Nicaragua is unique in having been colonised by both the Spanish and the British. Today, this historic legacy is best appreciated in the architectural splendour of the country’s cities and churches, which have been constructed on these lands over the past 300 years.
Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua and stands out as one of its most popular attractions. Its cobblestone streets, lined with houses clad with elegant, sweeping balconies and vast double doors, are like wandering through a time capsule into a bygone era. Many tourists choose to use Granada as a base for their stay in Nicaragua, thanks to its historic attractions, laidback café culture, and proximity to other locations in the surrounding countryside, such as the Parque Nacional Archipiélago Zapatera, which is home to one of the most impressive collections of petroglyphs and statues in the country.
An equally appealing magnet to those seeking to explore Nicaragua’s colonial history, is the creative and cosmopolitan city of Santiago de los Caballeros de León, more commonly known as León. As Nicaragua’s second largest city, located just 93 kilometres from the capital of Managua, León is known as the University City, thanks to its vibrant student population. Visually, it stands out for its evocative array of Baroque churches, quaint cobbled lanes and faded mansions. León is also renowned for its political history, once considered the passionate home of revolution in Nicaragua. Today, it celebrates a burgeoning reputation as a cultural capital that hosts art collections, eclectic gastronomy, captivating nightlife and an edgy student scene.
Both of these colonial cities encapsulate the combination of religion and history and blossom into places of pilgrimage during Holy Week. Throughout both Granada and León, visitors cannot help but admire the majestic beauty of their foundations and the captivating melange of pre-Columbian cultures merged with European influences.