As the birthplace of the Nicaraguan revolution and the home of the largest cathedral in Central America, Leon delivers when it comes to culture and history. Spending just 24 hours in this city gives you time to check off some top attractions and discover the surrounding volcanic landscapes. Here’s how.
Spend the morning seeing top Leon sights and delving into the town’s history. Walking tours—which offer a more intimate glimpse into the area by exploring on foot—typically cover Leon Cathedral, home to historic religious art and a rooftop viewing platform; the custard-yellow Church of the Recollection; and Ortiz Gurdián Foundation Art Center, filled with masterpieces by Miró, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Diego Rivera. To go even deeper into the city’s history, complete the morning with a visit to the Museo de la Revolución, which traces the origin and apex of Nicaragua’s revolution.
Devote the afternoon to discovering the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ruins of Leon Viejo, a former Nicaraguan capital that was destroyed by volcanic activity during the 1500s. English language speakers may find it difficult to gather information on the story of the ruins, if visiting alone. However, English-speaking tour guides can offer insight into the history of the ruins, and tours tend to include convenient round-trip hotel pickup and drop-off. Alternatively, you can head out to the Cerro Negro volcano on a trip that focuses more on the natural landscapes surrounding Leon; a good level of fitness is required to ascend to the summit of the active volcano.
Dedicate your evening to Nicaragua’s culinary scene by taking a food tour that reveals local delicacies that you may otherwise have missed. Tours typically cover Mercado Centra, a bustling hub that can be difficult to navigate without a guide, and introduce you to classic Nica dishes such as gallo pinto, a mixture of rice and black beans that’s classically accompanied by spicy roasted meat; nacatamales, Nicaragua’s answer to Mexican tamales; and Indio Viejo, a thick soup that’s typically made with shredded beef and fried onions.