- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
The principal metropolis of the low-lying Nicaraguan northwest, León has had several incarnations over the centuries. The Spaniards first built the city along the shores of Lake Xolotlán; they picked up and moved when Volcán Momotombo shook the ground beneath their feet.
Modern León, is at once a dusty provincial capital and an architectural delight; traditionally designed colonial homes, churches, universities, and an immense cathedral stand shoulder to shoulder in a tropical torpor that keeps city life to a low, but exciting hum.
León is an easily walkable city, with a plethora of interesting cafés and restaurants, Latin America’s largest cathedral, and an ambience quite unlike anywhere else in Nicaragua.
Its longtime political rival, Granada, may have more fresh paint and international adoration, but León remains an irreverent, unique city where tourism is merely an afterthought, not a necessity.
From Managua, take an express interlocal from Mercado Israel Lewites; they cost about $1, take less than two hours, and depart every 40 minutes 5 a.m.–7:30 p.m. In León, the main bus station (La Terminal) is in the northeast corner of the city grid, where you’ll find transportation to most points (except Poneloya and Las Peñitas—buses to these beaches depart from their own terminal in Mercadito Subtiava).
Big, yellow buses and small, white interlocales depart all day long for both Managua and Chinandega, 4 a.m.–7 p.m. Traveling to Managua, you’ll arrive at the UCA (best for Masaya and Granada connections) or Mercado Israel Lewites. There are also a few daily expresses to Estelí between 4 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. (depends on when they fill up) and to Matagalpa between 4:20 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.
Most Central American international bus routes include a stop in León. TicaBus (two blocks north of the San Juan church in Viajes Cumbia traveling agency, tel. 505/2311-6153, www.ticabus.com) offers buses to most Central American capitals and Mexico.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition