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Published: March 14th 2015
San Jose, Costa Rica
This is the bus at San Jose bus terminal which we took to Nicaragua.
We were in Granada, Nicaragua from the 28th until the 31st March, 2013. This blog is mainly about the places we saw in this beautiful city during the three full days of sightseeing.
We took the TICA bus from San Jose, Costa Rica on Thursday, March 28th to Granada, Nicaragua. The TICA bus terminal in San Jose wasn't far from our hotel so we got a cab through our hotel, and arrived there in good time. We had to check in just like in any international airport, except there weren't any immigration or customs. From what I could make out, the passengers were mostly local, although I noticed an American family with kids.
The bus left on time at 12:30 pm. We were told that the journey could take anywhere from 8 to 10 hours depending on the waiting time at the Costa Rica/Nigaragua border. Well, luckily we didn't have to wait long at the border. In fact, we didn't even have to line up for immigration and customs check as the two TICA assistants that rode on the bus took all our passports and had them ready for us after about an hour at the frontier. I should
San Jose, Costa Rica
The back of the bus showing the routes.
mention that they collected USD 17 from each passenger, but all of us got an official receipt for only $10 from Nicaraguan authorities. I don't know what the other 7 dollars was for, I suppose for the service charge.
We passed through some pretty countryside, rivers and small towns. At one town, a food and drink vendor came on the bus and we bought lunch from him. I think he has some sort of deal with the bus driver as I saw the same man again on the return trip from Nicaragua. Asides of the border check, the bus made only one stop when we were in Nicaragua territory, at Rivas where some people got off. I heard later that Rivas is one of the popular destinations in Nicaragua known for its tropical scenery and unspoiled beaches.
We arrived in Granada around 8:30 pm and took a taxi to the Hostal San Jorge (separate review of hotel already posted). Check in at the hostel was very simple with only cash changing hands, and no paperwork involved. The owner himself took care of us. I had my first taste of the local beer, a brand called 'Tona.'
that evening as we didn't want to venture out in an unfamiliar place at night.
The next morning after getting directions from the hostel owner, we set out for our first full day of sightseeing. Much to our pleasant surprise the city center was less than 10 minutes walk away from our hostel. We had to pass through the municipal market which always seemed to be very busy during the daytime.
When I say city center, it's really the main square of Granada which is centered around the big park in front of the Paxeos
cathedral, with many colonial style buildings, hotels, restaurants and churches nearby. The Paxeos
cathedral itself is known as the landmark of the city. It was Good Friday and the park was crowded with local residents and tourists. I had a breakfast of vigoron
which wasn't really my choice, but I noticed that just about everybody was eating it at the many food stands and small restaurants in the park. So I thought this must be a traditional or even national dish of the country. It is made of boiled cassava, mixed with crunchy pork rinds and covered with cabbage slaw served on a
Countryside scenery along the way.
banana leaf. I am not picky at all when it comes to food, but this wasn't the best foreign/exotic food I have had. However, I was so hungry that I finished almost all of it except for the pork rinds!
Besides the usual souvenir stalls in the park there were so many vendors walking around, trying to sell you sunglasses, cashew nuts or hammocks. I did buy a packet of cookies from an old woman who carried them in a big basket on her head, and also cashew nuts from one girl who had a nice smile and kept saying, "very good, very good!" This park also looked like a place where the locals socialized, and we went there everyday during the time we were in Granada as it was a good place to hang around and relax.
As mentioned above, our first full day in Granada was on Good Friday and we saw a traditional Easter procession which started from the Paxeos cathedral (or simply known as the Catheral of Granada), then through the streets, passing Guadalupe church and ending back at the park.
On our second day we took a side trip to Managua, the
More scenery (taken from bus).
capital of Nicaragua by commuter bus which cost only a dollar each one way. Here again, the bus station was just a stone's throw away from the central park, and on our return we explored more of the city, stopping at La Merced
church and climbed up to the belltower to have a great view of the city. This church was originally built in 1534 by the Spanish conquerors, and is one of the oldest churches in Central America. Another church we visited was the Iglesia Xalteva
which is a relatively new church rebuilt and completed in 1921 after it was destroyed in the civil war of 1890. Then back to the park where we bought grilled chicken and tortillas packed in banana leaves which was our takeaway dinner.
On the third and last day of our stay in Granada, we went zip lining (my first time!) which is known as the Canopy Tour in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It was also Easter Sunday and we celebrated by having lunch at a restaurant besides the park, and later attended part of the Easter services inside the Paxeos cathedral. The afternoon was spent walking around some more. We saw
We passed a lot of hills.
a mini circular bus shaped like a train parked on the street in front of the restaurant where we had lunch. The fee was only something like 40 US cents each so we hopped on it, and enjoyed a ride along the streets of the city and the lake. Dinner that evening was at an open air place on the street behind the Paxeos cathedral. This street is lined with restaurants and was full of mainly tourists having an evening out. Some of the locals were still celebrating Easter and we watched a few decorated floats pass by.
With all the sightseeing in Granada, plus the couple of tours we took, it was a pretty hectic three days for us, but I must say Granada is a city certainly worth a visit if you're ever in Nicaragua, and I even managed to get a cheap (US$ 2.40) haircut in spite of all the walking around while we were there!
The next day we left for the TICA bus station at 5:30 in the morning thinking that the bus to Costa Rica would leave at 6 am, but it left Managua at 6 and arrived in Granada at 7:15.
The immigration/customs formalities at the border this time were more strict on the return trip, and all the bus passengers had to present themselves individually, along with their passports to the officials at the counter on the Costan Rican side. We also had to go through a baggage scan by the Customs. However, this time, the TICA staff on the bus collected only $4 from each person for whatever fee it was for, and arrived back in San Jose at about 3 in the afternoon.
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