10 Best Things To Do In And Around Leon, Nicaragua - Updated 2024

things to do in leon, nicaragua
Hannah
Hannah 
Updated
| 6 min read

Leon, the crumbling, poetic city; the beating heart of the art and cultural world of Nicaragua. From world class art galleries to stunning architecture and Colonial UNESCO World Heritage sites, which have been lost in time; this beautiful city that was once home to the Revolution now stands as a testament to the beautiful country that is Nicaragua. Immerse yourself within the culture and discover what makes Leon the poetic capital of Central America with these top ten places to visit.

1. Cerro Negro and Volcano Boarding (from USD 64.0)

Volcanoes and Nicaragua go together like two peas in a pod; you can’t travel far without stumbling on one of the great natural pyramids rising from the ground. Leon is in close proximity to one of the greats; Cerro Negro; an impressive ash covered “hill”.

But people don’t go to visit Cerro Negro to marvel at its size or that it is considered to be Nicaragua’s youngest volcano - no, they come here for one thing and that is to climb for an hour up the steep slope, with a board strapped to their back. Once they reach the top, they strap on the board and either volcano-board or sledge their way down to the bottom within three minutes!

This is a thrilling activity which will set your heart racing; just make sure that you hold on tight and prepare to scream.

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Cerro Negro Volcano Sand Boarding Experience from Leon

Duration: 4 to 6 hours

26 reviews

2. Leon Full Day Sightseeing Tour (from USD 132.0)

If you’re short on time visiting Leon, then fear not! You can still fit in all of the highlights of this amazing city on this one day tour. The tour takes you around this beautiful city, and you will have a chance to experience the beauty which is the UNESCO-listed La Asuncion Cathedral, walk in the footsteps of the poetic master, in the Museo Ruben Dario; and if that isn’t enough history and culture for one day, you then get to visit the Oritz Art Foundation Museum, where some of the great masters have adorned the walls.

This tour is limited to fifteen people only to ensure that you get personalized treatment, so be sure to book your dates before you go to ensure your spot.

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León Full Day Sightseeing Tour

Duration: 6 hours

3. Ortíz Foundation Art Center - finest museum of contemporary art in Central America

Explanada Centro León
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Centro León used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Ortíz Foundation Art Center has arguably got to be one of the most undiscovered gems in Central America. This art gallery has been home to the work of such greats like Picasso, Chagall and Miro; all great works hidden in the very centre of Leon, for everyone to see for only 0.80 USD per person, per visit.

Aside from viewing pieces from the greats the museum also contains works by Cuban and Peruvian artists, covering everything from the romanticism era all the way up to postmodernism and modern art - colorful works adorning the walls surrounding you. We suggest spending as much time as you can here; there is a lot to take on board when viewing this spectacular gallery and it shouldn’t be rushed.

Ortíz Foundation Art Center

Address: Av 3 Pte, Leon, Nicaragua

Website: Ortíz Foundation Art Center

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4. Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, Leon

Fachada de la Catedral de León
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rastrojo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

There’s one building which dominates the landscape of beautiful Leon, and that is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (also known as Our Lady of Grace Cathedral). This beautiful domed building stands in the centre of Leon, and the front of the church is much like any of the buildings in Nicaragua - impressive, somewhat crumbling and white washed. But it isn’t the ground exterior that will impress you, after you’ve entered the cathedral and have marveled at its interior you should head directly up to the roof; it is here where you are transported to the coast of Santorini.

You step out from the beautiful shell of the building into a rooftop made out of bright white domes, with views that are unrivaled all over the poetic city of Leon, from city to volcano. Be sure to make sure you’ve got space on your camera, this is going to be a photo opportunity that you don’t want to miss.

Our Lady of Grace Cathedral

Address: Av Central, León, Nicaragua

Website: Our Lady of Grace Cathedral

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5. Museo de La Revolucion

Museo Regional de Nuevo León
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jacques Prefontaine used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Nicaragua has a tormented past, from the revolutionaries fighting to free their country from the Somoza Dictatorship in the Revolutionary uprising in 1979-1990, resulting in a tormented civil war. Nicaragua is now a peaceful country, with people who carry not only a sense of humor but who are also warm and kind.

Now, in the centre of Leon you can find a small museum charting the paths and stories of the Revolutionaries as they took back their country from the Somoza Regime and what it took to make Nicaragua the beautiful country that we know today.

Museo de La Revolucion

Address: Parque Central, Leon, Nicaragua

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6. Pimp your Instagram with some of Leon’s amazing street art

Street Mural - Leon - Nicaragua
Source: Photo by user Adam Jones used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If Granada is well known for its rainbow buildings then let Leon be known for its street art, which contains some of the most creative pieces in Nicaragua. Most of the street art tells the political story of the Revolution which rocked this Central American Nation; some of which is still littered with bullet holes from the fighting on the street.

Take a walk around the city to have a look and see what you can discover, there’s a story in the painted walls waiting for you to discover.

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7. Museum of Traditions and Legends - set inside an abandoned prison

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Leon’s most colorful and eccentric museum is an absolute must on your ‘to-do’ list when you first arrive in Leon; the museum creatively tells the horror tales of human abuse in the Nicaraguan prisons to the tales of Leónese folklore. Each aspect of this museum contains life-sized paper mache figures from history, gruesomely showing how these victims met their untimely deaths. Think the London Dungeons, but with more paper mache and a whole lot of interesting history to share.

Museum of Traditions and Legends

Address: 4a Calle SO, frente Ruinas San Sebastián, León, Nicaragua

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8. Visit the poet’s Museo Rubén Darío house

Isla Martín García casa Rubén Darío
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Roberto Fiadone used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Leon, also known as the ‘Poetic City’, is the epicenter for poetry within Nicaragua and Central America. When locals to Leon visit other areas of the country, they’re automatically called ‘Poet’ by friends, in simple jest as a warm affectionate association to the city in which they come from.

Leon is where the great child poet, Ruben Dario is from; if you haven’t heard his poetry before then I suggest you read up. You won’t be in Leon for long before you land on Ruben Dario street, or see children walking past with his face on T-shirts. Upon visiting his house, where he lived for 14 years of his life, you will get to see handwritten manuscripts, artifacts and mementos from this national heroes life. Once you’ve finished in the museum then we would highly suggest heading over to ‘Our Lady of Grace’ cathedral to pay your respects to Ruben Dario’s last resting place and marvel at the intricacy of his tomb.

Museo Rubén Darío

Address: NIC-14, León, Nicaragua

Website: Museo Rubén Darío

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9. Playa Las Penitas beach

Las Penitas Beach
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user JacobKlinger used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking for something to do that’s a little out of the city and you’re craving that salty sea air then you’re in luck - the beautiful Playa Las Penitas is only a short thirty-minute drive from the city centre. Here you will find a wild Pacific beach; while it doesn’t have the white sand of the Caribbean Coast it makes up for it in character. Waves roll into the beach with a roar, surfers swim out to catch the next rip; local restaurants serve up delicious Nicaraguan food; anything from vegan cuisine to local seafood. This is the perfect place to put your surfing skills to the test before you head to another of Nicaragua’s famous surf towns.

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10. Explore Leon's history at the Ruins of León Viejo

Ruins of León Viejo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user HHaefner used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Leon is steeped in history and culture, but no trip is worth going to seeing more than the Ruins of Leon Viejo; the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Leon Viejo is one of the oldest Spanish Colonial Settlements; which was founded in 1524. However, Leon Viejo was doomed to have a tormented future; just fifty years after the city was built it was partially destroyed by the Momotombo volcano which erupted in 1578 and then just forty years later, a powerful earthquake shook the remaining city to destruction.

It was following this that Leon was built, further away than the volcanic fields of Momotombo volcano, but it is the natural disasters that we can thank for the natural burial of this Colonial Town, ensuring that it is preserved in time for us to explore.

Ruins of León Viejo

Address: Puerto Momotombo, Leon, Nicaragua

Website: Ruins of León Viejo

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Love Leon!

We hope that you get to enjoy Leon as much as we do, there’s so much to enjoy in this beautiful little city on the Pacific Coast that will keep you wanting more and more; take your time and soak in all that there is to be enjoyed here.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Meet Hannah, a 33-year-old globetrotter currently residing in the UK. Over the past six years, she has embarked on extensive explorations around the world. From kayaking alongside sharks to...Read more

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