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Overview

León lies northwest of Managua, between the Pacific Ocean and the Maribios range of volcanoes. Its architectural treasures – some pockmarked by a bullet hole or two – are a legacy of the city’s three-century reign as Nicaragua's colonial capital. The site of the national university, León has a youthful vibe and a lively cultural scene. Sights include a dozen colonial churches – La Merced and Xalteva are two of the finest – and the ornate Casa de los Leones. The huge 18th-century Cathedral of León is a must-see, from the underground crypts to the gargoyles on the rooftop, which overlook the city and its surrounding volcanoes. The Centro de ...

León lies northwest of Managua, between the Pacific Ocean and the Maribios range of volcanoes. Its architectural treasures – some pockmarked by a bullet hole or two – are a legacy of the city’s three-century reign as Nicaragua's colonial capital. The site of the national university, León has a youthful vibe and a lively cultural scene. Sights include a dozen colonial churches – La Merced and Xalteva are two of the finest – and the ornate Casa de los Leones. The huge 18th-century Cathedral of León is a must-see, from the underground crypts to the gargoyles on the rooftop, which overlook the city and its surrounding volcanoes. The Centro de Arte has Pre-Columbian artworks, religious relics and works by Picasso and Chagall. The Rubèn Darìo Museum is the childhood home of Nicaragua’s greatest cultural hero, a poet, journalist and diplomat. The Museum of the Revolution commemorates the country’s civil war, which pitted the socialist Sandinistas against the dictator Somoza, and later the US-backed Contras. The nearby Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve is a coastal wetland inhabited by caymans, crocodiles, iguanas and 106 species of birds – a paradise for kayak trips. The Cerro Negro volcano is 1,500 feet high and very active, having erupted most recently in 1999. Climbing it is a popular activity, and as you make the hour-long ascent to the summit, you’ll traverse an other-worldly landscape of black sand and dried lava, enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic chain, and finally slip and slide (or ride a snowboard) down a steep slope of volcanic sand.

Charlie Morris
About the Expert

Charlie Morris is the author of the Open Road guidebooks Best of Honduras, Best of Costa Rica, Best of Belize, and Switzerland Guide.

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Charlie Morris for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December through April (the dry season)