The flight from San Francisco to Nicaragua’s Capital city, Managua, was approximately 7-8 hrs long (with layovers in LA and Miami). And from there, we booked a car transfer to Leon, the second largest city next to the capital and located 56 miles northwest of it. I stayed in Leon for the whole duration of my trip since I only had a few days in Nicaragua. I knew there were tons of places to see but since my time is limited, I decided to stay in one place to fully experience the local culture.
We arrived in our hotel, Casa Azul, mid-afternoon. Since it was too hot for an afternoon walk, we decided to grab lunch inside the hotel, where I also got to try the local beer, Toña, for the first time (recommended by our car driver). Once it cooled down a little bit, we ventured out to get a feel of Leon’s lifestyle.
We visited the Museum of Myths and Legends, where I learned a lot about Leon’s history and culture. There was a small entrance fee and it included an English-speaking guide.
It was surprisingly interesting to discover that some of the myths and legends were quite similar to the ones we have in the Philippines. It just goes to show how far-reaching the Spanish influence was.
Leon did not disappoint.. in fact, I loved it already that first night. It’s a quaint town with a total of 23 churches, 17 of which were functional. There are no street names, so people gave directions based on a landmark, the Cathedral (pic below).
Mary’s Assumption Cathedral
The Cathedral seems to be the focal point of everything in Leon. It’s also the perfect spot to people-watch because directly in front of it was a nice park, which comes alive late afternoon to early evening. Loud sirens can be heard all over town at 7am, 12 noon, and 5 pm. I found out that these loud sounds were intended to give residents a sense of time. If you are sensitive to noise, then you will definitely hear it loud and clear. The first time I heard it, I thought they were doing a mass evacuation and I was just waiting for the hotel staff to start knocking on my door..fortunately, i thought wrong.
Mary’s Assumption Cathedral
The next day, we went hiking in Volcano Telica, one of the most active volcanos in Nicaragua that last erupted in 2011. Our journey began with a smooth 30-minute drive on flat road followed by an hour and a half of very bumpy, bone-jarring trip to get to the base of the volcano. From there, it took us a little over an hour to hike up to the crater.
The view at the top was spectacular! I witnessed the sunset over the mountains and took my time to appreciate the view and relax.
The steam coming out of the crater was pretty strong but I was quickly able to glimpse the barely visible magma. Hiking down to the base of the volcano was interesting because by then, it had turned to dusk and flashlights were necessary…the added bonus: stargazing..
Top rim of Volcano Telica
Waiting for a better view of the magma from the Volcano
On the third day, we decided to hike up another active volcano, Cerro Negro, about an hour away from Leon. Cerro Negro is considered to be the youngest volcano in Central America. It first erupted 159 years ago and has had at least 23 eruptions since, the latest of which was on August 5, 1999. According to volcanodiscovery.com, the current status of Cerro Negro is RESTLESS.. how comforting to know.
But I was resolved to hike this volcano, the main selling point of it was the chance to slide down from the crater to the base using a board.. Volcano Boarding!
The hike was a little hard for me.. well, any form of hiking is hard for me.. but this one was a rocky climb up and I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest.
At the top, we were actually able to hike into the crater and get up close and personal with the fumes coming out. After this unusual facial, we continued our hike to the rim of the volcano and surveyed yet another impressive view .
Volcano boarding is a very popular activity near Leon and in this particular tour, the jumpsuit and board were included. I have to admit, I was a little scared of doing it after I saw how steep the descent was, but once our guide gave us the go signal, my adrenaline just kicked in and I volunteered to slide down first. There was the option to stand on the board during the descent but as I still had my mental faculties fully functioning, I chose to sit.
Here is a video of my friend during his descent.
Day four was spent at the beach in Las Peñitas. I soaked up some sun, enjoyed the water, had an excellent lunch and dinner, and took in another breathtaking sunset. After a full day of fun at the beach, it’s time to head back to León. The beach at Las Peñitas wasn’t very developed, but there was a hostel/restaurant nearby, so I went in to ask them if they can call a taxi for the trip back to León. They apologetically informed me that they did not have a phone/landline (and borrowing one of their cell phones, apparently, wasn’t an option). They were nice enough, though, to give us the phone number of a cab driver.
This would have been fine if any of us had international service on our cell phones. Fortunately, I was able to activate international service long enough to place a call to the cab driver. The call went something like this:
Me: Hi, I need a ride to León from Las Peñitas. Are you available?
Driver: Hello, yes that is fine. I can be there in 20 minutes.
Me: Great! We are in front of Hostel Playa Roca.
Driver: Where are you in front of?
Me: Hostel Playa Roca.
Driver: Oh I’m sorry. I can’t come.
Me: You can’t come now?
Driver: No, sorry.
Luckily, I was able to place a call to our hotel and they sent a cab to pick us up.
After a whole day of relaxation at the beach, my final one was spent on foot to admire the local artwork and murals in Leon.
Overall, the town was very relaxing and the people were very friendly. If they found you staring at your map or thought you were lost, they will approach you and help you. On our last night, we were even invited to attend a Dutch King’s Day celebration in one of the hostels. This rounded off the trip perfectly.
I was truly sad the morning of my departure. I will definitely miss the adventure, hospitality, color, beauty and (how can I forget?) the food of Leon.. the hiking? maybe not so much. 🙂
NEWS ALERT !!!!!!
Volcano Telica erupted 2 weeks after we hiked the volcano. Check out the video courtesy of BBC News in YouTube.