The original city of León was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. The city was abandoned in 1610 after a series of earthquakes (the earthquakes seem to be closely related to the eruption of nearby Momotombo). The current city of León was built shortly afterward about 30 km west of the original site. León had been the capital of Nicaragua since colonial times, so when Nicaragua withdrew from the United Provinces of Central America in 1839, León became the capital of the new nation. For years the capital shifted back and forth between liberal León and conservative Granada, until as a compromise Managua was agreed upon to be the permanent capital in 1858.
León is hot, temperatures while we were there were generally around 35 celcius during the day. We arrived at the UCA station and made our way through the complex market maze trying to avoid all the bicycle rickshaws trying to give us a ride to the city centre. León is extremely easy to navigate as it's on a grid system (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc). Once we got our bearings it was only a 10-15 minute walk to Hostal Las Vacaciones which would be our home-base
for the next 3 days. On our walk we found 2 gigantic markets (one food market near the bus station, and another clothing and goods market closer to our guesthouse.
Las Vacaciones guesthouse is located in a convenient location and affordably priced. The rooms are baking hot, half the fans didn't work and bathrooms are rather hideous. The rooftop terrace makes up for that somewhat and it was our favourite spot for late night dinner and drinks. The city, like much of Nicaragua, is subject to frequent power and water cuts but thankfully we only experienced one of these during our visit.
Shortly after arriving, I realized that somewhere between Managua and León I lost Ann's mobile phone. I'd forgotten that she'd given it to me to hold onto. Honestly, I'm not sure if it fell out of my pocket or if it was taken but we went back to the UCA station to see if we could find it. Surprisingly, we actually found our driver and he let us take a look inside his van. Unfortunately it wasn't there. I tried to call the number and it went straight to voicemail so it was either stolen or
run-over. We put a lock on her phone and her credit card to be safe. After that ordeal, we decided to do part of a walking tour of León.
The Iglesia de la Recolección
was built in 1786 and was my favourite church in León even though I never saw the inside. We walked past the deep yellow, lavishly decorated facade on numerous occasions during our time in León. Iglesia La Merced
is considered the city’s second-most-important church. After the old city’s evacuation, the Leónese built a new church here in 1615, and replaced with the current building in the early 1700s. We toured through Parque Central and the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León
, built between 1747 and 1814. Its walls have endured earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and bombings during civil wars. Several cannons were placed on the roof both during the siege of the city by conservative forces in 1824 and during the Revolution of 1979 against dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The Assumption is the largest cathedral in Central America and one of the oldest dioceses in the Americas. In the cathedral's crypts are buried several famous figures such as poet Rubén Darío, poets Salomón de la
Selva and Alfonso Cortés, father of independence Miguel Larreynaga, classical composer and musician José de la Cruz Mena, and several bishops.
We walked around some more before stumbling across Bar El Mirador where we stopped for a drink on their terrace which had a wonderful view of the city and the sunset. We had dinner and some wine on the terrace back at Las Vacaciones. Because it was so hot in our room we brought our sleeping bags out and slept on the roof under the stars. It was lovely.
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