November 4th 2018
Overlooking Central America’s largest lake, colonial Granada exudes charm with its cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants, and historic buildings dating to the time of the Spanish Conquistadors.
Take in the friendly atmosphere of the breezy central square, and climb up the bell tower of the 16th century cathedral for a bird’s-eye view of Granada, massive Lake Nicaragua, and the soaring volcanoes that surround the town.
While Granada is definitely a must-see destination, your small adventure travel group will detour from the beaten path to experience a much deeper sample of Nicaragua’s cultural curiosities and natural beauty. Just outside Granada (or about a two-hour drive from the northwest beaches near León), you can go kayaking among pristine lake islands, encounter a rustic community of artisans, and peer into a glowing volcanic crater as night falls.
Kayak among lake islands
Start with a short trek from central Granada down to Lake Nicaragua’s shore, where you’ll hop into a kayak and cruise among the hundreds of volcanically formed isletas (small islands). By far most of the 365 islands remain pristine and undeveloped, with a variety of tropical wildlife thriving among coconut palms and thick, verdant foliage.
Your guide will help you spot lake birds such as the ringed kingfisher, Montezuma’s oropendola, northern jacana, and others. As you paddle among the narrow waterways, you may also see monkeys in the treetops, and at every turn you’ll have an amazing view of the imposing Mombacho Volcano (4,409 feet), whose eruption eons ago created the islands. For the best wildlife viewing, visit early in the morning or as dusk approaches when the creatures are the most active, and enjoy the added bonus of a colorful sunrise or sunset.
Watch artisans in action
Another departure from the usual sites takes you to a unique assemblage of artisan villages, the pueblos blancos (white villages), named for the boring white paint that originally covered most of the structures.
Whether it’s leatherwork, ceramics, hammock weaving, woodcarving, herbal medicine, or furniture making, each segment of the village is clustered by the creations its residents produce. Spend some extra time in the potter’s village, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands muddy at a pottery workshop led by a skilled artisan who still uses traditional methods.
Gaze into a lava lake
Late in the day, visit Masaya Volcano National Park and its active 2,083-foot peak, for a display of raw natural power right before your eyes. Take in a surreal, mountaintop sunset and enjoy an incredible, aerial spectacle of parrots ending their day by noisily flocking home to their nests at the same as hundreds of bats flutter out of their volcanic hideaways. As darkness displaces the last rays of daylight, gaze down into the crater to see the red-orange lava lake growing even brighter while heaving and roiling in an unforgettable, super-heated display.
Whether you choose Granada as your base camp or gravitate farther out to the northwest beaches near León, be sure your small group adventure in Nicaragua includes these less-traveled spots.
November 4th 2018