No trip to Nicaragua is complete without a hike up at least one of the country's many volcanoes. Nicaragua is home to a remarkable string of volcanoes running from the southern mountains around Lake Nicaragua up to the impressive northern Cosiguina Volcano which towers over the Gulf of Fonseca. Many of the Nicaraguan Volcanoes are dormant, but some do remain active and it is advisable to hike the volcanoes with a guide or local tour group. Some of the more popular volcanoes include Maderas, Concepcion, Zapatera, Mombacho, Laguna de Apoyo, Masaya, Apoyeque, Momotombo, Cerro Negro, Telica, San Cristobal and Consiguina Volcanoes.
Maderas, Concepcion and Zapatera Volcanoes rise up out of Lake Nicaragua. Zapatera stands alone while Maderas and Concepcion are located on Ometepe Islands and they are a popular climbing choice for visitors to Nicaragua. Concepcion is an active volcano but Maderas is dormant. Zapatera Volcano is not a popular among tourists as it is difficult to reach and the volcano itself is both extinct and at 2,063 feet (629m) relatively small.
Mombacho Volcano lies on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is thought to be the cause behind the lake's Las Isletas. This volcano is great for hiking and it is even possible to be driven to the top of the volcano. The beautiful Laguna de Apoyo is a tranquil crater lake, which is popular with hikers and swimmers. The western shore of the lake has an active fumarole emitting steam and gas.
A short drive from Managua is the popular Masaya Volcano National Park with the smoking Masaya Volcano as its principal attraction. A paved road goes up to the crater where visitors can marvel at the white plume of smoke or try and spot the colony of green parakeets living in the crater itself. Apoyeque Volcano is also a short drive from Managua. This volcano is extinct and the crater is filled with water. Visitors can marvel at the spectacular surrounding scenery or swim in the crystal clear waters of the volcano.
Momotombo Volcano is the quintessential cone-shaped volcano. It is active and last erupted at the beginning of the twentieth century. Momotombo is popular with experienced climbers, and while it can be seen from Managua it is situated more than 60 miles (100km) from the Nicaraguan capital. Interestingly the Nicaraguan government uses this volcano to produce geothermal energy and electricity.
Cerro Negro Volcano last erupted in 1999 and is the youngest volcano in Central America. As the name suggests, the slopes of the volcano are blackened and scattered with volcanic rocks. Climbing this volcano can take about an hour, but does get hot during the midday heat. One of the slopes on this volcano is used for sand skiing.
Telica Volcano is also relatively active and last erupted in 2004. Those who brave the strenuous 8-12 hour hike to Telica's crater will be able to see molten lava glowing at the bottom of the crater.
The 5,725-foot (1,745m) San Cristobel Volcano is Nicaragua's tallest active volcano. San Cristobel Volcano last erupted in 2004 and the entire volcano complex is made up of five smaller volcanoes. It is a challenging volcano to climb with steep slopes. Those who make it to the crater will be rewarded with spectacular views.
Lastly, Cosiguina Volcano offers hikers some of the most impressive views and mountain scenery. Hikers reach the crater via a forest hike. Visitors can drive most of the way up the volcano and from the parking area the hike to the crater is only three hours. Views from the top include panoramas of the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras and El Salvador.
Hiking a Volcano while visiting 'the land of lakes and volcanoes' should be on the every visitor's list of activities and things to do in Nicaragua. The spectacular views and impressive scenery as well as the awe-inspiring volcanoes and craters offer splendid photographic opportunities and a richly rewarding experience to all those who make the effort on their trip to Nicaragua.