The colonial city of Léon is the first thing we saw when visiting Nicaragua. It’s a city you definitely need to put on your travel itinerary because, despite being small, all the major features of Nicaragua are represented in this area. Colonial buildings, beaches and volcanoes as far as the eye can see. The relaxed and untouristy vibe makes Léon the perfect place to get to know Nicaragua and its people. Read along to discover our highlights.
Walk on the roof of the cathedral// The biggest cathedral of Central-America is fine from the outside but once you arrive on the rooftop it feels like you are one step closer to heaven (pun intended). The white architecture with the green volcanoes in the backdrop make for a picture perfect scene. You can buy your ticket in the back of the church on the outside from an old lady sitting behind a fenced door. The rooftop can be entered through another hidden door at the left side of the cathedral. Ah the mysterious way of getting in made it even better.
Witness daily life at Parque Central// The Parque Central is filled with benches that are filled with locals from sunrise to sunset. It the perfect place to spend a few hours simply relaxing and taking in the small aspects of local life. We had a lovely chat with an old man that wanted to practice his French and sipped from lemonade in a plastic bag. If you’re getting hungry, there are plenty of ladies selling shaved ice from their colourful carts.
Climb a volcano// Nicaragua is often referred to as the country of lakes and volcanoes. Trekking through the surroundings of Léon is the perfect way to experience their reputation from nearby. We embarked on a trekking with Quetzaltrekkers to the nearby El Hoyo volcano. We slept on top of the volcano to witness a magical sunrise the next day. A swim in a remote lake was the perfect end of the hike before we took our soar legs and smelly clothes back to Léon. Big must-do if you’re in the area!
Speed down on a volcano board// Another famous highlight of Nicaragua is volcano boarding. For a couple extra dollars we could add this to our trekking itinerary so we went with the flow. This isn’t exactly something we normally get to do in Europe 🙂 After hiking one hour to the top of –indeed yet another- volcano, we were ready to speed down. Man, did we enjoy the ride! Truly a unique experience. However, I was very glad we had booked it as part of a trekking. Otherwise it’s $39 dollars which we found too expensive for a ride that only lasts 1 minute.
Discover Picasso and Dali at the Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Gurdián// Who knew you could find one of the finest museum of contemporary art in a small street in Léon? We didn’t. Luckily, the gentleman from the park pointed out to us that it was Sunday during which this museum is free. We rushed over to the museum only to be astonished by a collection full of early work by Picasso, Dali, Miró and a number of noted Nicaraguan artists. The collection is housed in impressive houses with lush gardens and a couple of turtles. You can also find a very detailed model of the cathedral in the museum.
Relax at nearby Las Peñitas // Las Peñitas is a wide, sandy stretch of beachfront paradise 30 minutes from Léon. This place offers the easiest access to the turtles and mangroves of Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado. Or you can simply order a cocktail, find yourself a nice hammock and enjoy the easy life.
We stayed at the ViaVia Hostel. We had a perfect little room with a fan and a private bathroom for €23. The bar and restaurant area are also decent places to hang out and chill. Two other hostels we heard great things about are Hostal Tortuga Booluda and Lazybones Hostel. The latter even has a swimming pool!
This was actually our first #darlingsabroad trip to Central America. Can’t wait to discover more. What are your favourite places in this region?