Travel article: Leon la revolutionnaire- Leon: The home of Nicaragua's revolution

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: Discovering The Americas in 6 months!

Image for blog article: Leon la revolutionnaire- Leon: The home of Nicaragua's revolution

León, Nicaragua

Nicaragua 8 days - January 2018







Time to leave the mountains of Guatemala and head to hot Nicaragua.

We skipped Honduras and El Salvador due to the current political situation.

In one day we crossed 4 countries in a mini shuttle. Passing through the borders got harder and harder and the world slowness award is given to Nicaragua : 1h30 to go through the border waiting for our passeports to get stamped and bags to be checked...

18 hours later we arrived in Leon- Nicaragua totally exhausted and with 15 more degrees!


It was soooo hot in Leon: 37 degrees and it was hard to get motivated and get away from the fan sometimes. But we still have been able to do most of the things we wanted to!


The city has always been rival to Granada. Leon home to the revolution, student city and more popular vs Granada home to the past Conservative governments, rich and more classy.


Leon is home to the Nicaraguan revolution started in the 60s. It was lead by Carlos Fonseca and directly inspired by the revolution from Sandino in the 30s to fight against the US military occupation. Sandino after some time spent in Mexico realised how much  his country was under US influence. He came back and started a revolution. After many years of guerillas and quite a few losses the Americans decided to withdraw from the country as it became too expensive during Great Depression times. 2 years after official elections Somoza took over the government, became president and ordered Sandino's death. Somoza then put in place 40 years of dictatorship. Sandino is now a national hero and even the airport has his name.

In the 70s during The Cold War, the Sandinist movement decided to get rid of the Somoza dictatorship that rule over the country. The revolution started in Leon and defeated the Somoza dictatorship. Ortega has been elected and 40 years later is still president of the country after changing the law to be reelected many times. Funny to see a previous Hippie taking over a Dictator is still in power 40 years later using the same techniques to stay there (less violent and he had a short break over 40 years but still...)

The city today presents many street arts around the main square and bullets in the walls that testify of the revolutionary past.





We spent some time at the Museo de la Revolucion which presents some relics from the revolution. Our guide took us back in time and introduced us to the Nicaraguan history and revolution. One of the pictures show him fighting in 1979 in Leon! A must-do to understand this country.




Leon was totally destroyed by an earthquake 100 years after the Spanish built it and got built again a bit further. The Cathedral standing proudly on the main square is apparently earthquake proof now and resisted the many more earthquakes the city suffered from over the years. Inside you can find a representation of Jesus coming from Spain and built in wood from the 17th century. The rooftop is amazing. Dominating the city we had views on the many volcanoes around us. The rooftop is all white with many domes and we felt like in Santorini. Totally worth it!




We spent quite a bit of time on the main square as well. Epicentre of the town it's where people catch-up or just relax. We loved watching the locals getting around and we even attended a festival of local dances and a firework that didn't want to stop (20 minutes!)

There is also big statues reproducing the perception locals had from the Spanish when they arrived. A big lady with a lot of makeup and a small man standing next to him trying to flirt with her.

On this same place one night after we had street food (grilled chicken), a dachshund followed us and especially Cedric. Since I got bitten in Mexico, we are really careful and the dog thinking Cedric was playing with him started becoming aggressive and run after Cedric. imagine a dachshund trying to attack him !!! It was funny and all the locals were laughing at the situation ;) (Cedric thinks it was a Rottweiler or something like this. No it was definitely a dachshund!)




One of the main activity in Leon is hiking one of the many volcanoes surrounding the city. One of them has a particularity: you can do volcano boarding ! Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in Nicaragua and is around 200 years old. With our 5 kilos sledge we climbed it in 45 minutes (it was quite easy).

The top of the volcano present many different layers of lava with different colour. If you dig a bit and touch the volcanic sand you will realise that the volcano is still active as it is so hot! The last eruption was in 1999 and the locals are getting prepared for the next one.

On top of the volcano we put on some overalls that made us looked like plumbers and we went sledding the volcano.

I was a bit scared by the speed but I quickly realised that we could break easily with our feet. I had the feeling to be at 40-50 km/h but looking at the videos I was closer to 2-3km/h haha! Cedric went fast though and even did a forward roll at the end.

A fun day !




Another day we went to the Ortiz Diaz gallery, a museum exhibiting some Central American art pieces as well as European (few Picasso and Andy Warhol).

We've been quite surprised to see such a good exhibition in a small town like this. Besides the building is amazing and consist in former colonial houses with patio in lieu of garden. Wouldn't mind having a house like that !




One morning we tried to visit all the churches of the town. Around 20 of them to be exact. One at every street corner !







And finally on our last day we took a sunset bike tour to visit the indigenous neighbourhood and fortress where the Military were keeping political opponents. A great experience with a French guide who knows everything about Nicaragua ! Thanks Seb !

Fun fact on the indigenous neighbourhood: the Spanish when they came colonising the country heard there was a treasure in the indigenous part of the city. They came, tortured and ended up killing the leader of the neighborhood who didn't want to tell them where it was. His daughter had revenge, killed a Spanish, confirmed there was no treasure and run away. Later on it was found out that the treasure was the local people and their culture and not gold! A beautiful tale I think.




We really liked our first stop in Nicaragua but the scorching sun made it quick hard for us and apparently 37 degrees is not the worst they have in Leon!


Some recommandations:

# We crossed Guatemala,  el Salvador and Honduras in 18 hours with a shuttle from Geiko. Some shuttles apparently have been attacked in the past…

# $13 USD entry fee in Nicaragua; $3 USD entry fee in Honduras. No Entry or Exit fee in Guatemala and El Salvador

# we spent a week in Leon to recover from the looong transfer from Guatemala to Nicaragua and we both had a bit of work. 3-4 days is probably enough

# we didn't do the Telica volcano hiking but heard it was good

# Cerro Negro is a must-do! You can board it or just walk it. $26 USD for the volcano boarding

# don't miss the Rooftop of the Cathedral (90 cordobas); the museum of revolution (90 cordobas) and the Ortiz Diaz museum (105 cordobas)

# however the museum of Traditions can be skipped. We didn't like it at all.

# there is a free walking tour starting close to the Cathedral every morning.

# bike tour : $20usd with Seb:

Leave a comment

Paul Mérouze
Mar 7, 2018 - 12:40 PM

Magnifique photos de volcans et de couchers de soleil, on vous suit toujours et on apprécie. PMH


Christelle & Cedric
Mar 10, 2018 - 03:44 AM

Merci de nous lire ! Nous recommendons le Nicaragua, plus authentique que le Costa Rica avec ses nombreux volcans, ses plages, ses villes coloniales, la jungle, la montagne. Un super pays !