Perfect 2 day Itinerary for Leon – Nicaragua

Need some inspiration on how to spend your time in Leon, Nicaragua?

The colonial town of Leon is a popular stop for travellers visiting Nicaragua. We spent 2 weeks in this colourful city and understand the appeal.

Leon has a very authentic feel to it still, despite the rise in tourism over the years. As the country is still developing its infrastructure we get to see the reality in which the locals live day to day.

In Leon, you will find no buildings taller than 3 stories due to the region being so volcanic. You will also have to look pretty hard to find any chain restaurants, we only spotted 3 which is pretty decent for a big city. But you will see plenty of churches, parks, street vendors and all the charm you would expect from a historic city like Leon.

View of Leon, Nicaragua from above

Whether you are solely visiting Nicaragua or are just passing through on a bigger trip, I would highly recommend adding Leon to your route.

We put together this itinerary so that even if you have only minimal time to explore you can still see all the best that Leon has to offer.

How Many Days Do You Need In Leon, Nicaragua?

A question we commonly get asked is how much time do we need in Leon. Is there lots to do, or will a quick visit be ok? Well here is what we think…

Is 2 days enough time in Leon?

We spent 2 weeks in Leon and honestly, that was too long. We think that 2 days is the minimum you would need to get the most out of the city. Really, 3 or 4 days would be the ideal amount of time to not feel rushed.

Biggest Cathedral in Central America

2 Day Itinerary To See The Best Of Leon, Nicaragua

If you only have 2 days then this is how we recommend spending your time in Leon;

Day 1 in Leon

On day 1 the first thing you should do is join a free walking tour of the city. They last around 2 hours and are truly the best way to learn about a new place and its past and present issues.

We joined a walking tour through Guru Walk and highly recommend them. You will need to book a spot a day or 2 in advance.

Our walking tour started at 9 am. The Guide will take you to the market, to some local buildings of interest and show you some of the street art and explain the meanings behind them.

*** Whilst on the tour make sure to ask the guide for details about how to join a boat tour of the mangroves and turtle hatchery, you will need this for tomorrow.

After the tour is over, you should head to the local indoor market for lunch. The market is pretty large and sells fruits, vegetables, desserts, drinks, hot food and lots more. Have a look around and grab a bite to eat like a local.

Leon, Nicaragua indoor food market

In the afternoon it’s time to do one of the most unique activities I’ve come across – Volcano Boarding. Yes, you read that right. You hike up the side of a volcano and then slide back down it on a wooden board.

The best company to do this with is Bigfoot Hostel. The tour leaves at 1 pm and costs $35 per person. As this is the sunset tour you will have INCLUDED drinks around a campfire to watch the sun go down. It is beautiful.

After the party bus back to Bigfoot, with drinks included again, you’ll get dinner and have the opportunity to party some more. They also take photos and videos for everyone and you get a Tank top too, pretty cool.

Volcano boarding down Cerro Negro in Leon, Nicaragua

During the evening, don’t forget to finalise the plans for the boat tour tomorrow with the details from the guide. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful with this, but we arranged the whole thing through our tour guide on WhatsApp, so I don’t have any details to share with you.

Day 2 in Leon

In the morning take your time to look around the town centre then head to the Cathedral. One of the most popular spots in the city and for a good reason. If you go around the back of the Cathedral you can buy a ticket to access the roof.

From up there you are spoilt with some pretty amazing views of the city.

A girl on the roof of the Cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua

Assuming you end up on the same boat trip we went on you will have to be at the meeting point around 1 pm. You can either head to the beach by Taxi or by chicken bus. We were quoted $25 for a taxi, one way.

Or you can go via the local chicken bus like we did. Just head to the bus stop and ask around to make sure you get the bus that is going to Las Penitas. I still can’t believe how cheap these buses are. For a 30-minute journey, it cost us 18 Cordoba, so around $ 0.50 each.

Once you arrive at the right spot along the beach (where ever you are told to meet) just jump off the bus. You will then be met by your guide, who will take you to the boat to go in and explore the mangroves.

Boat trip from Leon, to the Mangroves by the Ocean

I loved this boat trip because it was so peaceful and a true haven for wildlife. We saw 3 crocodiles, black iguanas and so many new species of birds that I had never seen before.

On the way back in the boat you will stop at the turtle hatchery where, if you are lucky and they have some babies, you will get to witness them be released into the sea. This was one of the major highlights of our travels so far for me!

Releasing baby turtles on a day trip from Leon Nicaragua

The last bus back to Leon is at 6.20 pm so you should have plenty of time. This is 6.20 pm Nicaraguan time though, so be reasonably early and expect it to be late.

Check out our Guide on what to pack for a trip to Central America!

Is Leon, Nicaragua Safe?

In general, Leon is one of the safest places for tourists in Nicaragua. In the 2 weeks we spent in this city we felt safe the whole time. There are very few incidents involving tourists but as with any city, the likelihood of petty crime such as pickpocketing is quite high.

As long as you are sensible and don’t wave around money or valuables, don’t get crazy drunk or wander around alone at night you should have no problems.

Where To Stay In Leon, Nicaragua?

If you want a peaceful and quiet guesthouse then Al Sole Guesthouse is ideal. A little further away from the centre and away from all of the noise. It is around €40 per night for a private room with a bathroom.

✅ Book this beautiful and quiet guesthouse now!

If you want a more social option then, Hostal Tortuga Booluda is a very popular hostel. They have private rooms from $25 per night.

✅ Book this social and centrally located hostel here!

If you want a party then Bigfoot Hostal is for you. A dorm bed here is only $8 per night and a private room is around $26 per night.

For tips on booking cheap accommodation, check out our post.

How To Get Around Leon, Nicaragua?

Leon is not a large city, so it is easy to walk everywhere. There are no tuk-tuks here but there are the occasional bicycle-style taxi things.

If you want to head out of the city then the local chicken buses are the cheapest option but often the slowest and not always direct. Or there are tourist shuttles going to and from all the main tourist spots. You can usually book these through your guesthouse or hostel.

Where To Eat In Leon, Nicaragua?

Our number one recommendation is to try out the vegan restaurant – Coco Calala. This hidden oasis serves super tasty vegan dishes while you sit amongst the jungle they have created. It is also one of the top-rated restaurants in Leon!

They also have a pool that customers can use for a small extra fee of around $4.50. Just be careful since some of the kombucha flavours have honey in them. All the food is vegan though!

Beautiful buildings in Leon, Nicaragua

Extra things to do in Leon if you have more time

If you do decide to stick around a little longer, and we wouldn’t blame you if you did, then here are a few other things that are fun to do;

  • Visit the Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Gurdián to see some notable art pieces
  • Go on a tour of Telica Volcano – We recommend this Tour for the best experience
  • Tour to El Hoyo Volcano or even campout if you like
  • Go surfing at the beach
  • Join a street art tour
  • Learn more about the revolution on a walking tour specifically dedicated to this

You can also read our guide on the 7 best volcanoes to visit in Nicaragua, for some more inspiration.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Leon, Nicaragua?

The best time of year to visit Nicaragua is during the dry season of November to May.

Good To Know Before You Go To Leon

Check out our post for more general pre-travel tips here.

Leon is VERY hot so be prepared with sunscreen and light clothing.

Also due to the tropical climate, there are mosquitos everywhere, so bring repellent.

To enter Nicaragua you need to show proof of COVID vaccinations, fill in an immigration form and pay a $16 entry fee.

Drones and binoculars are banned in Nicaragua, so best to leave those at home.

You can buy a SIM card at Managua airport or in various locations in Leon itself. There is a Claro shop near the Cathedral where we purchased our SIM cards from.

A couple standing on the Top of Volcano Cerro Negro before boarding back down

Final Thoughts – 2 Day Itinerary for Leon, Nicaragua

As great as this country is, it is still developing so there is a huge amount of poverty still. As with anywhere where people struggle there are risks. Remember to be responsible and don’t flash valuables, especially on public transport.

We had no issues while we were there but always better to be safe than sorry.

But most importantly enjoy this wonderful country and especially our favourite city, Leon. If you are looking for more help planning your time in Nicaragua, you can take a look at our full Itinerary here.