Like Granada, the core of Nicaragua’s second city and intellectual capital is brimful with red-tiled colonial-style buildings but, unlike its peaceful rival, effervesces with artistic and political energy.
Founded in Nicaragua’s plantation-covered northwest corner, León Viejo (now being excavated) was the capital of the country until destroyed by an earthquake in 1609. A city with a strong religious tradition, it hosts a dozen crumbly churches juxtaposed with murals depicting events from Nicaragua’s revolutionary story. There’s a university and its students enliven the nightlife scene.
When to go
León has a typical tropical climate with high temperatures (30°C upwards) all year round. May - Oct is rainy season, but the countryside looks its best at this time. Hurricanes possible Jun - Nov.
Getting local currency
Córdoba. There are several banks with ATMs where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have to ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and withdrawal amounts may be limited.
GMT -6 hours.
A visit to León’s historical rival, colonial Granada (114 km); Matagalpa, a northern mountain town in coffee country close to the Selva Negra Nature cloud forest reserve. (115 km).
From Managua (75 km) it’s a 1 hour drive to León, from Granada (114 km), 2 hours.
Semana Santa, Easter. Religious ceremonies and processions with a street carpet of designs created in sawdust, not unlike Antigua’s (Guatemala) carpet of flowers.
Día de la Concepción, León, 7 Dec. Fiesta with dancing, music and fireworks.