Leon is one of the biggest, but also the safest cities in Nicaragua. Apart from being a student city with possibilities for good partying, Leon is also known for its beautiful cathedral Cattedrale di León and for the possibility to slide down the nearby volcano Cerro Negro. So where is Leon in Nicaragua? Leon is located west in Nicaragua, close to the Pacific ocean as well as just a couple of hours away from Honduras. Due to its location, you can find such a huge variety of activities close by, from amazing surf beaches to active volcanos. In other words, this is a city you shouldn’t miss out on, during your Nicaragua vacation! Here I’ll briefly tell you how to do both, in one day if you want to. These are some of the things to do in Leon Nicaragua.
What to do in Leon Nicaragua
Cerro Negro is an active volcano with its peak 728 meters above the sea level, located outside Leon. It’s famous for the popular activity of sliding down the side of the volcano on a board one of the best parts of Nicaragua tourism if you ask me.
There are many organizers offering the activity, prices ranging from 25-35 dollars. They all offer more or less the same service, “Bigfoot hostel Leon” is one of the more expensive ones. With Bigfoot hostel, you get a t-shirt and they also measure what speed you go down the volcano side. I choose one of the cheaper tour operators but have no complaints about it.
How is the volcano boarding tour from Leon?
You’ll be picked up by the agency early in the morning and driven to the summit of the volcano. From there you’ll be walking up to the crater of Cerro Negro carrying a bag with all your gear, as well as the board you’ll be using. The hike up is pretty easy and takes about an hour. The views of the surrounding volcanos are absolutely breathtaking. When you’re at the top you’ll have time to check out the top crater of Cerro Negro. The hot and smoking(!) ground and the beautiful view from the crater is crazy. Then you’ll all line up but on your gear and head down the side of the volcano one by one. It’s a quick ride down, but definitely worth it. You’ll be back at your hostel in Leon around 1 pm. And if you feel like it, you’ll be able to check out the cathedral in the afternoon.
What to bring to Volcano boarding:
- Something to cover your mouth and face with as the volcanic dust and stones will be flying when you head down the volcano.
- Ask about snacks or food. We got water and fruit provided before we headed back to Leon.
- The rest of the gear will be provided. That includes, protective glasses, gloves, overall and the board.
Cattedrale di León:
This white beautiful cathedral can be found in the city center right at the main square. You can go inside it all day, but the access to the roof only opens at 2 pm. So if you feel like checking out the cathedral after the volcano boarding that’s fully doable.
I recommend being on the rooftop as it opens so that you have to chance to check it out before it gets too crowdy. The access cost about 3 dollars and gives you permission to walk around on the roof barefoot for 25 minutes. Enjoy the beautiful view of the rooftop and the city!
Visit the central market in Leon
If you ask me the best restaurants in Leon can be found at the local market located just behind the white cathedral. They are definitely not what we would call “normal” restaurants, but you can be sure to get some delicious, traditional Nicaraguan food there. While waiting for the rooftop of the Cathedral to open, grab lunch at the market. Not only is it traditional and authentic Nicaraguan food, but also very affordable. Like a lot of other places in Central and South America, you can get a fixed price at many of the stalls, including soup, main and a juice.
Where to stay in Leon Nicaragua
Leon, even though being one of the bigger cities in Nicaragua, is not that big. Never the less, it’s important for most people to stay in the central parts of town when traveling. If you have time, you can easily walk around in Leon and find a hostel that suits you among the many lining the streets. I can recommend bigfoot hostel and El Jardin, depending on what you’re looking for.
Bigfoot hostel Leon
As mentioned Bigfoot Hostel is a popular place for people coming to the city. I have a couple of friends that stayed there and loved it. It’s about 6 us dollars and has a pool and a big bar and social area. If you’re looking for a party Bigfoot hostel is definitely the place to go. Hostel Bigfoot also offers volcano boarding themselves, as well as various other tours, hikes, and activities. When my friends went they had the equipment to measure the speed you reached when you went down the volcano, a fun add on that I don’t think the other companies offered.
El Jarding Hostel Leon
I stayed at El Jardin. It doesn’t have a pool, but a nice common is with a courtyard lined with hammocks and an outdoor kitchen available for use. It also is more or less the same price as Bigfoot hostel but includes breakfast. The breakfast consists of two choices of eighter banana and pancake or eggs and toast. Might not sound like much, but the breakfast at hostel El Jardin was one of the better I’ve had on my travels in Latin America. Add something yourself to make it even more complete, like avocado or some cheese.
El Jardin hostel has more of a chilled vibe, and I think I remember them having a rule about quiet time too. So If you’re not in quite the party mood, this is definitely the place to stay. The only drawback is that it will take you 5-10 minutes to walk into the very city center of Leon. Access to buses to other cities in Nicaragua, where right around the corner. The hostel also offered various tours and shuttle services as they where collaborating with tour companies.
Read more about how to backpack Nicaragua and what places not to miss!