Friday, December 10, 2021

[LEÓN] Cathedral Rooftop View


Since I’ve already been to Granada, I had very low expectations for León. After all, how different can these two colonial towns be, right? If you’ve already visited many others in Latin America before like Antigua or San Juan, the pattern would probably be stuck in your head by now. I don’t know if the low expectations were to blame or if León is really just the better of the two, but I enjoyed the lion city more than Granada. Personally, I’m guessing it is because of the views from the cathedral’s rooftop.


But we can’t talk about Granada and León without a reference to their eternal rivalry. It seems most countries have a similar thingy with their major cities. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Toronto and Vancouver. Sydney and Melbourne. Los Angeles and New York. In Nicaragua’s case, it’s Granada and León, but theirs seems to be a rivalry that spans centuries since their inauguration in the 1500’s as New Spain’s primary settlements. The country’s capital has since shuttled back and forth between the two depending on who’s in power, until Managua was finally designated as the permanent capital.


As Wikipedia will tell you, while Granada is known as La Gran Sultana because of its overall Moorish influences, León is more Castilian in appearance. That is obvious up to now if you take a good look at its surviving colonial architecture. In any case, perhaps Leon’s advantage is that it became the capital first, now markets itself as a university town and is thus more liberal, as opposed to Granada which seemed a bit too conservative to me. The city also boasts the largest cathedral in Central America, the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León, which houses the remains of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario.


Getting to León from Managua is as easy as taking an Aventón or a taxi to UCA. There you will find a not so busy market cum van terminal. One of the routes is for León. Expect to wait around 15 minutes for each van to fill up before leaving. The trip lasts a maximum of 2 hours on a well-paved road and brings you to the busy market terminal in downtown León. From there, you can just take a taxi or a pepano to your accommodation.


As for my itinerary, I no longer bothered to have one because I thought this was going to be Granada 2.0. To distinguish León from its longtime rival, though, there are activities that you can do here which is unique to the place, such as sand boarding at Cerro Negro for instance. That was not an option for me because my allergies would kill me with that much dust. Besides, we also have that somewhere in Northern Luzon if I ever want to try it at one point, right?


And so, my sole objective here has been the cathedral. Painted in all white as opposed to Granada’s bright yellow, this cathedral allows you to go up to the rooftop for a mere ~USD 3 (NIO 100) to get a panoramic view of the city from above. And I guess that’s the reason why I enjoyed León more than Granada. Taking the common denominator out of the equation which are the colorful pastel houses, it seems León has the upper hand because of this particular attraction. The ascent is not that challenging at all and is done through white concrete steps that won’t make you break a sweat.


Once you reach the top, you will see a group of damaged bells as well as those hanging on the cathedral’s façade. You then have to go down a few steps to get to the multiple domes, asymmetrical on both sides of the roof. You then have to climb a flight of steps again to get to the upper middle roof which contains the bigger domes and offers a higher vantage point for your photos and videos. From there, you can easily see the surrounding area as well as the mountain ranges from afar.


You can also play a game of Point Out the Church, given the city’s addiction to such places of worship. I believe I lost this game because I was only able to find around half a dozen. I’m sure there were more hiding in plain sight. Anyway, once done, you can also explore the plaza in front of the church, or chill at McDonalds because they have air-con and the interior design adheres to the Spanish colonial theme, rusty chandeliers and all. Even a lion-themed fountain!

[LEÓN] Cathedral Rooftop View

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