León is a city that gets on with life with or without you which is why we really liked it. There are lots of tourists but the city retains its authenticity. It gets really hot here so use it as an excuse to get a smoothie or two. We did struggle to find places to eat but I think this was down to our own stupidity, looking when hangry and focusing too much on budget options! We spent 5 nights in total in Nicaragua’s second largest city, León. Our accommodation was Surfing Turtle Hostel (quiet and friendly) for 4 nights and Lazy Bones (nice pool but room was so hot) for 1 night.
Our top picks for León
Be careful with the wind, you can fly off!
A number of tour operators provide a volcano boarding experience on Cerro Negro (728m). We chose Queztaltrekkers ($30pp) as you have the option of boarding down twice. After a 45 minute easy climb you can peer into the crater and get suited and booted for your one minute descent. It’s daunting at the top but you can go as slow or fast as you want, so anyone can do it! One girl took nearly 15 minutes going down, yes she was scared but conquered her fear and did it! I was so nervous the first time I forgot to put the cover over my face so I eat a fair amount of volcano dust but loved it so much we climbed up and did it again. Go for it, how many people can say they boarded down the side of an active volcano, twice!
The view from the bottom – its pretty steep!
At the crater
Ready for take-off!
Alan picking up speed – lol
Free walking tour
Co-operativa De Tourismo Comunitario run a free walking tour each day at 9am and 4pm. Check them out on facebook (Free walking tour León Nicaragua ). Great way to start your stay in León as you find your bearings, learn about Leóns revolutionary history and get some tips on where to eat and visit.
Learn some history about the revolution!
With so much history in León it’s bound to inspire artists to depict scenes of the civil war, the revolution and their emotions on walls. Look out for Cesar Augusto Sandino’s shadow around León.
Some revolutionary murals
The murals by the basketball court
El Mirador for sunset
We enjoyed a few sunsets here with Toña by our side, watching the local soccer match on the below basketball court.
El Mirador, Toña and sunset = perfect
Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary
Walk on the roof of the Cathedral for $3 and enjoy some of the views that León has to offer from the huge woman hovering over the park to the ever present volcanos and numerous churches. Don’t walk or lean on the domes for the obvious reason, you might fall through, or in some cases get shouted at! I may have shouted ARRIBA at an insta girl who was leaning on one of the domes with her flowing dress on display but my god these girls can get ridiculous! But Alan and I had a great laugh afterwards at my expense – who shouts arriba at some one!?! After admiring the views and overcoming any potential outbursts, head inside the Cathedral and look for Rubén Darío’s, Nicaraguan poet, resting place (tip: find the white lion) and view the many tunnels which lead to several other churches around the city.
The top of the cathedral is a big draw for tourists in Leon
Its got good views of the main volcanoes surrounding the city
Try some Flor de Caña and Toña
Alan tasted Flor de Caña rum to celebrate the birth (ie wet the babys head) of his new nephew, baby Liam Ansbro in bar 34 (across from the basketball court). We went back again for reunion drinks with the ever smiling and happy Yasmin and some new friends. There were some locals, the shady sort even if he had a cool tattoo “Por qué no?”, that after doing a deal with some other tourists, set their sights on us for a potential sale but they got the hint after 15 mins of saying no! A quick dance on a corner street of León with the realisation afterwards that we had an audience with some older men, ended our reunion night in laughter! Toña has definitely won the best beer in Central America for us, so drink up!
Toña – the best beer in Central America!
Admire the architecture and the many churches
There are so many churches to see in León . My favourite building was the dramatic and Gothic looking Asunción school which can be found in the park.
Iglesia la Recoleccion
Iglesia El Calvario
The front of the Cathedral
Other things to do in the city include visiting the Rubén Darío museum, Museum of the Revolution, Museum of Traditions and Legends, or the Ortíz Foundation Art Gallery.
Beach time in León – Surfing Turtle Lodge
We spent 4 nights in Surfing Turtle Lodge waiting patiently for the birth of some baby turtles but to no avail. We did however have a great few nights enjoying the party games, from beer Olympics to awkward lap-dancing (I hope the video never resurfaces!!), made the most of the quiet undisturbed beach and met fellow backpacker Kyle (check out his funny and honest blog www.lifebykyle.com). I blame the copious amounts of Toña for our uncreative team names: Republic of Toña and The Goon and The Poon (actually maybe the Canadian lads are to blame for this one!).
No amount of alcohol will make me forget dancing our version of Moulin Rouge to an audience, learning to perfect the slut drop (thanks Kyle!) and adopting our new signature dance move as a couple, cue taking the naughty dog for a walk! Thankfully there are no pictures of the night’s endeavours.
Sunsets at the beach
To get to the lodge, go to it’s sister hostel in León and arrange the transport. It cost $3 for transport to Las Peñitas (30mins) and $1 lancha trip (2mins) and its a short walk (10mins) to the lodge. Wear repellent and flip flops for the trip and don’t make the horses carry you, walk yourself please.
Party time with Kyle!
An alternative to Surfing Turtle Lodge is the beach town of Las Peñitas. Can be easily visited as a day trip as its only 30 mins away from León.
Chilling out on the beach