A tale of three cities

The three most important cities in Nicaragua are Leon, Granada and Managua. We visited all three of them. Leon and Granada are typical Colonial cities, Managua less so.


Leon is the city closest to the Pacific Ocean and is also the warmest place in Nicaragua. We can definitely confirm this. It was founded in 1524. Originally the city was located about 30km’s east of the current location but was moved after several earthquakes in 1610. In 1835 it became the capital of Nicaragua. This honour was to be shared with Granada. Neither cities where happy with this which led to a civil war in 1850. The civil war was ended with an interesting compromise as you can read further below.

Leon has many typical colonial streets filled with colourful houses. There are also many churches, one of them the colourful Calvario church. But the main attraction is the largest cathedral in Central America; the cathedral of the assumption of Mary. This is a Unesco world heritage site. Now to be honest, we have noticed that a lot of things are a Unesco world heritage site, sometimes it doesn’t seem to take much to become one. But this cathedral really deserves it. They started to build it in 1747 and it was completed in 1814. It is a catholic church. What’s so special about it however isn’t on the inside. It is on the roof! The whole roof is blindingly white and beautifully constructed. And if you pay a small entrance fee and take of your shoes, you’re allowed to get on the roof. You have a great view from the roof although you have to ignore the huge antennae for mobile internet which apparently just had to be build close by.


Granada was founded in 1524 and is the oldest colonial city in Central America. It is located at the lake Cocibolca, also known as lake Nicaragua. This is the largest lake in Central America. Granada was an important centre for trade and was sometimes attacked by pirates, until the Spanish build defences. For several years it was was in a civil war with Leon to become the nations capital. Granada is smaller than Leon but has more sights to be seen. Around the lovely Parque Central there are many beautiful colonial buildings and the Granada cathedral. It is also closely located to the Masaya volcano and a butterfly resort, about which you’ll be able to read more another time. This convenient location meant that we spend about a week here and we found Granada the most enjoyable city of the three. Although there were way too many mosquitoes so for the first time we used the mosquito net around the bed.


Managua was founded in 1819. In 1852 it became the capital of Nicaragua in order to end the civil war between Leon and Granada. There are a little over a million people living here. It has several modern (government) buildings and shopping malls and is located at lake Xolotian. But as far as we are concerned it has little to offer for tourists. A few grand buildings and that is it. No nice boulevard along the lake, no cute markets or streets and the shores of the lake are lined with rubbish. We visited the Japanese garden, expecting a calm and green garden. But is being neglected. There was no water flowing and a lot of weeds. We saw plaza de la Revolucion and the Antigua Cathedral. That took about 15 minutes. For us the best part about Managua was the nice hotel we treated ourselves to. It had airconditioning, so for 3 nights we didn’t have to sleep in a bed of sweat. And a pool located in a nice garden so Binkie enjoyed it too. Kilian also took the car to another garage, more about that later. And we did a little shopping as well.

2 thoughts on “A tale of three cities”

  1. Mooi verslag over de geschiedenis van de belangrijkste steden.
    Ook prachtige foto’s.


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