Revolution Lives On In The City Of León

Cathedral in Leon
Cathedral of the Assumption
León, Nicaragua

The city of León has a violent history that leaves its mark even today. This crumbling college town is a center for art, revolution, and poetry.

The bohemian city of León is probably my favorite city in Nicaragua. It’s not too big, but not too small either. It has a rich history, but it hasn’t been cleaned up for tourists.

The people of León are friendly, independent, and proud.

Scars of War
Scars of War

History Of Revolution

Nicaragua was engaged in popular revolution in the 1960’s and 1970’s, after enduring a long dictatorship since the 1930’s. León was a battle ground and the scene of a student-led uprising and subsequent government massacre.

Nicaragua’s ruthless American-backed dictator was assassinated here. Anastasio Somoza García ruled the country with an iron fist, and his son took power after his death.

In 1979, the family finally lost power after fierce fighting by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Murals depicting the revolution are located all around León.

Leon Nicaragua Church
Iglesia de la Recoleccion
Tasty & Cheap Street Food
Tasty & Cheap Street Food

Mixture of Age & Beauty

The city of León has it all. You can find tasty & cheap street food even at 2am. Almost every meal I ate was prepared on the street.

I filled my belly with greasy goodness every night for about $2 US. There are also some beautifully aged churches all over the place.

The black-sand beaches of Las Penitas are only 30 minutes away. The volcanoes of the Cordillera de Los Maribios mountains are right next door too. León’s citizens are friendly and the city is safe, but it still has a bit of an edge.

Local Girls
Local Girls

Loud Streets

In the mornings the whole city wakes up to the sound of a 7am air-siren. It goes off again at noon, signaling lunch time. If you’re in the Central Park when it’s unleashed, get ready for a jolt! It’s so loud it hurts, and you have to stick fingers in your ears.

I also had to endure the constant musical calls of the tortilla sales-ladies who walked the streets. Boy do they have some pipes! Once or twice was amusing, but getting forced to listen over and over again became pretty annoying. It was impossible to have a conversation or do any work while they were in the area.

Nicaraguan Transportation
Nicaraguan Transportation

One Year Is Not Enough!

I spent my days here sledding down volcanoes, shooting pool, volunteering in remote villages, listening to live music, watching cockfights, working on my travel blog, and chatting with veterans of the revolution.

The more I travel, the more I realize that staying in one place for longer results in a better overall experience.

I’m not so sure I’m going to be able to see & do everything I want in only one year… I’m 4 months into my trip and still in Central America!

It’s a big beautiful world out there…

Travel Planning Resources for León, Nicaragua
Good Hotel or Hostel: Tortuga Booluda Hostel
Good Food: The women running grills behind the main cathedral in central park! Bar Corinto is a great local restaurant too.

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.


I hope you enjoyed my guide to the city of León! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, beautiful photos, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (13)

  1. If anyone is looking for some amazing food while in León, check out Cafetin DANK! I just came back from there and I highly recommend! The address listed is Del Hotel Convento Media Cuadra Abajo

  2. Just make sure that you include trips home to see your family when you extend that trip. I love following the stories and pictures but would like to see you in the flesh every now and then too. = )

  3. How about Travels with Matt or Vagabonding with Matt? Enjoyed the commentary and the photos are bright with great human interest. Love the posts.

  4. You definitely nailed it with your description of Leon. The perfect size city, and it feels very “real.” No one is trying to impress or attract tourists, but their not unfriendly either.

    You are so right about spending more time in a place to get more out of the experience. I only spent 8 days in Leon, and I feel like I missed out on so much. I’m trying to do only Central and South America in a year, and it’s still not enough time! I’m looking to settle in a spot soon for at least a couple of months, most likely in Argentina.

  5. Both your photos are great – right in among the action. And you make Leon seem like a place I want to visit.

    I agree that a year is not long enough. Have you tried the trick of telling yourself there is no ‘year’ and just going at the pace you want – and spending time where you want without thinking of the road ahead?

  6. Had a woman, Maria, interpret the large mural next to the cathedral for me today in Spanish. I understood enough to follow most of the story and realize that she had her husband shot on the sight where we stood. It’s still hard to describe what an emotional experience it was. Feeling feeble and rather raw right now.

    • Wow. I bet that was powerful. I spent a few days chatting with an ex-revolutionary who was fighting when he was 14 years old. I know how emotional it can be to talk with people who have been through these experiences.