Granada, Nicaragua isn’t how I remember it. Though nothing ever is really. Six years ago on my first visit there was a little bit of a scene. There were a couple of restored colonial hotels on the plaza. The Bearded Monkey was packed with backpackers who helped fill the couple of expat bars and local haunts. Some streets were best avoided though. There was a seedy aspect to the extent a knifing might occur if you took a wrong turn at night. At the city’s central market, I ordered tajadas con chancho and a juice and spent the next 36 hours in bed. Still I wanted to come back. Few places can really pull off the faded, tropical colonial atmosphere as well. Maybe Cartagena or Havana? I expected changes on my return, but I questioned if the city had retained its magic. It had.
True, there are trendier hotels, like the Hotel Spa Granada and Hotel Dario, being carved out of the once decaying architecture. There is a chocolate shop with chocolate making classes. Fair trade coffee, grown on volcanic slopes not far away, is sold from several different trendy java joints. There are yoga studios and eco-resorts on Lake Nicaragua. Yet everything has been enacted on a rather smallish scale and the character and charm hasn’t been lost. The Bearded Monkey is still quite cool, as far as hostels go. The market is still rambling and real. The vigorón sold on the plaza is still served on a banana leaf. You can probably still get knifed if you wanted to, and for some odd reason that is reassuring.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.