My introduction to Nicaragua: León

It’s been a while since I explored a new place, let alone a new country. My first stop in Nicaragua was León. I looked forward to the return to a city, new street food other than baleadas, and rock bottom prices. I realized upon crossing the border that this is the last new country I intend to visit on my trip.

León is a small-feeling city, with surprisingly chill energy. I stayed at Bigfoot Hostel in the center of town, and most of hostel life revolved around novel day trips like cock fighting and volcano boarding followed by partying at night. While fun, it feels cliche and a little silly, very gringo path again. I found it somewhat difficult to connect with the city. I spent a few hours a day wandering the city core but never felt like I got the spirit. One thing I have been disappointed in is my lack of learning about Latin American history. I had hoped to do some of that here in León but failed miserably due to museum closures and late returns from day trips.

The city has elements of pretty, but I wouldn’t call it beautiful so far. I am actually a little surprised that I am not more enchanted. My experience in León has felt fragmented… I think I am going through a bit of Utila detox and having a little trouble bonding with new things and adjusting expectations.

Parque Central. Lions are (unsurprisingly, I suppose) EVERYWHERE in this city!

Iglesia de San Francisco, dusted by volcanic ash.
Another view on a clearer day. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.
The cathedral. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.

My first night I went out in search of street food for dinner. I was surprised by how difficult it was to track down anything that was not a hamburger, hot dog, or pizza. Frustration! During the day I found chicken plates (C$90/$3.75USD) served up outside the main market and flavored shave ice (C$12/$0.50USD) off Parque Central easily.

Now that’s what I’m talking about…


I wondered what she had in her cart… turns out it was a block of ice, waiting to be shaved.


Excited to dig in!
Shave ice with dulce de leche sauce. Mmm….

Nicaragua is known to be quite safe, and I do feel secure here. However, it is also just behind Belize in the frequency of cat calls and attention noises (whistles, clicking, etc) I receive walking down the street. It is noticeable and not my favorite. It doesn’t make me feel unsafe, but it is a bother.

Physical goods are indeed quite cheap! I’ve already stocked up on a few replacement items and some new beachy dresses for Mexico.

Something I did not anticipate: the beginning of the rainy season. This put a damper on overnight volcano trekking plans, which was a huge shame. Oh well, there are other volcanoes to climb, and I’m sure we’ll find one to tackle!

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