Nicaragua's

LEON

Global Mark : 15.94

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 5 2 3 5 4 4 5 5 16.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
16 94%(15) 94%(15) 100% 10 to 20 15.38


Description :
A charming colonial town, with a good collection of churches and students

Comments : This is an excellent introduction to Nicaragua : relaxed atmosphere, friendly people and beautiful cobbled streets with colonial structures. But you need to get away from the ugly bus station !

What to do ? Explore the colorful streets, 18 churches, little squares and inside gardens / Assist to a mass in the biggest cathedral of Central America (daily at 5pm) / Wander inside the busy markets / Talk with students of the National University / Admire mural paintings / Visit the Museo Ruben Dario (9-12 & 14-17, Sund morning only, donation if you wish) then see his tomb in the Cathedral / Change money / Shop / Surf the web / Watch a movie / Relax on a rocking chair / Invite a girl to dance at one of the disco / Extend your stay because of the girl...

What you may not like ? The distance between the bus terminal (on 6C Norte) & town center : 20mn walk / The lack of cheap places to stay in the center / The cathedral's closed doors before 3pm / The trace on some walls of the fighting that took place here in the 1970's / The little interest of the museo if you do not read Spanish / The remote or lack of transport to the nearby attractions

How long ? You planned a day but may wish to extend a bit, if only to have a look at the beach. Some people stay for weeks...

Where to stay ? 

- Near the bus terminal : cheap options but remote from the attractive center :

  • Hotelito California, just S of the station on 6a C / w. shower 60(1), 110(2) or 120(3) / Go there for the little garden and friendly & secured family atmosphere / What you may not like : small basic rooms and small beds
  • Hospedaje Victoria, 2mn S-E of the above / w. shower 50(1) or 80(2) / Go there for the cheapest price if alone and the good fan / What you may not like : there is no toilet in the basic room and it is not too clean.
  • ® Hotel Avenida (3112068), 5mn west of terminal on Av Comandante Pedro Arauz, opp. Esso Station / w. shower 60(1) or 90-100(2) / Cold tap water / Cable TV / Go there for the nice setting around a garden and the large correct & clean rooms / What you may not like : getting a room without shower, being put next door (same kind but no garden) because it is full and the lack of mosquito nets at the windows. 
  • Hotel Montecristo, 300m north of the above, same street / 80(1) or 120(2), w. shower 150(1 or 2) / Big clean rooms but empty and rather expensive. 
  • Hotel Europa (3116040), 10mn S of Station on 3a C N-E / Room w. shower & TV 200, w. AC 400 / Go there for the clean, bright & relaxing atmosphere and acceptable price for two / What you may not like : the rooms are OK but nothing special. 

- Near the Cathedral, in the center of town :

  • ® Hotel Colonial (3112279), two blocks N of Parque Central / Room 150, w. shower 200, w. AC, HW & cable TV $30 / Cold tap water / Good restaurant / Go there for the great old & relaxed atmosphere, the rocking chairs by the nice garden, the great view from the terrace, to meet students (university nearby), to play video games or watch TV and the correct price for two. Worth a look even if you do not stay. / What you may not like : the cheapest rooms are disappointingly small & basic
  • ® Hotelito Calle Real (3116510), N-E of Cathedral on 2 Av N-O, near the Supermarket / Rooms 80 / Go there for the old charm, the huge rooms, the nice view from the balconies and the excellent price if two / What you may not like : no inside shower, empty rooms and often full 
  • ® Casa Ivana (3114423), costado Sur Teatro Municipal, S-W of Cathedral / w. shower 60(1) or 90(2) / Same management as Hotel Avenida / No garden but clean rooms at excellent prices for the area ! Did not visit. 

Backpacker's Tips :  Roberto Gallo, Spain (March 03)
« I would recommend that you add hotel America.  $8 per person. Private bathroom , fans , internet and more. Address: Mercado central 1 cuadra al este»  NB: I received several comments for that new hotel at the same time and am therefore worried it was an ad disguised as a recommendation. Anyway, the price and offerings sound correct.  

Where to eat ? A couple of restaurants, incl. pizza, catering for the population of students. A lot of comedores as well. The one by Hotel Avenida was recommended. Personally, I preferred to eat on the street, the basic barbecued meat & rice for C12 (C20 in comedor). Plenty of snacks & pastries all over town, incl a cheap basic one on 2a C South, west of 1a Av ( white & green building without sign). 

Internet ? A few places around the plaza. The cheapest & most relaxed (but maybe not fastest) is located inside the Biblioteca on the west side of the Parque : C20 per hour, 30mn min (C10). Other options incl Cafe El Sesteo (C40/hour) or Compusada (S-W Parque, C25/hour). 

Change ? Plenty of banks north of the plaza. The only one changing TC is Bancentro : C13.23 instead of 13.31 for cash (best rate spotted) plus 3% commission. The only other alternative is the travel agency Viajes Mundiales and its outrageous 10% commission. 

Shopping ? Supermarcados La Union (1 C Norte, 5mn from cathedral, until 8pm except Sund 6pm) will provide you with all the western goodies you need at the usual ridiculous prices. It however sells the "cheapest" water : C7.5 for 1 gallon instead of C10 (same price for 1.5L !). Bear in mind however that the tapwater should be safe to drink. 

 << Discover a charming town

 

Backpacker's Tips : Rodrigo González Mera, Chile (April 03)
« Hotels: Casa Ivana: was full, it saw nice / Hotelito Calle Real: was full, absolutely not clean / Hotel America: I don't why you don't have this Hotel in the guide, It's excellent, is one of the oldest hotels in Granada, it's located near Hotelito Calle Real, two blocks of the parque central, huge rooms, very clean, there sold drinks and breakfast, internet service, nice owners, 200 córdobas for two with bath and towel, relaxed atmosphere with rocking chairs by the nice garden / Restaurant: Pizzeria Italiana: one block from the parque central, cheap and good meal / Bus: Granada - Managua 1 hr., 24 Córdobas; Taxi Managua - Terminal León , 25 Córdobas; Terminal León - Cruce León 1 1/2 hrs., 30 Córdobas; Cruce León - León (center) 5 min., 4 Córdobas; Taxi Hotel América - Terminal, 20 Córdobas; León - Guasaule 3 1/4 hrs., 60 Córdobas (take the bus at 4 AM this is a direct bus) / Take care in Managua at terminal to León (many thief) / Information near the parque central, a service from university students, near the restaurant Sesteo.» 


Leaving ? To Managua, buses every hour from 6am to 4pm (C15, 1h30). Minibus leave as soon as full up to 6pm. / To Chinandega, normal bus every 30mn until 6pm (C7.5, 1 hour) / To Poneloya, buses leave every hour or so from Subtiava's Mercado Felix Pedro (pick-up C2.5) from 4:45 to 6pm (C6, 30mn) 

The trip to Poneloya : SS / L&R / C6 / 30mn
The little annoyance about this trip is that buses do not leave from the terminal but from Subtiava's Mercado Felix Pedro, 3km west. Two options : walk on C. Central or take one of the many pick-ups leaving from at least 3 stations (incl. bus terminal & the Mercado East the Cathedral) for C2.5.
While the bus fills up, have a look at the old parish church, one of the oldest in the country as built in 1700 (doors usually open in the morning only). Get also some snacks at the market as the offer at the beach is rather limited. 
The 30mn trip is nice but nothing special, at least until you reach the ocean. If you wish to spend the night there, ask to be dropped at an hotel. Otherwise, continue all the way to the north extremity of the beach. From there, the bus will turn around and go to the southern side up to Suyapa beach.

The trip to Managua : SSS / Left / C15 / 1.5 hours
This was a good direct bus ride, although we spent the first 15mn collecting more passengers. Usual stuff. The view was nothing special, until reaching the lake, about one hour after departure : it is not everyday that you can spot two volcanoes including one in a lake ! Pay attention on the left side as the sight does not last too long. The lake can be seen again just before arriving but the petro-chemical complex in the foreground spoils the view.
Most people got off a bit before reaching Mercado Israel Lewites. There are no buses connecting with Mercado Roberto Humbues, where buses to the south are leaving from. But even it there was, taking a taxi would still be recommended. Make sure that the driver know precisely where you wish to go and take the time to negotiate the right price : it should not cost more than C15. If you do not get this price inside the station, get a taxi on the main road ! Reaching the bus station took another 15mn, mostly straight to the east, then turning right.

See also trip from Guasaule (Honduras Border)