This is part 2 of Leon vs. Granada: Travel Smackdown. Before you go any further you should STOP and go read part 1.
Granada is touristy. There is no way around it. But like most tourist places worldwide, it draws foreign visitors for a reason. It is very pretty.
Because of the larger scale tourism accommodation, food and activities are more expensive than Leon, but there is arguably more to do. The central square is extremely picturesque and if you have the money there are some beautiful old hotels lining the streets of the old city. Museums and other cultural attractions are easily accessible within walking distance in and around the old city and there are for more tourism types of businesses dotted among the colonial buildings.
We spent our one full day in Granada wandering around the central square, ducking into churches, and soaking in the ambiance.
Our second day was spent on the shores of Laguna Apoyo, only 30 minutes away from Granada.
And… that’s really all I have to say about Granada. It is a fine city with an easily walk able city center. There’s less trash and less noise and less traffic than Leon. It’s also cooler. It is set up for international visitors and location-wise it is far more convenient than Leon. If you are looking for an easy home base from which to explore Nicaragua then Granada is probably a better bet than Leon.
So which was our favorite colonial city? Antigua, Guatemala.
I have written about why I loved Antigua and every colonial city we visited after spending at week there has simply not lived up to the high bar set at the beginning of our trip.
But in the travel smackdown between Leon and Granada, Leon comes out on top. I find that I simply have very little to say about Granada and while it was a better-looking city, it just wasn’t quite as special or interesting.
Nicaragua is becoming a huge hotspot for travelers. It’s cheaper than neighboring Costa Rica, but is just as beautiful and action packed. If we ever go back we are planning to basically skip the cities entirely and head straight for the stunning beaches or the shores of lake Nicaragua. Neither city tugged at my heartstrings and the highlight of each stop ended up being the day trips we took away from the city (Las Penitas for Leon and Apoyo for Granada).
Was it worth stopping in both cities? I guess so. I would have probably skipped Leon simply because of it’s less convenient location, and that would have been a bummer because we ended up preferring the less touristy city. My general advice if you are heading to Nicaragua is to add as more time than you think you’ll need to your trip. It’s a great country and there is so much to see and do.