León is a department (state) in northwestern Nicaragua (5,138 km2). It is also the second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua. It was founded by the Spaniards as Santiago de los Caballeros de León and rivals Granada in the number of historic Spanish colonial homes and churches. As of 2005, the city had an estimated population of about 175,000 people which increases sharply during university season with many students coming from other Nicaraguan provinces. It is the capital and municipality of the León department.
Leon has a rich history and has served as the capital of Nicaragua many times. Leon has an architecturally interesting city center and is full of old cathedrals and colonial houses. It is also home to the largest cathedral in Central America built from 1706-1740. This cathedral was recently selected to be on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Leon is located 50 miles northwest of Managua and only 11 miles from the Pacific Coast. The city and its surroundings has a lot to offer for tourists, backpackers, surfers and volunteers.