A First Timers Guide to Visiting Leon, Nicaragua

With a history dating back over 450 years, the city of Leon, Nicaragua has quite a bit to offer to those who travel to explore it. For over 200 years, Leon served as the capital of Nicaragua and today it the second largest city in Nicaragua after the current capital of Managua.

Leon, Nicaragua is the perfect place for those seeking adventure, relaxation, a cultural experience, or a taste of Nicaraguan life. This guide will give you a glimpse of what it is like to visit the city and prepare you for your first visit.

Exploring Leon, Nicaragua

Arriving to Leon, Nicaragua

For visitors traveling to Leon from outside of the country, you will need to fly into the airport in Managua, Nicaragua (MGA) and then make your way to Managua’s UCA bus terminal where you will board a bus bound to Leon. The journey between Managua and Leon takes approximately an hour and a half.

If you are looking for detailed information about traveling between the two cities, check out this handy guide from Getting Stamped.

If you are traveling to Leon from other parts of Nicaragua, the city can be accessed by car or by buses departing from the cities of Managua, Esteli, and Matagalpa.

Getting Around Leon 

Although Leon is the second largest city in Nicaragua at over 280 square miles, all of the points of interest in the city fall within a small radius, which is easily navigable by foot. If you are looking to get to destinations outside of the city, the best options for traveling would be either by chicken bus or taxi.

8 Things To Do During Your First Visit To Leon, Nicaragua

 Visiting Leon and the surrounding areas can be done within five days. Some highlights that should definitely not be missed during your first trip include eating Nicaraguan food, traveling to a volcano, and relaxing on the beach.

Explore the Old Capital of Nicaragua, Leon

One of the major highlights that should not be missed when traveling to Leon is paying a visit to the famous Basilica Catedral de la Asuncion (Leon Catedral), which is the largest cathedral in all of Central America. When visiting the cathedral, make sure to climb up to the top of the roof, where you will have a magnificent 360-degree view of both the city and the volcanoes surrounding the area.

Another thing to do is in Leon, Nicaragua is to visit the Museo Ruben Dario, the former home of Nicaragua’s most famous poet. In the museum, you can learn all about Dario’s life, view some precious artifacts from his career, and see the place where he spent the final moments of his life before being buried across the street at the Leon Catedral.

If you are interested in visiting other museums while you are in the city, consider visiting the Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas, where you learn about the traditions and legends of Leon or the Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian, which houses a wide array of Central American and contemporary art.

Eat Delicious Local Cuisine in Leon, Nicaragua

One experience that visitors to Leon should not pass up when visiting the city is eating a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast, which is comprised of scrambled eggs, gallo pinto, cheese, plantain, and corn tortillas. A great and affordable place to have a traditional breakfast in the city is a restaurant called El Desayunazo.

Surfing Outside of Leon, Nicaragua

For those who want to experience some surfing and sunshine when traveling to Leon, a major point of interest is Las Penitas beach, which is located approximately 20 minutes outside of Leon and can be accessed via taxi, chicken bus, or by a bus from Bigfoot Hostel.

For the adventurous types, volcano boarding down Cerro Negro is an experience that should definitely not be missed. One of the best ways to get to Cerro Negro is by taking a tour through Bigfoot Hostel or the adventure company Quetzal Trekkers. Can’t decide which Cerro Negro tour to go with? Check out this review by Runaway Travellers.

One final thing to do when visiting Leon is to hike up one of the nearby volcanoes such as Telica, Momotombo, El Hoyo, San Cristobal, or Cosigüina. If you are looking for a reliable and safe company, I highly recommend traveling with Quetzal Trekkers. 

Budget Travel Tips For Visiting Leon, Nicaragua

  1. A great way to save money on water when traveling to Leon and avoid heat exhaustion from the strong Nicaraguan sun is to refill your water bottle at hostels for little to no money or to buy your bottled water from a local convenience store.
  2. If you have the munchies and are looking to buy some cheap snacks, head over to La Union Supermercado, which a great selection of items at very low prices.
  3. Try the street food behind the cathedral – it is cheap and is said to be the best ‘street food’ in the city


Chanel is the New York City-based travel blogger behind CulturalXplorer.com. Through her writing, Chanel shares stories about culture, food, and off-the-beaten path experiences from her travels. When she is not running with bulls in Spain, getting tattooed in Cambodia, or eating poisonous blowfish in Japan, Chanel enjoys exploring her hometown, brushing up on her photography, and educating children.


Stay the Night in Leon, Nicaragua

Rated one of the best stays in Leon, Hostel ViaVia offers rooms ranging from dorms to a garden view king.  Relax on one of the many hammocks in the garden or grab a drink at the bar with new friends.

Hotel Azul is an oasis set in a colonial building.  Relax here at the pool or spend your days wandering around town as the hotel is just a short walk from the Cathedral.

Hotel La Perla will take you back in time with its colonial luxury.  Stay in this charming hotel and be just steps from La Merced Church in the heart of Leon.


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A First Timers Guide to Visiting Leon, Nicaragua


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1 thought on “A First Timers Guide to Visiting Leon, Nicaragua”

  1. Great post, about an awesome city. I absolutely loved my time in Leon and I’m certain I’ll be back there again some day. I’d also 2nd that vote for Quetzal Trekkers. Good company and a fantastic cause. I’ve done a couple of multi day hikes with them recently (in both Nicaragua and Guatemala) and they’ve been some of my highlights of Central America.

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