Most of our bus experiences in Central America so far have involved some sort of driver-money collector conversation about how much to charge the gringo’s. We have only been obviously overcharged a few times, but we have always had to been super diligent about asking how much things cost and them making sure we get the correct change. So when we got to Nicaragua we were so happy, and surprised, to see that every bus has the fare posted! It has made traveling this country so much easier because 1) We know we are paying the correct fare and 2) We know we are on the right bus since the routes are posted with the prices. This revolutionary change in our bus experiences made getting from the liberal capital of Leon to the actual capital of Managua easy and seamless. Managua felt a lot friendlier than the other capitals we have driven through, but since the next bus we needed to catch was at the same terminal (which is not common) we saw only the main highway that cuts through Managua.The bus on to the conservative/colonial capital of Granda was similarly easy and seamless.
Once in Granada we wandered the hot streets (yep, still super hot) to find our tiny hostel Entre Amigos. The hostel’s entrance was through a store and there were only three private rooms and one dorm. The dorm had bunk beds with double beds on the bottom and a single on top. The room was tiny and the 8 backpacks with the 8 people that went with them made the room feel cramped. But, each bed had a fan and at $5/person/night, we dealt with the space restriction. We were super hungry when we got into the city, so after dropping our bags we went in search of some cheap food. We found 20 cordoba tacos ($.80) in a “restaurant”, really just a stove, located inside another store. They were the best tacos we had had in a while and we washed them down with a few Tonas.
The first afternoon in Granada we wandered down to the central square, where the main church is as well as the expensive restaurants and hotels are located. From there we tried to find a grocery store to stock up on food, as we had been warned about the expensive tourist restaurants often found in Granada. We found Pali Market and bought chicken, soy sauce and the fixins for chorizo tacos for dinner for the following few nights. We also bought some oatmeal, which has become our go to breakfast. After our shopping we went back to the hostel and watched movies for the rest of the night. It was nice to have access to movies in English and a tv to watch them on, so we took full advantage.
The next day was our “tourist day”, complete with visiting the main tourist street, eating overpriced (but DELICIOUS) gelato, taking pictures of a bunch of churches and trying a few of the local favorites in the park. We ate vigaron, which is a salad type dish with yucca, pork skins and cabbage topped with lime and peppers. With vigaron we had what I think was chicha, but it was pink and tasted like cotton candy, so I am not really sure. We also ate quesillas, which are tortillas with melted cheese, served with onion salsa. I didn’t really enjoy any of it, but Logan liked it all (especially the habanero sauce that came with the quesillas). After our sightseeing day, we were happy to get back to the hostel to relax with another movie and get out of the sun.
Granada was okay. The churches were nice and the streets were less congested with cars than in Leon, but we did not find it to be the “gem” that guide books say it is. So… who is the winner between Leon and Granada? Antigua. The Nicaraguan cities are fine. The churches are old and pretty, but what we have loved about Nicaragua are the things we have seen outside of the cities. Antigua (in Guatemala) was easily our favorite colonial city. However, if your are in Nicaragua your journey will inevitably take you to one, or both of these cities. If that is the case, consider looking into day trips because the highlight of Leon was going to beach, Las Penitas, and the highlight of Granada was heading up to a lagoon, Laguna Apoyo.
In our next blog we will write about our experience at the lagoon!