45 minutes to an hour - we just weren't expecting this because we didn't know what to expect at all. You have 20 minutes to view in the bowels of the earth from the crater volcano. Through the gassy smoke that is released through the very large opening you will see small openings where you can literally see lava bubbling and flowing around. It's just the coolest thing I have ever seen. I've always been intrigued about lava and volcanos - probably because it's something you can't get close to. It's not exactly safe either. There was a time a few years ago where there was an explosion from this volcano that ended up injuring people and damaging vehicles in the parking lot. The sound it makes is really cool too. It's so loud you can hear it clearly all the way up from the viewing point. It's an experience I will remember forever.
Kara and I didn't waste our short time. We woke up early everyday and Granada was no exception. I needed to take photos for the blog, and Zaful sent me a few items for my trip including this yellow dress in the photos below. We got dressed and went down a little side street that we made note of on our way to the volcano. It was a quieter street, but the colours were fantastic. I encourage travellers to go beyond the high-traffic tourist areas when it's safe to do so, because you find so many cool things. I decided on an orange-y red building with white pillars and daisy flowers decorated on the gates. The tiles on the sidewalk looked like those trendy Italian tiles everyone is putting in their bathrooms these days - but in reality, that has probably be the original design since the beginning. I think you could spend two full days in Granada and really see it all. It's not a huge city and everything is pretty centred.
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