You will never know how much you can fill into one day until you try to experience a weekend’s worth of activities all in one afternoon! When I left off in my last post, we had just paid a visit to Hotel Plaza Colon. Once we left the hotel, Juan Carlos, our outstanding guide, took us on a stroll through Granada City to have a look at some of the cultural hot spots.
I will go ahead and tell you, Granada is a bustling city and with that comes street vendors. We were approached a number of times by vendors selling local cashews and other goods. Children also presented us with handmade crafts for sale. If we weren’t interested, we politely declined. Everyone was respectful and moved on their way, but keep in mind that some of the younger children are tenacious salespeople!
We popped into an amazing and inspiring cultural center located in a lovely historical building named Casa de los Leones, “House of the Lions” which was constructed in 1720. This is a place where local youths come to engage in all sorts of creative activities. We stopped and listened to an energetic DJ broadcasting live on the center’s community radio station, appropriately named Radio Volcán. Then we walked just a few steps further and found several artists painting, drawing and discussing in a fully-equipped art studio. The art they created was phenomenal and all of our hearts were warmed at the sight of such a vibrant place for local youth to grow and achieve. This is just one of several cultural centers in Granada.
Next we stopped by the Convento de San Francisco, originally built in 1585. This is one of the oldest churches in Central America. Like many buildings in Granada, the church has been burnt down and rebuilt a number of times throughout the years. Now the church houses a cultural center and museum that offers a glimpse into the ancient history of Nicaragua. There are several interesting artifacts to explore, but the most amazing sight is the hall filled with ancient, indigenous carved statues that date back to 800 to 1200 AD.
We finished up our Granada walking tour and hopped in the van. Our next stop… the active Masaya Volcano. Juan Carlos escorted us into the volcano museum at the base of the volcano. There are so many helpful exhibits and illustrations that explain how the volcanoes were formed and where all of the volcanoes in the country are located. There are 19 active volcanoes in Nicaragua. Some are more active than others. The Masaya is definitely active, so much so, that when our driver took us to the top, he had to pull the van in backwards so we could make a quick getaway if we needed to!
There were some clouds the afternoon that we visited the volcano, so we didn’t get the best view, but we definitely got the awesome experience. There are two things we noticed right as we got out of the van: first, it smelled like sulfur, a strong acrid smell that the volcanic gasses give off; second, it was so quiet… eerily quiet. We all took a look around, enjoyed the views and then headed back down. It was peaceful and at the same time exhilarating.
After visiting the Masaya Volcano, we were transferred to the banks of Lake Nicaragua. This is where our boat driver picked us up and we slowly made our way by water to Jicaro Island Ecolodge, located on one of the 365 isletas in Lake Nicaragua. As our boat putted along, we saw children paddling their canoes back to their homes on the small islands. They were most likely returning home from school. What a different life. Since the sun was setting, there were also a number of local fishermen artfully casting their nets to catch that nights’ dinner. As it turns out, when you stay at Jicaro Lodge and you order the fish of the day, you are likely getting the fish that they caught right there in the lake that very evening. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
When we pulled up to Jicaro, we were greeted with cold towels and refreshing local fruit drinks. We were so happy to arrive at such a lush, beautiful and relaxing place! This is a great option for travelers who want to experience the excitement of Granada, but who would prefer to end their day in a calm, cozy, and sustainable upscale eco-lodge.
We dropped off our things, got right into the luscious pool and relaxed for the rest of the evening. We shared a fantastic dinner with Hans Pfister of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality and his lovely wife, Jennifer. Jicaro is part of Cayuga’s impressive collection of sustainable hotels and Hans is at the center of their operations. We also had a great time meeting Jicaro’s general manager, Howard Coulson, who told us all about Jicaro’s great work that they are doing with the local community. Howard and his team at Jicaro went above and beyond to make sure that everyone had a great stay. The service is top notch here and I’ll be honest, I had a hard time leaving the next morning! I could have easily stayed a few more days!
In the next installment, we head to San Juan del Sur and then to the new crown jewel of Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast, Mukul Luxury Resort & Spa.