In Granada’s town center, stroll along cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored buildings and visit some of Nicaragua’s most beautiful churches, including the landmark Granada Cathedral.
Granada was founded by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524 and lays claim to being the first European city on mainland America. Three hundred years later, much of the urban area was destroyed by fire on the orders of the William Walker. Reconstruction efforts have restored many structures to close approximations of their appearance during Spanish rule.
A good place to start your visit is at Iglesia San Francisco, one of the oldest churches in Central America. Admire the light blue exterior with its thin white columns and wooden doors. Adjoining the church is a museum where you can see pre-Columbian statues from the island of Zapatera, which is located in Lake Nicaragua.
Go to the Baroque-style Iglesia de la Merced for a trip to the top of the bell tower. From here you can enjoy commanding views across the city. Downstairs, visit the chapel dedicated to the Virgen de Fatima. A short walk to the west of the city will take you to the Municipal Cemetery where you can see the ornate tombs of six Nicaraguan Presidents and the Chapel of Spirits, a scale model of a renowned French church of the same name.
Just outside of the city you will find the Nicaragua Butterfly Reserve. See more than 20 species of butterfly inside the large flight house then walk along scenic trails through the forest. Look for monkeys, parakeets and motmots, the national bird of Nicaragua.
Granada is a small city and the sites can all be easily reached on foot. Buses are regular and reliable, though you may want to try one of the horse-drawn carriage rides. Granada is approximately 29 miles (47 kilometers) from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and within easy reach of the islands of Lake Nicaragua.