In July, my husband and I took a trip to Nicaragua to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. Little did we know how much we would come to love this wonderful and amazing country. The trip started in the capital city of Managua where the Augusto C. Sandino international airport is located. We rented a car for our 8-day excursion which was a great decision considering getting to other cities is a 2-3 hour drive out of Managua. Within an hour of landing, we were loaded up in a little coupe and we hit the road North to our first destination, León.
Nicaragua was colonized by Spain and it’s influence can still be seen and felt in their faith, culture and architecture. Nicaragua was known as the “Paris” of Central America back in the day yet it’s troubled history has hindered the development of this promising nation. A history plagued by corrupt leaders whose sole purpose was to manipulate the government for their own benefit leaving the people of Nicaragua to fend for themselves. The Nicas persevered by depending on their own resourcefulness and today, Nicaragua’s tourism is slowly building up and is known as the #1 safest country in Central America and #2 in all of the Americas (Canada being #1).
( Dress or similiar here and here // Similar hat )
The Beautiful City of León
Traffic was a bit tight coming out of Managua although it gets easier as soon as you hit the open road. 2.5 hours and several b-roll footage later, we arrived in the beautiful city of León. If you plan on visiting Nicaragua and renting a car, common things to watch out for on the road would be: broken down bullock carts, taxis and “chicken” buses – they randomly stop to pick up or drop-off passengers in the middle of the road.
Nicaragua has taken a piece of my heart from the moment my husband and I stepped into León. The first thing I notice about León? The massive murals that paint a turbulent past – a stark contrast to the colorful spanish-colonial doors that lined the streets which is arguably the second most noticeable feature of the small town.
We finally reach Flor de Sarta, a charming and cozy bed and breakfast where we were instantly greeted by Bruno, the in-house cutie-slash-Beagle along with the owners Ben and Sabrine. We drop off our things and freshen up a bit and start making our way around León. First stop, Cocinarte – León’s very first vegetarian restaurant is located in Laborío neighborhood, just a few blocks from Central Park. Their cuisine is a mix of traditional Nicaraguan and “old Indian” dishes.
We wake up early the next day to prepare for our biggest adventure yet – hiking Cerro Negro and volcano boarding! 45-minutes away from Flor de Sara is the site of the youngest and active volcano in Nicaragua, Cerro Negro. Why volcano boarding you ask? Because it is freaking badass. It is scary and exhilarating at the same time and makes one heck of a story to share with our future kids and grandkids. Did I mention it’s badass? There are several tour companies that provide a roundtrip transport, sand-boarding equipment, a bilingual guide for $35. We went with El Perezoso Agencia de Turismo and our guide Carlos made the hike both enjoyable and educational. Let me be completely honest with you here, it will get scorching hot and very windy towards the top although the view of the Maribio volcanoes makes the hour the trek worth it. Start early, bring lots of water and a bandana to cover your mouth to use while sledding down the volcano!
Another must-do in León! The León Cathedral is a historical landmark in Nicaragua and the largest cathedral in Central America. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.
To access the rooftop, we had to get tickets from the market side of the church for $3 each (80 Cordobas). There aren’t any signage that points to the ticketing office so we had to ask for directions from the church staff. Once at the top, we were asked to take off our shoes to protect the the pristine white roof. An absolutely spectacular place with great views of the city and the neighboring volcanoes!
After two days of adventure in León, we pack our bags and head out to Granada. We stopped for lunch at Paz de Luna before driving off. Stay tuned for part 2 of our Nicaragua experience! For now, check out my video travel diary here!