Ruins of Leon Viejo

Ruins of Leon Viejo

Ruins of Leon Viejo
Historic Sites • Ancient Ruins
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Ruins of one of the oldest Spanish settlement in the New World.
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

160 reviews
Very good

Munich, Germany23 contributions
Mar 2017 • Couples
It's worth the trip! If you're up for doing something different and doing it independently you're in for a treat!

Take a bus to La Paz Centro from the main bus terminal in Leon (around 18 cordobas per person, approximately 1 hour). Take it all the way to the end in La Paz Centro. There will be another bus waiting opposite the last stop which takes you to the village of Leon Viejo / Momotombo. People will know where you'll want to go so it's pretty easy. We always speak to the bus driver and/or ticket guy to let them know where we're heading. Everyone was eager to help. They even have TV on their buses! There is also a lady there selling refreshments and snacks.The bus from La Paz Centro to Leon Viejo is 13 cordobas pp and takes approximately 30 minutes. Get off at the end and they will point you in the right direction for the ruins. The bus trip in itself is quite cool as you drive through wild, dusty and harsh landscapes in which the sun is pulverizing everything! Almost like a desert, at least during dry season.

The old village "pueblo viejo de Leon" inhabits the ruins of where Leon used to be. You pay US $5 to enter, the ruins themselves aren't that spectacular, but if your Spanish is good we'd recommend the little museums. Plus the view from the hill inside the ruins is breathtaking. Wild, uncompromising scenery with volcanoes poking up in the background. Contrasting and very pleasing to look at. We believe it's good to support these projects with your entrance fee.

We spent about 1 hour at the site and went to the lake afterwards. Just take the main paved road in the village all the way to the end and you'll find yourself at the lake. It's a surreal atmosphere with local fishermen and people around. It's so peaceful and you'll definitely find yourself off the beaten central American tourist track.

We took the last bus back at 4pm from Leon Viejo (Momotombo) to La Paz Centro. We missed the last bus to Leon which leaves La Paz Centro at 4:30pm. However, this wasn't a problem at all. The last stop of the bus in La Paz Centro was at the intersection of the highway. So we just flagged down a Managua - Leon shuttle bus and payed 25 cordobas each. There were plenty of chicken buses on that highway as well. There is never a problem to get anywhere - you just need to let people know where you want to go and they'll point you in the right direction. Doing it independently is a good way to support the local economy and it's not so hard on the wallet!
Written March 5, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Los Angeles, CA228 contributions
Mar 2018 • Solo
This is quite an interesting historic site. It's quite large and well laid out by the Spanish. Most buildings no longer stand, except for their foundation. Make sure to get an English guide to make your tour more informative. Guides are provided by the park. There's a look out in the ruins area where you can see Momotombo and Momotombito.
Written September 25, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

San Francisco Peninsula384 contributions
Aug 2016 • Solo
The Ruins of Leon Viejo are the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Nicaragua (2000). This is why: "León Viejo is one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas. It did not develop and so its ruins are outstanding testimony to the social and economic structures of the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. Moreover, the site has immense archaeological potential." (from the UNESCO website) Only 15% of the ruins have been excavated, limited by funding. What is revealed is capped with recent work to protect the ruins, so you see old/original brick walls, but the tops of the walls have new work covering for protection. Use your imagination. What you see really isn't that much.
The $5 USD admission fee comes with a guide. Mario is the only English speaking guide there (days off are Sun/Mon for him; the site is open every day) and he was very helpful and patient in explaining what I was seeing, first guiding me through a museum and displays, and then the ruins. There are maps and signs in English explaining what you are seeing, but not the history. Try for Mario.
From the mound where a fortress once stood (I'm told) there are great views of Momotombo Volcano and Lake Managua. (Momotombo is a perfectly shaped volcano!)
Bring a hat/sunscreen/umbrella and water. No food available. Bathrooms are available. There are the usual major-attraction stalls nearby, but they were all closed. There were very few people visiting. No worry about crowds, but don't expect a taxi back to Leon to be readily available.
I took a day tour from Managua to Ruins and Leon Viejo and then to Leon - a good, full day.
Written August 25, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Moreno Valley, CA162 contributions
Dec 2019 • Couples
A somewhat lackluster partially unearthed 16th century city. There are a few ruins, most still to be fully dug out and restored. The city was abandoned and lost to time before being rediscovered 50 years ago, but does not offer the impact of any of the ancient cities we have seen.
Written December 31, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Ashley D
New York109 contributions
Sep 2015 • Friends
The ruins aren't really ruins in a sense, there's really not much left from old viejo. I went without a tour and I found it to be a generally boring experience. If you're into history it'd certainly be a good experience because with a tour you could learn a lot about the ruins of viejo. I found it a lot more interesting after I went home and googled more information about the site! I wouldn't say it's a must do in any nicaraguan iternary
Written August 15, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Karin M
Hampton Bays, NY107 contributions
Feb 2016
Start early in the morning by taking the bus to La Paz Centro. There you will change to the Mt Momotombo bus. Get off at the stop for Leon Viejo. You can ask the bus conductor to tell you when you get there. Get a tuk-tuk to the ruins (about 20 cordobas I think). Take a guide--there's no charge but we tipped him. Our guide's name was Mario Ocampo and was very good. Leon Viejo was Spain's first settlement in Nicaragua, founded by Cordoba in 1524. Earthquakes caused the people to evacuate in 1609 and in 1610, Mt Momotombo erupted burying it under ash. The ruins were just discovered in 1966. In 2000 archeologists found headless remains of Cordoba and Davila, the first governor. Excavations are being carried out now. Mario can tell you many interesting things about this site. It's hot, take hat and water, but there is shade. When we left, we walked to the highway and were able to rent a scooter taxi to take us all the way to La paz Centro for thirty cordobas.
Written March 16, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

27 contributions
Sep 2015 • Couples
we were with our tour group and the guide was with another group so our tour guides showed us around and were actually very knowledgeable. It was very interesting to see the ruins and history of the area and I loved knowing that I was walking on the same path that people in the past had walked along or been dragged along. The view of the volcanoes is also very pretty. Definitely take a hat and sunscreen as it gets very hot and there isn't a lot of shade near the ruins.
Written November 22, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

34 contributions
Feb 2015 • Friends
When we went to the ruins, we found that there name was just on point; there were ruins. We got a really good guide to show us around and give us some clarification as to where we were and what we looked at, we learnt a thing or two from it. However, if you are not very interested in history, I wouldn't recommend it to the average tourist. It is also a bit to travel to get there.

If you do decide to go there, however, I'd recommend going to Laguna del Tigre while you're in the area. It is a healthy walk, but the area is quite beautiful and you get the opportunity for a nice swim and some very nice pictures.
Written March 22, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Lucy J
Washington DC, DC17 contributions
Apr 2014 • Friends
Between what the ruins of Leon Viejo are advertised as and what you actually see, the experience was fairly disappointing. There were very few ruins that were fully uncovered- the little that you do see is only partially visible, not very well marked, and/or obstructed. The tour guide that took us around had a very monotone delivery and was not a good speaker, in addition to not understanding our questions. The combination of a visually lackluster place, lots of walking in high heat, and a mediocre guide created a very mediocre experience.

The only highlight of this place is the viewpoint of the lake and the two volcanoes, Momotombo and Momotombito, however I would not say this warrants a trip. Only recommended for history buffs.
Written December 22, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

James Bond
London, UK757 contributions
Apr 2014 • Friends
Background: As part of a 3-week volcano trek across Central America, our tour group visited these remote ruins. Now a World Heritage Site (ca 2000), Leon Viejo was the original site of Leon, founded in June 1524 by the Spanish conquistador Cordoba. Because of its proximity to Momotombo volcano, it was especially vulnerable to destruction. Several eruptions and two earthquakes later, a local referendum got it relocated to where Leon is today, about 20 miles west.

PROS: The place is becoming well organized -- with an on-site museum, guides (Spanish and English) and a full tour. And there's a nice profile view of Momotombo in the distance.

CONS: Location is not its best asset. It takes a half-day trip to visit. Many of the ruins are overgrown with vegetation. Although you can still see the remains of the old town, it is not as well preserved as that of Pompeii, where casts of the doomed townsfolk can be seen up close.

Verdict: Although historically interesting, it is not for everyone. It may even bore some. And you wouldn't miss a lot if you don't go. A coin toss. Grade B.

Written October 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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