Far from Home - Granada, Nicaragua

Published: April 17th 2012
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San Salvador/Esteli//Granada

We are now living in our new house in Granada, Nicaragua. We feel like we have now become “oldtimers” on the road. We have met quite a few people here in Granada and everyone expresses amazement that we have been travelling for so long. Even the long term travelers are surprised we drove all this way. According to Google maps we are now 3,549 miles from home, although we have put almost 12,000 miles on the car since we left 9 months ago.

We had a decent drive from San Salvador, El Salvador to Granada. We followed the Pan American highway for the whole trip which made it easy for directions. We crossed both the northern and southern borders of Honduras in one day. The northern border (at El Amatillo) was much worse, although neither was that bad. El Amatillo is reputed to be the most difficult border to cross in Central America. We downloaded a step by step guide from the internet which helped a lot, but not totally. It did give us more confidence that we weren’t getting ripped off too badly.

The roads in Honduras were atrocious, with potholes everywhere on the freeway. They were definitely the worst roads so far in Central America. The worst part was it doubled the time crossing Honduras, so it was getting close to dark when we reached the Nicaraguan border. We got across the border just as the sun was setting and needed to get to a town quickly. The roads in Nicaragua were great and perfectly paved so we decided to bypass the first town and go on a little farther to the town of Esteli, Nicaragua. We were feeling good about our decision when a large bull wandered across the road in front of us. He was white and not too hard to see. We were still laughing that we were having such good luck when a black horse (or maybe donkey) walked in front of the car. We missed it by inches going 50 miles an hour. Yikes. We will NEVER drive after dark again.

We limped into Esteli, tired from the drive, border crossings and donkey scare. We found a decent enough hotel for 20 dollars and called it a night after getting a nice sandwich at a local Cuban restaurant. Esteli is a cowboy town that is famous for its tobacco and cigars, but we really didn’t stay long enough to see much in the morning. It was about a 3 hour drive the next morning to reach Granada.

Granada is a large tourist mecca for Central America much like Antigua in Guatemala. In fact it reminds us of a cross between the Mexican beach town of Puerto Escondido and Antigua. It is flat and hot like Puerto but has colonial style buildings and a volcano like Antigua. Granada is a very old city founded by the Spanish in 1542. It has several large churches and colorful houses with tiled roofs like most of the colonial towns we have visited. It is situated on Lake Nicaragua which is the largest lake in Central America. The lake is so large that it really looks like the ocean. We were told that the lake even has sharks, one of the few in the world that does. The Spanish (and pirates) liked the town because Lake Nicaragua has a river leaving it that gives access to the Caribbean.

Our new house is part of a large house and has a pool. We were disappointed that the pool was being repainted when we arrived. It has been in the high 90’s since we arrived and a nice cool swim seems like a good idea.We do have air conditioning which is a nice change. The apartment is small but nice and will be good for the month we will be here.

We have spent the first few days here exploring the town. There is a nice tourist street (La Calzada) and a pretty central park that is dominated by a large Cathedral. We live about 5 minutes by car from town and it is nice because there is always parking in town. Most people here do not own cars. Most ride bicycles and many ride on horse drawn wagons.

On our first weekend we took a bit of a road trip to a nearby mountain town called Catarina, which is famous for its flower shops and beautiful lookout. The lookout has a view over Lake Apoyo and Granada and onward across Lake Nicaragua.

We also visited the town of Masaya. Masaya is a working class town that has a nice artisan market and town square. We drove to the bottom of Mombacho volcano which looks over Granada. They have a zipline that is nearly a mile and a half (total) in length. We may go back soon to try our luck.

Granada has 365 small islands just off of the lake coast that we plan to visit in the morning. One has a fort on it and another has monkeys. We are hoping to find a boat that will take us out early so we can beat the heat.

So far so good. It seems like Granada will be a good place to spend a month. We will write more once we have had more adventures.

Additional photos below
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17th April 2012

What Great Blogs
I just found your blogs today, and all I can think is "Wow! What an incredible adventure." I am looking forward to your new postings as well as catching up with the beginning of your trip. Thanks for sharing your story.
22nd May 2012

Exploring Nicaragua attractions
This is a great article about some of the best attractions to explore in Nicaragua.I have been there twice and am familiar with Granada and Masaya surroundings too. Keep up your posting cause it is an amazing way to see other destinations in Central America.

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