Located between Masaya and Granada is a 200m deep volcanic crater lake named Laguna de Apoyo. With its blue water and an amazing view, it is one of Nicaragua's most beautiful natural wonders and should not be missed. Laguna de Apoyo was formed by a volcanic eruption more than 20.000 years ago that left a hole in the shape of an inverted cone. Slowly, over thousands of years, the crater filled with a combination of underground water and rain to form the country's cleanest and deepest lagoon. In 1991 the lagoon was declared as nature reserve, Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo.
Many visitors are simply pleased to view the lagoon from Mirador de Catarina. But it's worth making your way to the bottom for one of the finest swims you'll ever enjoy. You can explore the lagoon itself and enjoy a variety of activities, from hiking, diving, paragliding to watersports. There are a handful of small local restaurants that serve fish, typical Nicaraguan food and cold beers, and lots of lodging options. The restaurants are conveniently located just above the beach.
We were happy to spend an afternoon by the lagoon, having a swim in the warm water and relaxing in the shadow of one of the restaurants. The cold beer was very refreshing after many hours on the sun. Along with Pueblos Blancos and Mirador de Catarina in the morning, this was a very enjoyable day trip from Granada.
At the crossroads of Los Pueblos Blancos, just a short walk from the neighbouring San Juan de Oriente, is the town of Catarina. The town is mainly known for its mirador (viewpoint) which is a favourite weekend hangout for both national and foreign tourists. The panoramic view is considered to be one of the best in Nicaragua, stretching for miles across the Laguna de Apoyo, Granada and out into Lake Nicaragua. The mirador is complete with a few restaurants and a small artisan market. There is a small entrance fee to the viewpoint. According to legend, this viewpoint was one of young Augusto Sandino’s favourite places to contemplate decisions.
Catarina is also known for its fertile soil. By strolling through the town you will find an increasing number of nurseries blooming with colourful tropical flowers, including different types of orchids, palms, cactus, jasmines… Along with basket weaving and woodcarving artisans, Catarina invites visitors with its small-town charm. Set among quaint and clean winding streets and old adobe homes, the town seems to have been preserved in time. The lush vegetation that decoratively lines the sides of the roads offers shade. People seat in the park or door stoops watching life pass by, contributing to the relaxing and lazy feel of the town.
Pueblos Blancos (white villages) is a region formed from several charming little villages that sit in the hills south of Masaya. These villages got their name from their white colonial style churches and occasional white casitas with colourful doors and windows. Each town is known for different handicraft, from pottery, bamboo furniture, rocking chairs and leather work. Visiting the pueblos is an easy day trip from Masaya, as well as from Granada or Managua.
A 30-minute bus ride from Granada is a small village of San Juan de Oriente, famous for its pottery. The main entrance of the town is marked by a series of colourful souvenir shops with little chimes hanging outside, where different kind of fascinating clay art is exhibited. As you explore the town you will see houses filled with pottery as well as what seems to be little shops where the ceramics is made. Today approximately 85% of the population is involved in this important tradition, either processing the clay, turning, decorating or firing the potttery, and marketing. The excellence of San Juan de Oriente pottery has gained worldwide recognition and a visit of one of the humble workshops is a rewarding experience for any lover of ceramics.
Masaya is situated 16 km northwest of Granada, on the way to Managua. It rises on the banks of the lake that has the same name. The town is considered the cradle of folklore and is the heart of Nicaraguan handicrafts. One of the most interesting attractions in Masaya itself is Mercado de Artesanías. It's the biggest handicraft markets in Nicaragua, which houses a variety of little shops where traditional handicrafts can be found, from hand woven hammocks to wood carving, ceramic, musical instruments and many other things. Inside the market there are several restaurants where you can taste some typical dishes. On Thursday nights you can visit La Verbena, a cultural event that includes folkloric dances, music and traditional Nicaraguan food.
Just outside the city lies the Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, one of Nicaragua's most impressive natural phenomena. Established in 1979 as the country's first natonal park, it comprises an area of 54 km2 with more than 20 km of scenic hiking trails, leading to and around the volcano.
This natural reserve is located 10 kilometres near Granada. The main feature of the park is the Mombacho Volcano a Stratovolcano of 1345 metres height. There´s an entrance fee of $10.00; after paying the fee in the office near the parking lot a truck takes you to the volcano. The park has two treeking trails...The easy one needs 1-2 hours to the Biological Station (where you can see the Cloud Forest), and the longests 4 hours if you want to visit the Dwarf Forest (Bosque Enano) where the trees are very short due to the strong winds that blow there. I took the shorter, but otherwise i enjoyed the great views of the Lake Cocibolca, Las Isletas (small islands in the lake shore) and Granada.
Some features are to be hidden from the potential visitors but to be totally objective one has to see "everything", even the less pleasant realities of daily life. Well, one of them is that the beef the ignorant tourist eats might have come from a cow like these ones that have just eaten from the sewer where the tourist or his kin have just relieved themselves. Full circle depicted in a very visual manner.
We visited some of the neighbourhoods outside of downtown Granada as we wanted to see how most of the locals lived. As our pictures show the roads aren't paved, their is alot of litter, etc. To give back to the people my husband volunteered with a local volunteer agency.
Donna, previous owner of Another Night in Paradise B&B, started a project which provides accommodation and schooling for street kids. My husband and brother helped to build part of the building which I have included photos of.