Tag Archives: Granada

León, Nicaragaua – Impressions and Volcano Boarding

León Nicaragua’s second largest city and was at one point the country’s capital. However, in the 1840s and 50s the capital changed back and forth between León and Granada depending on the political regime at the time. Eventually the capital moved to the city of Managua between the two other cities.

wpid-political-map-of-nicaragua-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

León is similar to Granada in that there’s a large tourist element. While Granada has its central park with a long road of restaurants and bar stretching down to the lake, León bars, restaurants and cafés dot the city, almost hidden among the markets and shops.

The centre point of the city is the cathedral but at present it doesn’t appear well maintained.

wpid-dscf3407-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

The building is, however, being restored from the roof down. Tourists are able to climb to the newly refurbished rooftop to see the transformation.

wpid-dscf3390-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

There are several other churches around the city and many are all need of restoration. From the roof of the cathedral there’s a good view across the city and along volcano alley. The shorter dark mound on the left is Nicaragua’s newest volcano and the location of León’s most popular outdoor activity.

wpid-dscf3398-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

Volcano Boarding
Birthed in the 1850s the small volcano has caused much distress for León, but has also provided the city with a source of tourism – Volcano Boarding.

wpid-dscf3332-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

The volcano is only 750m high and made primarily from small rocks and black sands. The summit is inaccessible by vehicle, so getting to the top means climbing though the shifting sands with the volcano board on your back and a bag containing overalls, gloves and goggles. The ascent takes only 45 minutes and climbs through the old crater where stains of sulphur surround smouldering rocks.

wpid-dscf3341-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

From the top there are magnificent views of the surrounding area, including a view to the Pacific coast and along volcano alley.

wpid-dscf3349-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

We waited for another group to go down slowly before we donned out red overalls and got our 5 minute training lesson. Then our guide waited for us half way down with camera at the ready. One at a time we pushed over the lip and began the slide down, trying not to collect stones as we went. The first part is moderately steep and allows momentum to be built…

wpid-dscf3375-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

Then about half way down it gets steeper. The quickest time riding on boards is 93 km/h for men and 80 km/h for women. I managed a meagre 60 km/h and even that was exhilarating. The sand dust flowing behind adds a good effect.

wpid-dscf3378-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

Then at the bottom we are back in the 4WD given a beer and driven back to town.

wpid-dscf3385-2014-02-7-21-49.jpg

Good dirty fun and even though we wore overalls, the dirt and stones get everywhere.

Next, I head north to Guatemala and the colonial city of Antigua.

The World Wanderer

Advertisements

Granada, Nicaragua – Impressions

Situated at the northern end of Lake Nicaragua, the city of Granada claims to be the first city in mainland America settled by Europeans. And while it’s inland and close to the Pacific Ocean it’s still considered a Caribbean port city. This is due to Lake Nicaragua being accessible from the Caribbean Sea by the San Juan river, which runs along the Costa Rican. Indeed, this was the path taken by Caribbean pirates on three separate occasions to attack the city.

wpid-political-map-of-nicaragua-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

Like many Latin American cities, Granada has dual natures. There is the classic touristy area which sees influxes of people from the US during the northern winter months. Then only a couple of blocks from the tourist centre is the poor market quarter with ramshackle stalls lining the streets.

wpid-dscf3275-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

The tourist area begins in the city’s central square which is a well maintained plaza area two blocks long, with cafe’s at each corner.

wpid-dscf3281-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

Across from the square is the cathedral.

wpid-dscf3283-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

Alongside the cathedral there is a long tourist road, with six blocks of bars and restaurants in hope of catching the tourist dollar.

wpid-dscf3289-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

Because of the road’s length, it’s not uncommon to see a horse-drawn carriage laden with tourists traversing it…

wpid-dscf3290-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

…past a not so well maintained church…

wpid-dscf3292-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

…to Córdoba Plaza celebrating the city’s founder…

wpid-dscf3297-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

…to end at the Lake Nicaragua where ferries leave for Isla de Ometepe twice a week.

wpid-dscf3300-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

A visit to Granada wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Nicaragua’s most active volcano, Volcán Masaya. While it’s fairly short for a volcano at 600m above sea level, it’s one of 19 volcanoes that make up Nicaragua’s volcano alley. Volcán Masaya weeps acrid smoke constantly from its crater.

wpid-dscf3308-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

The land around the volcano shows plentiful signs of the devastation it has caused over the years. Around the main crater there are four other craters that were once active, but have since closed over.

wpid-dscf3321-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

Often a trip to the crater at night gives the sight of glowing lava in the crater, but with the lack of wind at sundown, the fumes made it too dangerous to get close enough. Nearby there is, however, a large lava tunnel over 200 metres long which is now inhabited by several varieties of bats.

wpid-dscf3324-2014-02-4-18-13.jpg

With about twenty of us walking into the caves the bats get stirred and you can see them flying about and whipping past your ears. It’s exhilarating for those of us who love bats, but terrifying for those that who don’t.

This is but a small section of things that can be done in and about Granada.

Next I’m off to the city of Léon in northern Nicaragua to slide down the black sands of a volcano on a snowboard…

The World Wanderer