Leon is Nicaragua’s cultural and political capital, and even now it has a number of political issues bubbling below the surface. It’s also one of the most interesting places I visited in Nicaragua. There has long been intense competition between Granada and Leon for Nicaragua’s best city, and after 3 days here I have to say that Leon won my heart. From boarding down a volcano to beautiful beaches and delicious street food, here are 8 best things to do in Leon Nicaragua before you leave.
1. Volcano boarding
Run by Big Foot Hostel and Quetzaltrekkers, volcano boarding is an epic way to spend a morning, and one of the top things to do in Leon Nicaragua. Invented by a crazy Aussie who decided he wanted to snowboard down volcano Cerro Negro, you’re in for an easy 45 minute hike up and then a very quick descent. Some people reach speeds of up to 90km. But you can somewhat control how fast you go… I hit 51km. Though I should say it wasn’t a deliberate choice.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $30USD | TIME NEEDED: Half day | VERDICT: Don’t miss
2. Free walking tour
If you’ve been to Europe you’ll be used to informative and free walking tours in every city. And Leon’s walking tour run by Cooperativa De Tourismo does not disappoint. I hadn’t brushed up on my Nicaraguan history before arriving, and it was the perfect way to understand the current political climate while gaining an understanding for the rich culture. As well as providing a great top-line list on what to see in Leon Nicaragua. Tours leave at 9am and 5pm daily. The 6pm is a slightly condensed version, but still well worth it if you’re short on time.
QUICK FACTS: COST: Whatever you want to tip. But these guys work hard so at least $5USD feels right | TIME NEEDED: 2 hours | VERDICT: Don’t miss
3. Climb the cathedral
I have to admit, I didn’t actually get to do this but from all accounts it’s insanely beautiful. Unfourtunately time and communication is not a strong point of the cathedral or any of the current published travel guides. Therefore after trying to get into the closed cathedral three times in one day and being told different opening times we gave up. For the record, apparently it’s open to climb from 8:30 till 12 and then from 4 – 5pm.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $1USD | TIME NEEDED: 30 mins | VERDICT: Don’t miss
4. Hit the beach
While thinking about what to do in Leon Nicaragua, beaches are not usually at the top of your list. However Las Peñitas is pretty magical. Take the 30 minute shuttle from Big Foot that drops you at their counterpart hostel. Sit on the beach and enjoy a Flor de Caña coffee cocktail, hire a board and go for a surf or play a game of beer pong.
QUICK FACTS: COST: Free for gals if you’re staying at Big Foot, otherwise $5USD | TIME NEEDED: Half to full day | VERDICT: Only if you have time
5. Eat street food in the main square
Just around the corner from the main square you’ll come across a handful of food trucks dolling out huge burgers, hotdogs and pizzas. Yes, I know it’s not traditional Nicaraguan fare, but the burgers are excellent. Onions are caramelised in a mix of chili, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles and tomato sauce and piled onto a fluffy bun with fresh salad and a meat patty.
QUICK FACTS: COST $2USD: | TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes | VERDICT: Good idea if you’re in need of a scrimp day
6. Tour the museum of legends and traditions
The Museum of Legends and Traditions is one of the more eccentric places to visit Leon Nicaragua. Housed in an old political prison, the location in itself is pretty interesting. Add to this, huge paper mâché sculptures of witches and infamous dog women, it’s a weirdly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. I wouldn’t recommend taking the guided tour unless you speak a good level of Spanish. The English speaking guide’s accent is quite hard to understand. All signage is translated to English, so it’s easy to DIY.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $2USD | TIME NEEDED: 2 hours | VERDICT: Only if you have time
7. Eat ice cream at kiss me
Kiss Me, a boutique ice creamery opposite Big Foot Hostel is serving up some incredible homemade flavours. Don’t go past chocolate chip, brownie, marshmallow and banana with a huge homemade waffle cone.
QUICK FACTS: COST $3 USD: | TIME NEEDED: As long as it takes you to smash an ice-cream | VERDICT: Don’t miss. This was one of my favourite things to do in Leon Nicaragua.
8. Get a massage from the blind
I’m not going to lie, this place isn’t sparkling clean or anything like the massage places at home. But, while I was a little nervous going in, the massage from Roberto at Seeing Hands, who is legally blind, was so relaxing I fell asleep… Nuff said.
QUICK FACTS: COST: $15USD + tip | TIME NEEDED: 1 hour | VERDICT: If you have some time post volcano boarding
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