3 Volcanoes in 3 Days: In Granada…Not Grenadine

Convento San Francisco

Richard’s memory is about as strong as my rapping skills: almost non-existent but it might surprise you on occasion, rare occasions.  I’ve grown to accept that he appreciates our travel experiences as much as I do, but we appreciate them differently.  It used to really bother me when people travel and couldn’t recall almost anything other than the name of the country they visited.  It was tolerable as a child, but as an adult, I always felt like if you can’t even remember the name of the city you visited or the major site you went to…you probably didn’t stay long enough to say you visited it in the first place.

Granada Cathedral

If your response to…”did you get to see (insert famous historical site here) while you were there?” is “Yeah, probably….we went all over”, then you probably didn’t see it or didn’t really appreciate it if you did.  After traveling with Richard, however, I’ve accepted that we all appreciate travel differently…and I probably sound just as ignorant or pretentious by assuming he appreciates the experience any less than I do only because his memory is more selective than mine. Besides, there have definitely been occasions where Richard remembered the history of a city or location better than I did because he probably found it more interesting, and he chose to remember it.

Las Isletas

Please excuse the long ramblings.  The purpose was to explain the second half of this post’s title.  Throughout our time in Nicaragua, Richard constantly tried to recall the city we did what in.  I guess it could have been difficult since we did do a lot in many places in a short amount of time….but he called Granada, grenadine…and also thought we went to a city called Cordoba, which is the name of Nicaraguan currency. There were many instances of the following:

Richard: So the last city we were in…that was…._____________, that’s where we saw/did _____________.
Me: Nope…

Our last post was on how I flipped my board while volcano boarding near Leon.  Immediately after returning to Leon from our trip, we took a bus to Managua.  We then made the transfer to Granada and arrived after dark to find Casa del Agua a pleasant surprise.  Click here for our full review of our amazing stay at Casa del Agua in Granada.

Delicious breakfast at Garden Cafe

Our guide picked up a unique flower for us.

We woke up early the next morning, had a filling breakfast at the Garden Cafe.  Although we only stopped in for a short look, the Chocolate Factory boasts a great deal for a breakfast buffet, but we weren’t hungry enough to take advantage of it.  After breakfast, we took a boat tour of Las Isletas.  The natural small islands are in Lake Nicaragua and only a short taxi or carriage ride from Granada’s center.  We opted for the taxi ride and it was only a few dollars.  When we arrived, there weren’t any others tourists so we were able to take a private tour.  The tour lasts about an hour and you are able to take a relaxing cruise through some of the islands.

Feeding mangoes to the monkeys on Monkey Island.

A private tour shouldn’t set you back more than $20, less if you negotiate.  If you have a larger group, I definitely suggest arranging the tour by yourself rather than going with a company that charges $10-15 /person regardless of how many are in your group.  We would have waited for other tourists to come to split the price, but it was a fairly quiet and not crowded day.  We thought the private tour might be nice too.  There are over 365 little islands, some are privately owned as residences and others are available for tourists.  Some possible stops include Fort of San Pablo and monkey island.

A restaurant on one of the islands. Touring Las Isletas

Horse-drawn carriages line Granada’s central park.

Later in the day, we toured the city.  There are plenty of churches and museums to see in Granada so we decided to do the walking tour and see how much we could fit in one  day.  We decided to skip the carriage ride, although there were plenty of horses lining the city center offering tourists a very affordable guided tour.  We stopped by Iglesia Xalteva, La Merced, and Guadalupe.   There is also the grand cathedral and a convent all within walking distance.   We heard that visitors could climb one of Granada’s many churches, Iglesia La Merced, for a minimal fee so we made the climb and took in some views of the city’s rooftops.  Each church is completely unique and has a different history, design, and presence.  Climbing churches is definitely a must-do any time one has the opportunity.  Compared to Italy’s crowded church towers and high fees, the churches in Nicaragua were well worth the $1 or $2 for essentially having a rooftop to yourself.

View of Granada from Iglesia La Merced.

Granada’s bright yellow cathedral in the distance.

Admiring the art at Convento San Francisco’s museum

Entrance to the Artisan Crafts Market

In the evening, we arranged with Leo tours to take a night tour of Volcano Masaya at the national park.  Leo’s tours can be found on the main strip – Calle La Calzada – and the prices are competitive, if not better, than Tierra Tours.  We wanted to go to the Artisan crafts market so we were picked up early before sunset to Masaya market, about 45 minutes from Granada, and then continued our way to the national park.  We highly recommend Leo’s tours because they are very budget friendly and include more in their tours than the other companies we found since it is locally run.  Do not book tours through the internet in advance since many companies are able to offer better deals the day of or before depending on the size of groups.

The Cross

After the market, we made our way via private car – since we were the only ones to book with Leo tours that day – to the base of Volcano Masaya, our second Volcano of the trip.  Masaya Volcano offers tours throughout the day, but I would definitely recommend the night tour.  Not only are you able to see the sunset over the volcano, but you are also able to visit the bat and lava caves for almost the same price!  Your guide will take you up to see the cross, the mouth of the volcano, multiple craters, lava and bat caves, and then to see the red lava from the volcano once it is dark.  First, we made the climb to see the wooden cross at the top of a hill.  Spaniards decided to build the wooden cross, named Cruz de Bobadilla, because they believe the volcano was possessed.  They believed the mouth of the volcano was the entrance or mouth of hell.

Volcano Masaya – “Boca del infierno” (mouth of hell)

Feeling on top of the world!

Hiking up

Our guide apparently doesn’t follow the signs…

Before the sun set, we hiked to the top to explore the craters.  The cars waited at the base for us, and we followed our fairly quiet guide.  Our guide went past a few signs that warned us to not step any further.  Richard likes signs like these…It makes him feel rebellious.  Although this was our second volcano of the trip, Volcano Masaya was very different from Cerro Negro.  While Cerro Negro was essentially a black, ashy volcano, Masaya Volcano had sights to see all around.  If we had taken the morning tour, it was likely we could have spent a solid few hours there.  After it got dark, we were able to explore the caves.  It was Richard’s first time in a cavern, and we were luckily able to see some cool rock formations.

Richard is ready to explore the caves!

Lava Tunnels

My favorite part in the tunnels was when we made it to the center room with some natural wall structures that resembled faces.  It was a bit creepy.  At one point, our guide instructed us all to turn off our lights so we could be in complete darkness.  It was an eerie and pretty cool feeling.

BATS!

Our next stop was the bat cave.  We were able to climb down to stop at the mouth of a bat cave and witness bats coming in and out during their night run.  The feeling of bats whizzing by you in the dark is an incredibly cool feeling.

Richard’s go-to drink while in Nica: Tona and Michelada

The four hour tour ended with a look into the mouth of hell while it was dark.  The red lava wasn’t as bright as it usually is so we couldn’t get a clear picture, but you can see bright red lava flickers beneath the surface.  Be warned, the smoke and sulfur from the volcano at night is incredibly overwhelming.  Wear a mask or bandana the guide offers or you may regret it.  Richard ended up coughing the entire 45 minute drive back.  At night, we walked the tourist street and saw some street performers and listened to great live music.  Despite it being Tuesday night, Granada nightlife was very much alive.

1st run, getting the hang of it.

On our last day in Granada, we made our third and final volcano trip.  As the title states, this was our 3rd volcano in 72 hours, Mombacho Volcano.  Unlike the other volcano trips, this was a ziplining excursion and there was very little walking involved.  The ziplining tour zips you around the volcano reserve with swinging monkeys nearby.  We chose again to go with Leo Tours, but there are plenty of ziplining companies that offer the tour for around the same price, $30/person.  Be sure to tip your guides since they predominantly make money from tips and are incredibly helpful.  One of our guides said he would be our “paparazzi” and take care of the picture snapping for us so we didn’t have to.  The canopy tour consists of 17 platforms, and if it isn’t crowded, the guides will even let you do a few extra for free.  There are also plenty of fun ways to ride they will teach you and I definitely recommend trying all of them!  I’ve been ziplining before, but I’ve never had the opportunity to do so many fun tricks to each platform.

Flying superman

Upside down superman

Upside down solo

After some time at Mombacho Volcano, we headed back to Granada and took a taxi to the local buses.  We had enough volcanoes and adventure for our trip, and we took the 2 bus journey to San Juan del Sur for some fun in the sun.

You might also enjoy:
Nicaragua Lodging: A Review
10 Things we got for less than $3 in Nicaragua
I Flipped My Board Down an Active Volcano – Cerro Negro

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