This morning we enjoy a short city tour of Managua by bus, exploring both the historical and modern facets of the city. Our first stop is the Tiscapa Crater Lake for superb views over the entire city. On a clear day, we can see several volcanoes to the north of the city, and we can't miss the large silhouette of the General Sandino statue, the famous revolutionary, that stands overlooking the Tiscapa Crater Lake. Next, we head over to the old city to see the National Palace, the Old Cathedral, the National Theatre and the President's house. We will end this tour at the Malecon Puerto Salvador Allende, Managua's favourite hangout, for a drink.
Leon Viejo is our next stop. The first capital of Nicaragua, Leon Viejo (Old Leon) was founded in 1524 by the Spanish conquistadores, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area suffered frequent volcanic activity, culminating in the huge earthquakes of 1594 and 1610. The damage caused to the infrastructure by the 1610 earthquake caused the settlers to hold a referendum, and a decision was made to relocate the city to its present location, about 20 miles to the west. The old city was gradually buried by the continuous expulsions of ash and volcanic stone coming from Momotombo, and by lake sediments. The ruins of Leon Viejo were discovered in 1967 and today we visit the excavated city.
Finally, we head to Leon where we will have an orientation tour on arrival to discover the rich cultural and political history of one of Nicaragua's oldest and most influential cities. Defined by its graceful Spanish colonial architecture and fascinating political history, we will soon discover why Leon is considered to be Nicaragua's historical, cultural, educational and religious capital. The best way to explore this captivating city is by foot, as much of its charm lies in the narrow colonial streets and architecture, art galleries, museums and cafes. Leon's history is fascinating, like no other town in Central America. The town was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt due to volcanic activities, ransacked (and reconstructed!) by pirates, it won and lost its struggle as the most important city in Nicaragua against Managua, and several presidents were assassinated here. It is the place where famous poets are buried, where the largest cathedral in Central America stands, and is a hotbed for revolutionaries due to the big university located in Leon. In this guided walking tour we will visit revolutionary murals, baroque and neoclassical churches and a surprisingly interesting museum of legends, arts and poetry. After the tour, we can climb to the rooftop of Central America's largest cathedral, recently added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites, and enjoy astonishing views over the city and the surrounding Maribios Volcanic Chain.
Accommodation: Hotel Los Balcones