Nicaragua as a whole is an undisturbed tourism destination. Just coming of age it offers many historic, untouched and authentic towns and traditions. Granada is probably the most famous colonial city and Leon the second most. Leon really impressed us because it was far less overrun with tourists. The local element lives and breathes the rich legacy of this city on the plains and it is fascinating to see up close.
We arrived after driving an hour and a half from Managua. It was March and already it was humid and hot and the plains offer little shade from the bright sun. The town is an arrangement of streets around a hilly center where beautiful plazas churches and 450 year old buildings mark the landscape.
We stayed at a boutique hotel that is a converted estate. It is just like being in Europe. Elaborate rooms with lofty ceilings, elaborate woodwork, palatial stone and breezy corridors make for perfect afternoon and nighttime sitting. There are many small luxury hotels like this and the prices are very affordable. They are good for avoiding the backpacker style hostels which are nice but abundant in other parts of the city. We feel like these converted houses really immersed us in the history of the place.
There is a La Union supermarket just behind the cathedral that has affordable food, and it sits diagonal across from a covered market which is the place to go and negotiate for all sorts of souvenirs, fabrics and hammocks. The streets run in a grid like pattern and there is a fair amount of congestion which was about the only downside we saw to the remarkable colonial edifications.
The treasury of the city is its churches. The Cathedral of the Ascension is magnificent and reflects the tall and strong building style of that bygone era. The city is famous as a University town so there are many museums and cultural activities. It is the birth site of the nation’s most famous poet and the revolution which brought about the current political structure.
We found Leon to be a great place from which to start an adventure into the origins of Nicaragua, to explore the beach, lakes and wild volcanoes of Northwestern Nicaragua.