See the streets of old León, one of the oldest Spanish settlements in the New World, at the ruins of León Viejo. Founded by conquistador Francisco Cordoba in 1524, the lively city was abandoned in 1610, after a huge earthquake caused locals to reassess the town’s precarious location, surrounded by belching volcanoes. It was decided that a new town of León would be built 20 miles west, and León Viejo was left to crumble under falling ash and volcanic stones of Mount Momotombo.
Rediscovered in 1967 by the National University, León Viejo is the only 16th-century, colonial city in the New World that was never developed beyond its original site plan. Its ruins today are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At the ruins, wander the old city’s three-foot-high remains and see the layout of 16 of the city’s originals structures, including the old plaza, convent, cathedral and fort.
When you visit, you will be provided with a guide for a 45-minute tour, and there are plenty of interpretive signs provided in both English and Spanish.
To get to León Viejo, take the bus to the town of La Paz Centro, which is on the highway between Managua and León. From La Paz, local buses regularly head to the ruins. If you’re coming by public transport, it’s best to visit in the morning as the last bus from La Paz to León is at 2pm. León Viejo is open from 8am to 5pm daily, and entrance costs $2, which includes the price of your guided tour.