You know when you land in someone’s dream, not only by the way they treat you, but by the way everything around you is so thoughtfully presented. I landed in Emi and Romain’s dream at El Respiro Ecolodge in Granada, Nicaragua, and it was indeed a deep, deep beautiful and dreamy breath of fresh air. Respiro means “breath” or “break” in Spanish, and this three-room ecolodge was my grand finale and a well-deserved break from a month of travel in Central America.
Located close enough to Lake Nicaragua to feel its breath, and minutes from Granada to still feel connected to the hustle, El Respiro offers a view of the Mombacho volcano at the top of a hill 350 meters above sea level that stops you in your tracks. The lodge is surrounded by nature reserve as far as you can see in all directions.
Romain and Emi, the French-Hungarian restaurateur couple that dreamed up El Respiro, live and work in their dream every day. Romain is the chef for the property, creating daily menus from the organic produce that has been growing on their 9 acres of land since early 2013. Emi, Ilan their son and little prince of the lodge along with their house dog Leo and cat Rocco complete the staff of this intimate stay. It is a family affair.
There are three rooms in the lodge with common gathering spaces that invite you to feel like you are home. My room, “The Suite”, was a spacious 66 square meters space with tall ceilings, a king size canopy bed, walk-in closet, sitting area and spa-like bathroom. But the best part of staying in The Suite is the view; located on the second floor, The Suite is wrapped with windows for a panoramic view of the outside jungle. It felt like I was in a tree house, and it sounded like one too. I was serenaded each night by the sounds of the jungle, and my natural alarm each morning was the howl of monkeys nearby. Every sunrise and sunset was picturesque.
Every meal is prepared fresh by Romain’s hand. The night that I was there I shared the dining room table with another guest staying in the downstairs room, she was there after her yoga retreat. Romain and Emi join guests for dinner and this adds to the welcoming and intimate feel of El Respiro. We enjoyed a vegan meal of couscous, fresh, seasonal vegetables and chia pudding with apricots. The conversation was about travel adventures and the details of Emi and Romain’s dream and how they work daily to keep it alive. They have plans to expand on their land in the coming months. Breakfast is served al fresco each morning with fresh, local coffee, juice, coconut water, toast, fruits and daily inspiration from Romain.
The moving that is done on and near El Respiro is slow and deliberate. The stone pool with pergola and sun deck offers a refreshing contrast to the jungle temperature and a great spot to relax with a juice and a book. The locally handcrafted hammock on the porch called to me each afternoon. The little farm on the property is a great place to visit and a short walk from the lodge. This farm hosts vegetable crops of Oxheart Tomato, lettuce, local zucchini, radish, peppers and cassava along with other seasonal offerings. There are 200 cacao trees, 100 coffee trees, and hundreds of lemon, orange and tangerine trees on the property. The farm is also the home of chickens, ducks, pigs, and rabbits that are fed well with organic grains and fruits. Emi and Romain also have a beehive of jicotes, indigenous bees whose honey is known for it’s therapeutic properties.
There are many activities to do nearby, with lots of neighboring towns including the “White Towns,” where many authentic Nicaraguan crafts are handmade. The Miravalles Canopy Tour is only ten minutes from the lodge with 11 zip lines and 17 platforms for the most adventurous guests. Both Agrias Natural Springs and Laguna de Apoyo are very close, only 30 minutes from El Respiro. These springs have crystal clear warm water and are unique to the area. And, if you wish to explore horseback, Emi and Romain can help you organize a 1.5-3 hour ride that will take you from Granada to Catarina. The views from this tour are magnificent.
El Respiro is easy to get to from the Granada Airport, it’s a short drive to a deep, fresh breath of air and big break from the outside world. When you arrive, it feels like you are home. Home with Emi, Romain little Ilan and their happy animals on the hilltop in the middle of the Nicaraguan jungle – in the middle of a dream!