León, Nicaragua: UNESCO, volcanoes, universities

Granada has the tourists, León has the UNESCO sites and the students. Not hard to guess which I liked better.

Upon arrival in Nicaragua I rented a car and headed west along the southern shore of Lago de Nicaragua, skirting Managua.

A couple hours later I was in UNESCO-listed León Viejo. The ruins are not as remarkable as the dramatic backdrop.

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The modern city of León is a vibrant university-town centered on UNESCO-listed León Cathedral. The typical churches and markets sit amid lanes of bold, pastel houses, set amid rumbling volcanoes. An ideal place to wander, though do not neglect to head a couple km to the Subtiava, with the sun symbol in the wooden church’s ceiling, an early olive branch in to indigenous religion in Christian conversion efforts.

Granada, to the east of Managua, gets the tourist crowds, though I found it a desolate museum, while León is bustling. León’s hotels and restaurants are a rung below Granada, though, for those who want the boutique hotel and cafe wine-sipping experience.

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  1. Leon Viejo is now on the list. But the volcanoes in the background beckon. Did you meet anyone climbing them while you were there?

  2. Glad to hear you’re in Nicaragua! My wife is from there, so I’ve been down there quite a bit and in fact the whole family is headed back there in two weeks. If you’re still going to be around Granada, I’d recommend a boat tour of las isletas, a visit to the Masaya marketplace, and a visit to Caterina overlooking the lagoon. Speaking of the lagoon, I always enjoy a visit to Bucanero’s, hopefully it’s still there–great scenery, great place to sip rum. :-) And hopefully you made it to Masaya volcano already? If not, try to find a guide to take you into one of the caves there–if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), you’ll get to see a whole bunch of bats.

  3. @Nick – thanks for all the suggestions, I was there a couple weeks ago and just getting caught up, though I did see Granada and Masaya, no time for the islands but did get up to Volcan Masaya, all in a day.

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