Granada, Masaya and their enchantments
A productive travel is a travel to Granada and Masaya departments of Nicaragua. Not only will one see, admire and get knowledge of the thick historical and cultural values of the colonial cities, but they will also be rewarded by the beauty of the landscapes and waterscapes alike. From wandering around Granada's cobble-stoned streets, to shopping the well-made artisan crafts in Masaya & the White Towns, or to excursion to the Apoyo Lagoon.
Granada & Las Isletas: wonder after wonder
Founded by the Spanish conquistador Hernández de Córdoba as far back as 1524, Granada is the oldest city in Central America. Located 27 miles (45 km) from Managua on the north shore of the "Great Lake" of Nicaragua, the colonial city had survived some wars in the past. The existence of so many historical colonial buildings in Granada is one of the main reasons tourists want to go there, besides the other two charms nearby: Lake Nicaragua and Mombacho Volcano.
Home to approximately 191,000 people, Granada is also called The Great Sultana and is a fascinating colonial town engulfed by an amazing landscape. As one of the Spanish conquests, it was prone to attacks from Spain's enemies. It had been assailed three times by the French and English pirates, and in 1856 the villainous American filibuster William Walker set it on fire. Bearing with those, the present Granada has become the most visited city in Nicaragua(Granada Nicaragua). The main attractions of Granada are pooled around the Central Park, typical for a colonial town in Central America. Therefore, it is best to start an exploration journey there and go on foot to see the charming colonial buildings and churches in either Baroque or Renaissance style. Don't hesitate to explore more remote areas of the city and take a quick peek inside the casonas (large colonial houses with beautiful inner patios filled with plants).
Another fascinating viewpoint can be seen by ascending the towers of La Merced church.
Not far from the Central Park, the Convento San Fransisco Museum stands to offer an insight journey to Granada's history. The museum itself was the first church and convent built by the colonizers in 1529. Artifacts on ancient pre-Columbian cultures and statuettes from the Zapatera island can be found here.
A visit to La Calzada, one of Granada's most important avenues, can be exciting, too. It lies from one end of the left side of the Cathedral to the lake. Casonas and historical buildings like La Virgen de Guadalupe church were built along this road. At the west end of La Calzada, there is a 'malecón' or lakeshore with its charming newly remodeled boulevard. At the south end of that 'malecón' stands the Tourist Center of Granada which features local restaurants, discos and beaches.
From the Tourist Center, the Islets of Granada (Las Isletas) can be reached easily by boat. There are 365 islets that were formed when the Mombacho volcano erupted 20,000 years ago. Covered by wide varieties of unusual flora and home to a considerable number of birds, most of the islands are inhabited. The best thing to enjoy the scenery of Las Isletas is to go on a small boat and sail through the archipelago. You can stop by San Pablo Island to see the wonder of XIX century's fortification, to visit the friendly monkey colony and to admire the 100m by 25 m (327 ft by 82 ft) area carved into bedrock in Isla El Muerto (Island of Death).
Another interesting volcanic origin island is Zapatera. It was inhabited by indigenous tribes before the Spanish invaded Nicaragua. And though infrastructure is not exactly sufficient, it offers a breathtaking nature when the getting-there problem is tackled.
Not far from Granada, there is Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve. It is one of the 78 protected sites in Nicaragua. Towering at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) high above sea level, it is home to some indigenous plants and animal species. Hiking the volcano is possible at a few previously-set up trails and an awesome view around the volcano is definitely a rewarding thing after the sport.
Granada has so much to offer that one simply can't miss visiting it when traveling to Nicaragua.
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Laguna de Apoyo (Apoyo lagoon)
Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo, or Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve is one of the must-see places in Nicaragua. Formed about 23,000 years ago from the eruption of Apoyo Volcano, the site suffered from the implosion and a gigantic hole was created. It only became a lagoon after rain and subterranean water filled it. Located between Mombacho Volcano and Masaya Volcano, Laguna de Apoyo delivers a breathtaking, most-adored view to anyone who visits it.
With a surface as wide as 2,110 hectares and depth at 200 meters at the lowest point, the lagoon offers the cleanest fresh water body in Nicaragua. It may not be drinkable, but we can certainly swim and play in the water. With a steady nice temperature between 27C to 28C all year long, the lagoon is perfect to visit any time of the year.
The so-much-to-offer reserve attracts tourists of different kinds. One can swim by the shore of the lagoon, hike through the forest of Apoyo, snorkel or dive the water, paraglide from the top of the crater, sail the calm water or just simply relax and unwind after a strenuous journey. Whatever it is you decide to do there, fun is what you will get.
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Masaya and the White Towns : Culturally rich
14 km north of Granada and 17 km south of Managua lies Masaya or the City of Flowers. Inhabited by approximately 317,000 people, Masaya is famous for its folklores, cultures, arts and crafts, thanks to its most influential indigenous ancestor, the Dirianes. The name Masaya was taken from the nearby active volcano called Masaya Volcano, which is the definite lure for both local and international tourists.
Masaya is so rich of cultural traditions that people call it the crib of national folklore. The city was also admitted as the Cultural Legacy of the Nation in 1989 and the Capital of National Folklore in 2000.
A must-visit site in the city is the old cultural market. Here you can find little shops selling furniture, artisans, hammocks, clothes, etc. Activities in this market are not strictly in selling and buying. Every Thursday a cultural event called La Verbena de Masaya is held. It features folkloric dance, music and traditional Nicaraguan food, which makes the market the best place to go for both souvenirs-hunting and cultural understanding.
5 kilometers from Masaya on the way to Managua, you will locate Masaya Volcano. It is highly accessible with the existence of a road leading up to the crater, making it easier for people to wander up and around it. Once there, a magnificent view around the mountain will get you to hold your breath and admire the aerial beauty of the surrounding areas.
Another beautiful scenery is the Masaya Lagoon or Laguna de Masaya. Due to the massive contamination, the lagoon is now only good to see but not to swim. A perfect place to enjoy its view is at a small boulevard in the westernmost part of the city.
There are also the white villages (Pueblos Blancos) near Masaya. It is called as such due to the white color that dominates the houses. One of these white villages is Catarina, where one can find many nurseries with vast varieties of ornamental plants. These plants are displayed in small shops by the roads. Not only do they give easier access for buyers to browse around, but they also make the village greener and fresher.
A bigger attraction than the flowers and plants is actually Mirador de Catarina. It is a viewpoint displaying a splendid view of Apoyo Lagoon, Granada city, Lake Nicaragua and Mombacho Volcano all in one sight. This view is not only treasured by foreign tourists, but also the locals who take their time off on the weekends to give an appreciation to it.
San Juan de Oriente is another white town whose economy is focused in pottery and clay art. About 95% of its residence concentrates on continuing this profitable tradition. It is so obvious since upon entering the village, there are lines of shops exhibiting and selling colorful souvenirs and clay arts.
These undoubtedly make Masaya & Pueblos Blancos an absolute refreshing place to go.
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