Learn to surf, see turtles at coastal resorts and find out about the country’s complex past as you discover this fascinating Nicaraguan city.
With cultural highlights that rival Nicaragua’s capital, León is a vibrant and bustling city that attracts visitors with its blend of historic architecture, local culture and pristine beaches. León’s center is home to an impressive cathedral and intriguing museums. Head outside the city to experience the country’s picturesque coastline and surf resorts.
Visit the Cathedral of León, among the largest churches in Central America, to climb to its roof terrace. Stroll barefoot among its domes and sculptures as you enjoy the spectacular view of the city and the volcanoes in the distance. See the San Juan Bautista de Subtiava Church, which is among the oldest churches in the city and serves the local indigenous community. Peruse acclaimed works of art in the Centro de Arte Fundación Ortiz Gurdián.
The complex history of León can be discovered in its winding city streets. Look for the buildings that retain bullet holes and other evidence of the battles of the late 20th century between President Somoza and his Sandinista rivals. Traditionally liberal, the city fought for years with the conservatives of Managua in an attempt to become the capital of the country.
A little to the west of León is the Pacific Coast and its spectacular sandy beaches. Relax on Las Peñitas Beach until dusk to see the red sun disappear over the horizon. Take part in a game of beach soccer or volleyball with locals or enjoy clambering over the beach’s large rocks.
Further south along the coast is the surfing haven of Puerto Sandino. Stay at one of the lodgings and spend a few days learning to surf.
Expect high temperatures year-round in most parts of the country. December has slightly cooler temperatures, while April is the hottest month. See nesting turtles in the natural reserves of the coast in October and November, a popular time to visit.
León is located just inland of Nicaragua’s northwest coast. Arrive in the country by flying to Managua International Airport and then drive some 60 miles (100 kilometers) to reach León. Local buses operate throughout the country offering an authentic but slow way of traversing the region.