LEÓN – The best part about the rooftop terrace at León’s new Hotel Real is the panoramic views of the sun falling into a sea of red-tiled colonial roofs.
From atop the third-floor terrace, perhaps the highlight of this Nicaraguan-owned hotel in León’s colonial center, you can also see four churches and the cordillera of volcanoes to the northeast.
Down below, open-air hallways and the walls of the hotel’s 14 rooms are decorated with original artwork by Nicaraguan painters, such as León’s own native son, Lester Arostegui, whose painting of the León Cathedral hangs on the second-floor patio.
The hotel is run by a Nicaraguan pharmacist and his wife, a curator at the renowned NicaraguanNationalAutonomousUniversity in León. Rene Pacheco and wife Aleyda Téllez say that their hotel aims to offer this colonial city’s up-and-coming tourism industry a slice of the “real Nicaragua.”
“We hope that with new establishments like ours, we can drive tourism a bit more and generate more income,” said Téllez, standing on the rooftop terrace as the sweltering heat of the day fades into the afternoon glow.
Though farming and academia have traditionally been the city’s economic lifelines, Téllez says she thinks the influx of backpackers and history lovers – who come to check out a city that is said to house the best museums in Central America – is fast changing the local economy.
León has long been a hub of progressive politics and intellectual debate, and is bigger and more bustling than its conservative colonial counterpart, Granada.
“Tourism is something that has grown but that we need to develop it more. People love the colonial style of the city, the cathedrals, the history, the culture, the architecture, the traditions and the natural resources,” she said, the latter a reference to the corridor of volcanoes that loom in the distance from the view from her roof-top terrace.
Surfing the ashen slopes of the Cerro Negro Volcano has recently become a favorite extreme tour for the more adventurous tourists visiting León.
After purchasing this colonial residence, located just a few blocks from León’s central park, Téllez and her husband spruced up the place with an open-air garden, which serves a breakfast of eggs and coffee. They also installed new rooms with TV, air conditioning and private baths.
Rooms at Hotel Real start at $35 for one person and go up to $55 for a triple, including breakfast.
Hotel Real is located 150 meters east of La Recolección Church. For more info, call 311-2606, or visit www.hotelrealdeleon.com.