In addition to being rich in history, museums , cathedrals , and natural wonders, León  is also blessed with an intelligent young crop of guides and creatively conscious tour operators, both locals and extranjeros who enjoy sharing their knowledge and love of the land. Most accommodations can also recommend a guide or company, but here are a few options to let you know who’s doing what.
For city tours and day trips to nearby sites like León Viejo , San Jacinto Hot Springs , Isla Juan Venado , and others, you can start with Julio Tours Nicaragua (Calle Rubén Darío, one block east of the San Francisco Catholic Church, tel. 505/8625-4467, info [at] juliotoursnicaragua [dot] com [dot] ni, www.juliotoursnicaragua.com.ni ). We’ve received rave reviews for Julio’s relaxed, homespun services and highly recommend him.
Started by Barbados-born biology major Phillip Southan, Green Pathways Tours (tel. 505/2315-0964 or 505/8333-0898, greenpathways [at] gmail [dot] com, www.greenpathways.com ) is a self-described “association of naturalists and travelers” who are constantly asking the question, “Are the actions of my travels making a positive impact on the people and environment of the places I visit?” They focus on outdoorsy activities like volcanoes, local tours, and whale-watching (January–March); there is also a mouthwatering list of expeditions to far-flung corners of the country, including a kayak trip down the Río San Juan . They also offer important traveler services like TicaBus tickets (office open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) and beach house rentals.
Vapues Tours (Costado Norte, from Iglesia del Laborío, in front of Casa Cural, tel. 505/2315-4999, info [at] vapues [dot] com, www.vapues.com ), with an office across from the Iglesia del Laborío, offer a huge range of reasonably priced trips, plus shuttle services to other cities across the country. They can take you to Cosigüina , to Selva Negra, or to Granada  and points south. They are also tied in with some community-based tourism efforts.
Tierra Tours (1.5 blocks north of Iglesia de la Merced, tel. 505/2311-0599, tierratour [at] gmail [dot] com, http://tierratour.com ) has offices in Granada and León, and are highly recommended, along with Vapues Tours, for any number of trips. Both can take you on history or volcano tours  and also offer countrywide all-inclusive packages, international bus tickets, and domestic flight booking. They also both produce excellent local maps which you can pick up around town.
For more eccentric, community-immersion tours, let Harrie from Holland, founder of Nicaragua Así Tours (tel. 505/8414-1192, www.nicasitours.com ) take you to a cockfight, cow ranch, cooking class, or history tour. He likes to show visitors “more of Nicaragua than you can imagine exists.” This generally means interacting with everyday Nicas, witnessing interesting community events, and will give you many opportunities to practice your Spanish.
One freelance option is Flavio Parayón whose Knowing Nicaragua guide service (tel. 505/8880-8673, or 505/2311-4383, fparayon2003 [at] yahoo [dot] es) can get you up every peak in the area; contact him directly or at Vía Vía Hotel.
Quetzal Trekkers (1.5 blocks east of Iglesia de la Recolección, tel. 505/2311-6695, leon [at] quetzaltrekkers [dot] com, www.quetzaltrekkers.com ) is a remarkable, nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that specializes in volcano hikes , including overnight options. You’ll probably get up before the sun to catch a local bus to the base of your hill. Your fee (only $25 per person per day) goes directly to Las Tias, a León  nonprofit for local street kids and orphans, supporting them with academic and vocational opportunities, as well as a nutritional meal to all students. They are almost always looking for short-term volunteers (three-month minimum, intermediate Spanish required). If you are lucky enough to be in town during the full moon you will want to summit Volcán Telica at night with a well-experienced Quetzal Trekker guide.