Nicaragua is falling apart. In April, protests, regarding taxes and pension benefits, began. Since then, more than 100 people have been killed. The calls for President Daniel Ortega to step down have intensified. While many fear that the largest country in Central America is heading down the same destructive path as Venezuela. The situation is not good.
Granada was largely spared at first. When anti-government demonstrations began in the capital of Managua, they quickly popped up in the colonial city’s Parque Central and Plaza de la Independencia, as well. Within a week, signs of the conflict had mostly disappeared. Tourists resumed browsing the market stalls on Calle El Comercio, climbing the bell tower of Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral, hiking into the cloud forest on Volcan Mombacho, and boating on Lake Nicaragua. But the city’s luck ran out last month when City Hall was set on fire and nearby shops were looted. The quaint UNESCO World Heritage Site is now consumed with terror.
In 1524, Granada was the first city established on the American mainland. Despite being invaded by English, French, and Dutch pirates, La Gran Sultana thrived and became one of the most important—both economically and politically—cities in first the Spanish colony and eventually Nicaragua. Its streets are cobbled and narrow. Its architecture, with grand columns and rounded arches, reflects its namesake city’s Moorish and Andalusian appearance. Smaller buildings are covered with stucco, topped with red tiles, and open to hidden courtyards. They’re painted in every color of the rainbow. So are the neoclassical and baroque churches.
In 1852, Managua was named the new capital of Nicaragua to quell the disputes and shifting power between Liberal León and Conservative Granada. Granada avoided much of the upheaval during the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1970s, as well. By the 1990s, the city’s historic buildings were being restored and preserved. New hotels and restaurants started opening in them. While tourists began using the city as a base to explore the rest of the country.
These new hotels and restaurants weren’t simple hostels and expanding street vendors. Tribal Hotel, which opened in 2014, is now one of the top boutique hotels in the country. Its boho-chic vibe wouldn’t feel out-of-place on Mallorca or Mykonos. Its handpicked decor—Turkish kilims, Moroccan lanterns, Mali fabrics—has been sourced from around the world. Its carefully selected amenities include French press coffee, full Nicaraguan breakfasts, and steady Wi-Fi. Plus its courtyard pool offers a respite from the midday heat.
Outside of the hotel, it’s now easy to find specialty coffee bars (Espressionista), real hummus and falafels (Pita Pita), fish tacos (Nectar), huge steaks (El Zaguán), and gelato (Gelateria). Art galleries, day spas, and yoga studios are mixed in, too. It’s a beautiful city that shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the beaches, the lakes, and the volcanoes that lured you to Nicaragua in the first place. We hope that we’re able to return soon.