Léon has its fair share of beautiful colonial architecture, but Granada is a totally different beast. Where Léon’s narrow streets have a slightly shabby, lived-in charm, central Granada is all grand façades and wide avenues.
The difference between the two is made amply clear by the types of travellers we met in each: Léon was full of younger folks, looking to hit the nearby beaches, or head up the slopes of nearby volcanoes, or passing through on the way to the northern highlands. Granada’s tourist demographic skews a bit older, and probably a bit wealthier; I’d say tourists rather than travellers, though without using the term in a pejorative sense. There is, after all, plenty of beauty worth seeing here. The government of Nicaragua knows it, and has been contributing quite a bit of money to Granada’s renaissance.
So, J and I went out and did the touristy things. We took the tour at Mombacho Cigars, learning how they make their acclaimed cigars by hand, and buying a couple to bring back. We strolled the length of Calle La Calzada, from the Cathedral down to Lake Nicaragua. We climbed the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced, and beheld beautiful, sweeping vistas of the city.
I still think I preferred Léon, but Granada is absolutely a must-see if you find yourself in Nicaragua.
Tonight, J and I will be heading to the top of Volcano Masaya, to witness bubbling lava in the active caldera. Stay tuned!