One of the first attractions we saw as we pulled into Granada’s city limits was the Cementerio de Granada (Cemetery of Granada). It was established in 1830 after Spain granted Nicaragua its independence. As we approached the main entrance, a craftsman who stood at his makeshift workbench with his chisels and hammer gave us a pleasant nod. He then held up a granite tombstone to show us what he was working on. The people in Granada are very friendly and proud of their trades. We entered the cemetery through massive black wrought iron gates. The asphalt pathway was lined with royal palms that were 70-plus feet tall. The main pathway was kept groomed by gardeners that worked diligently trimming and pruning the shrubbery that lead the way to a small chapel.
As we walked down some of the many rows of grave sites, it was amazing to us how much history was laid to rest here. Many of Nicaragua’s most elite were side-by-side with some of the country’s most patriotic leaders. There is one specific site reserved for the country’s presidential leaders. It is similar to the United State’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, except it’s condensed to include the rich and famous. It is a must see if you are ever in Granada.
If you are a cigar aficionado, then our next stop to Dona Elba cigar factory will interest you. The factory, established in 1991, lays claim to having the first cigar master of Nicaragua. The tour is similar to one of a brewery, except for this one they roll fresh tobacco into fabulous tasting cigars. The rollers showed off their trade right in front of you. They explained which leaves are used for the inside, outside and tips of the cigars.
Our tour included a freshly rolled cigar of your choice. You select your own flavor and the quality of leaves. They let you smell and feel the smooth texture of the tobacco leaf and ask you to pick a small, medium or large cigar. I elected for the larger size because I wanted to have some left over for an after dinner smoke. After designing your personal cigar, you get to watch the master roller hand make your first class creation. You then sit down in one of their plush lobby chairs and they come by and light your cigar for you. Your taste buds begin to experience a little piece of heaven. The only thing missing at that point was a Markers Mark on the rocks and a few close friends. I felt like royalty!
We headed closer to downtown Granada to do more exploring. Spain introduced parts of Central America to Catholicism in the deepest way. They built several Cathedrals back in the 16th century. We visited a few of these magnificent structures. We toured the Iglesia de Xalteva (church of Xalteva – pictured top right), which is one of the oldest cathedrals in Granada. The church has suffered extensive damages throughout the centuries and has been refurbished several times. Another cathedral that has survived the elements of time is the La Merced (The cathedral of kindness, pardon or mercy – pictured upper top left). This particular cathedral was built in 1781 and has a spiral staircase that leads up to the bell tower. We paid our dollar each admission and climbed the narrow stairs to the historical tower. From this vantage point you can see all across the city of Granada, as well as its beautiful countryside. What a wonderful and memorable day of sightseeing.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographs: Maureen Scopel