Retirement in the Oldest City in the Americas

Spanish-colonial Granada, Nicaragua mixes historic treasures with modern conveniences.

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Granada, Nicaragua, is one of the best preserved Spanish-colonial cities in the Americas. Founded in 1524, Granada claims to be the first European city in mainland America, meaning it's truly an old colonial city rather than a semi-modern lookalike. It's named after the ancient city of Granada, Spain, and shares some of that city's Moorish architectural influence.

Granada sits at the north end of Lake Nicaragua, with beaches near town and a group of small private islands just offshore. It’s also just south of Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua's largest volcanic crater lake. The international airport at Managua is a little less than an hour to the north, and the Pacific Ocean lies just over an hour to the west. The weather is warm to hot year-round, and life in Granada is best enjoyed outdoors as much as possible. Local Nicaraguans sit in their courtyards or on the sidewalks outside their front doors in wooden rocking chairs chatting and catching the breeze from the lake.

Granada is built around a large, shady and bustling town square anchored by a recently restored neoclassical cathedral. The city’s narrow streets extending off the square are lined with rows of colorful, well-kept Spanish-colonial homes. These could be considered Granada’s top attraction, and if you’ve ever dreamt of immersing yourself in Spanish-colonial America, this would be the place to do it. Prices for Granada’s colonial haciendas are low compared with the cost of similar properties elsewhere in Latin America. Completed homes are a great value, and fixer-uppers can be downright cheap – as little as $50,000 or less.

Granada is a very walkable city. Everything you need is close at hand and can be accessed via pleasant and level streets. The resident expat community is relatively large and supports great restaurants, bakeries and hotels that distinguish Granada from most cities of its size.

Lake Nicaragua, with its beaches, fresh water and islands, provides great recreational opportunities and a pleasant way to escape the heat. It's also a good place for boating and fishing, with its more than 3,000 square miles to explore.

Granada enjoys good connections to the United States from the international airport in Managua. The retiree residency program in Nicaragua is among the best in the world. You can qualify with a guaranteed monthly income of as little as $600. I wouldn’t recommend trying to live in Granada on a budget that small, but you could enjoy a comfortable and interesting life in this city on not a lot more.

Despite its resident community of foreign retirees, Granada remains authentically Nicaraguan. You still see oxcarts lumbering through the streets offering fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. Local residents visit the towering cathedral regularly for mass, and vendors sell local delicacies from wooden tables set up around the central square.

Granada has a unique blend of native Nicaraguan city life and expat amenities. It’s a city where you can enjoy the comforts of the 21st century while savoring the charms of the 16th, and in the company of fellow English speakers when you’re so inclined.