First Impressions: León, Nicaragua

For me, it was love at first sight with Nicaragua.  Looking out my plane window, I saw turquoise pools of water set in sprawling mountain ranges.  While I’ve only been here a short time, I find that the more time I spend in the town of León, the more I like it.  The architecture is stunning, the nearby beaches are great, the music is fantastic, and the people (aside from the men who cat-call) are lovely.

Here are a few of the things I did in my first week in this adorable town:

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One of the best things about León is that there are some gorgeous beaches close by.  While I always love going to the beach, I particularly appreciate the beaches here as the temperatures are generally in the 90’s.  My first weekend here, some of my classmates and I headed to Las Peñitas.  We took a 40 minute bus ride which was very affordable, but pretty uncomfortable.  They stuff the buses with people, and the heat can be stifling.  However, the trip was well worth it.  The beaches weren’t very crowded, and it was so nice to relax in the water after sweating in town for a few days.  The waves were rough, but the water temperature was perfect.

After hanging out for a bit, we grabbed some beers at one of the beachfront bars.  Beer is generally around a dollar a bottle in León, which is perfect on a student’s budget.  After relaxing for a bit, we got the last bus back into town.  We had to stand, squeezing to let people through the aisle at most of the stops.  While that is the cheaper option, the next time I went to beach, my friend Allie and I opted to spend the 5 dollars and take a cab instead.  I’d highly recommend going this route.

León is home to a lovely modern art museum, the Museo de Arte Fundación Ortíz – Gurdián.  On Sundays, the museum is free, although donations are requested.  Pictures are unfortunately not allowed, but it is a really lovely space.  Much of the museum is open air (like most of the buildings in León) with paintings lining the courtyard walls.  In the center of many of these courtyards are small pools inhabited by turtles.   The collection is wide ranging, featuring more classic European art and modern art by Central American artists.  My favorite exhibit featured illustrations by Francisco Goya which had been altered to have a more Surrealist feel by Salvador Dalí.

What stood out to me first about León are the beautiful cathedrals.  The most famous cathedral in town sits right next to the Parque Central.  It’s face is a bright white which stands out beautifully against the blue skies.  Only it’s face is painted white, and the age of the building can be seen when you walk around it.  The cathedral offers tours which include being able to walk on the roof, which is the number-one thing I want to do before I leave León.

Another cathedral, Iglesia el Calavario, can be found by continuing walking down the main street in town.  Although we did not venture inside, the face of the church was more than enough for me.  It is painted in yellow and the signature pink color I have come to associate with Spanish and Portuguese-style buildings.  The bright colors and overall adorable feel of the church are representative of one of my favorite aspects of this town.  I love this style of architecture, and never get tired of passing by these beautiful buildings as I go about my daily life here in León.

All my love ❤

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