I should probably preface this blog entry by stating that I believe its my fault I got pick-pocketed. My bloodshot eyes were alight with “drunchies”, that horrifying side effect that occurs every time I start tossing back tequila shots. Damn them! With my nose in the air, I followed the smells of papas frias, french fries, outside of the dance club and down the street to the nearest street vendor. “Finally! Vegetarian street food!!” I thought. I paid the lady in the truck, and gently tucked my totes-expensive, metallic grey Gucci wallet back into my purse…..without zipping it back up. HOW STUPID AM I?!?!?
Uh, hello? Earth to Cassy- when traveling to third world countries, maybe don’t bring your most expensive wallet. Maybe don’t bring it out salsa dancing? Maybe zip your purse up at all times? Maybe be a little more vigilant? I digress. Just, for your own sake, don’t “Pull A Cassy” and repeat said mistakes.
UGH! Enough with the pity-party. Want to know what I loved about Leon? Read on below:
Top 5 things to do in Leon, Nicaragua
The classic rainbow-pastel buildings, sidewalks, and outdoor furnishings are just as colorful as the people you will encounter. This city is filled with a mix of upscale tourist shops, California-style smoothie bars, and local groceries and street markets. There are cathedrals older than your great-grandmother, tiny walkways cut into overcrowded bazaars, roadside candy carts, and quaint “central parks” with awesome classic-style art and sculptures.
If you are going for the culture; you’ll find it. Here are my favorite things to do in Leon, Nicaragua:
Tour Our Lady Grace Cathedral
It’s hard not to notice this landmark. So bright it reflects the sunshine, this pristine-white cathedral draws all the attention within the city. It’s approximately $2 USD to climb, (free for locals, of course) and you have to remove your shoes in order to walk around the roof of the building. There’s an amazing view of the entire city, including the active volcano in the distance. The white powder that covers the roof will coat your toes, but its hard not to gaze in awe at the architecture.
I spent nearly an hour walking around the entire place, enjoying the peace, the looming clouds, and people watching as other tourists meandered around the area.
Munch on a Quesillo & sip a Tiste
A large twisted piece of cheese is pressed inside of a homemade tortilla, and covered in an onion relish, before swiftly wrapped together, placed into a plastic bag and covered in a fresh cream sauce. This traditional Nica food is so good!!! and the price can’t be beat. For a whopping $0.80 USD, you can have a doublé, i.e. a double portion, which is the perfect snack to escape the afternoon heat.
The meal wouldn’t be complete without a traditional drink called a tiste, which tastes like rich chocolate. It’s some sort of cacao mixture, diluted with water. It’s less intense than american-style chocolate milk, but just as delicious.
Salsa dancing & other bar hopping
Play Beer Pong Big Foot Hostel or dance the evening away at Leon’s salsa bar or late-night dance club Oxygene. The choice is yours! (Just be careful out dancing that late- this is how I was pick-pocketed)
Hiking to volcanic lakes
Just a short off-road adventure from Leon leads you to a series of volcanic lakes in the north of Nicaragua. Up the dusty path and back down into the center of the volcano will yield a gorgeous view of pristine waters and greenery.
Bring a floatie (or use a 2-litre bottle, like we did!) and relax in the fresh waters.
(Note: I didn’t actually volcano board, nor am I vying for you to try…)
Feelin’ the need for speed? Look no further than volcano boarding, the instant classic provided by social Darwinism. You will have no control over how beaten and bruised you become as you topple down the mountain in a thick orange track-suit. It’s essentially modern day tar-and-feathering: sun’s blazing rays and the soot kicked up into the wind. At least you will be able to see the abrasions coming through the thick goggles strapped onto your face!
All kidding aside; In case I haven’t made my point, I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of volcano boarding. The ocean was right there, after all! What more do you need????
To each their own. Maybe you can prove me wrong?
There’s so much more to Leon than I could offer in one short post. We had a wonderful time in our days there. I wish I hadn’t had such a bad first impression of the city. It was quite eclectic once I gave it a second chance! Between the hot meals found on the street carts to the colorful buildings, Leon is a Nicaraguan staple city.
Do you have a favorite city in Nicaragua?