What is left of the second oldest city of Nicaragua is nothing but ruins. León was established in 1524, and was one of the most important cities of the region. Gold from Nicaragua and other countries was traded in León, and there were quite some rich merchants living here.
The city was built close to Lake Managua (Xolotlán) and the Momotombo volcano. When the Momotombo erupted in 1610 the inhabitants rapidly left the city in fear of the volcano. A new León was built some 30 kilometers to the west, where it still is today. The old León, or León Viejo as it is locally called, was never actually destroyed by the volcano and preserved beneath the surface. The real excavations began in 1999.
What you can see at León Viejo are the foundations of the houses, as well as some partially restored important buildings, like the church. The Spanish conqueror who established the city, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, was murdered by Pedrarias Davila here as well, and his beheaded body has been found next to the body of his murderer. You can see the cellar where they were found, as well as a statue of Hernandez de Cordoba holding his remains and other bodies found, beneath the statue.
The ruins of León Viejo have been listed as UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. The park is well set up and you will get a guide who will show you around. There are many signboards that tell something about the history of the city. You can also walk up a hill from where you have a great view of the lake, the Momotombo volcano, and the other volcanoes surrounding the city.
During the dry season, there can be abundant wasps in León Viejo. Bring some repellent or – probably more effective – wear a long sleeve sweater and pants.
- Foreigners: US$5.
- Nicaraguan adults: C$50.
- Nicaraguan University/College students with ID: C$25.
- Nicaraguan children (11 years old or older): C$10.
- Children up to 10 years old enter for free to the site.
You can get to León Viejo by taking the bus to La Paz Centro. This town is located on the highway between Managua and León, and easily reachable. From there, buses leave to León Viejo.
If you are driving your own car, you have to take a right just before La Paz Centro (you will see a big sign). Just keep following the signs. The road is not completely paved but in good condition. It takes about 20 minutes from La Paz Centro to León Viejo.
We have 1 related tour(s) available that can be booked online.
Horseback riding to Leon Viejo and Puerto Momotombo
By: Finca El Carmen
wim kruit wrote on Jun 12, 2017:
I was visit in 1995 Hertilandia
Anke is an idiot wrote on Apr 2, 2016:
Don't say Indians. Indians come from India. They are native Americans, idiot.
Devry wrote on Apr 15, 2013:
Just returned day trip out to Leon Viejo...road is now paved with interlocking all the way from the main highway, took along pants because article says wasps, only two where spotted, might have had something to do with the fact I was the single tourist at the place. Nice quick day trip, bring water it gets hot, really cool vista at the top, and really neat that they uncovered something from the 15's! Oh, and only spanish guide available today so I did the tour solo!
Ponzo wrote on Oct 22, 2012:
León Viejo is one of those historical sites hidden away in a rural region. It's full of history and you will be amazed by the many events that took place in or around this village. It's odd to see how such an important place is relatively underdeveloped (there are still remains of houses hidden below the soil!), but I guess in time this place will be better excavated and protected. For now, be sure to visit and to enjoy what is already there.
Anke wrote on Feb 20, 2010:
I was there in Jan 2009 and it was fantastic. Our guide was soooo good. He was young, but knew his history and his english was perfect. Leon Viejo is an excellent spot to study history. I felt the pain of the Indians.
CHRIS from USA wrote on Jun 27, 2005:
p.s. The guides were excellent and knew quite a lot and were able to answer all of my questions. Kudos to them!
Chris from USA wrote on Jun 27, 2005:
I was in Nicaragua-Old Leon-last year and it is spectacular. The town leading to the ruins might seem desolate but the people were friendly. Once inside the ruins it is amazing. Not a lot there now (the trees are beautiful, chapels interesting) but the history is quite noteable. I really ,really hope they don't over develop the place. I was shocked when I stood atop the hill staring at the volcanoe and waterway, next to the remote town by the water. SO TRANQUIL! A true hidden gem!