Ruins of Leon Viejo
León Viejo, a ruined town in the department of León, is viewed as the second oldest and the most well-developed, historical Spanish settlement in the whole of the Americas. This gives it important archaeological value. What is so fascinating about this settlement is that, unlike other settlements that develop and change over the years, it did not develop further and has been preserved beautifully. It thus provides outstanding evidence of the original, unchanged social and economic base put in place by the Spanish Empire. It also shows the European architecture that was often adapted for Nicaraguan buildings in the sixteenth century.
To get to the ruins travelers will need to pass through La Paz Centro en route to Puerto Momotombo - an active volcano that last erupted in 1905 - where the Spanish first settled in Nicaragua. Francisco Hernández de Córdoba first founded this colonial town as far back as 1524 and from there it became an important town because of the trading in gold sourced from Nicaragua and other countries. Due to threatening volcanic eruptions in 1610, the settlers of this town moved 30 km away where they built a new León, leaving the town to be buried under ash. Later on in 1966, the ruins were again discovered but this time it was by a team from the National University. Since 2000 UNESCO has considered León Viejo a World Heritage Site.
Since the unearthing of León Viejo, eighteen buildings or structures have been identified. This demonstrates just how small these first settlements were, which of course included an equally small population. Some of the structures identified through the rough walls found were the plaza, convent and cathedral, a fort, graves, a few houses and the main street of the town. When you visit you will be provided with a guide and signboards with information in both English and Spanish giving you details about the historical town. The tour takes only 45 minutes of your time. If you don't have your own transport, you can take a bus trip from La Paz Centro which adds another 20 minutes on to your visit.