We took a 12 hour bus ride from San Salvador to Managua. The change in terrain was surprising as it went from green and lush to a very arid landscape.
There are only three words for Managua....sketchy, sketchy, sketchy. This is the first place that we’ve been through that our personal safety was a very serious concern. Our hostel was locked down like Fort Knox and the owners were adamant that we take a taxi to and from the ATM to get cash out as they were watched heavily by crooks. The neighborhoods were patrolled by ‘helpers’ trying to lead us to various hostels amongst other things. When I asked our hostel owner why Managua was so unsafe, she told me that it simply had to do with all the crooks knowing that the tourists had money and so would target them….creepy. Needless to say, we stayed only one night and caught a bus out of there early the next morning to Leon.
Leon is a much different place. It’s a very pretty colonial town with a nice vibe but somewhat reserved locals.
Nicaragua has suffered much civil war in recent history (with the latest blow out as recent as the early 90’s) and so the place is very politically charged. The (very) short version is that there was a very rich, corrupt family that owned most of Nicaragua through political means on the backs of its nation and the nation finally fought back.
There were a few fearless leaders of the rebellion that managed to put things right (somewhat) and were martyred for their efforts. There are many memorials all over Leon dedicated to these heroes and any Nicaraguan will tell you how much they were loved.
An amazing place to visit and we'd happily come back.