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Nicaragua's Volcanoes

Nicaraguan Volcano © jjbulley
Nicaraguan Volcano © jjbulley

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 since some remain active, 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.

Maderas, Concepcion and Zapatera 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. Concepcion is an active volcano, but Maderas is dormant. Zapatera Volcano is not popular among tourists, as it is difficult to reach and the volcano itself is both extinct and relatively small at 2,063 feet (629m).

Mombacho Volcano lies on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is thought to be the source of 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 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 to 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 take in the spectacular surrounding scenery or swim in the crystal clear waters of the volcano.

Momotombo is the quintessential cone-shaped volcano. It is active and last erupted in 2015, after a century of inactivity. 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. The Nicaraguan government uses this volcano to produce geothermal energy and electricity.

Telica Volcano also erupted in 2015. Those who brave the strenuous 8-12 hour hike to Telica's summit will be able to see molten lava glowing at the bottom of the crater.

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, and one of Cerro Negro's slopes is used for sand skiing.

The 5,725-foot (1,745m) San Cristobel Volcano is Nicaragua's tallest active volcano. San Cristobel last erupted in 2008 and the entire complex is made up of five smaller volcanoes. With steep slopes, it is a challenging climb, but 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. Travellers reach the crater via a forest hike, or they can drive most of the way up, and from the parking area, the hike to the crater is only three hours. The top offers panoramic views of the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras and El Salvador.

Hiking a volcano in 'the land of lakes and volcanoes' should be on every visitor's list of things to do in Nicaragua. The spectacular views and impressive scenery, as well as the awe-inspiring craters, offer splendid photographic opportunities and a rewarding experience to all those who make the effort on their trip to Nicaragua.