Isla De Ometepe

I really don’t know what else to see & do in Nicaragua so I ask a few locals and fellow travelers and everyone agrees Isla Ometepe is a must see. The island sits in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, formed by two volcanoes, Conceptión which is huge and still active & the smaller dormant Maderas. Taking the Jeep onto the island is a little expensive, but well worth it to make getting around so much easier.

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Volcan Conception on Isla De Ometepe

At the ferry terminal all the different taxes, charges and tariffs quickly get confusing and then I go and loose my ticket, so I have to buy another. All told I pay 480 cordobas (about $25 USD) to get myself and the Jeep over to the island and I drive right onto a ferry ready to go. The ride is really rough in high swells whipped up by the wind and I get chatting to a few backpackers who are mostly traveling solo and have randomly met up. They’re pretty stoked to realize the benefits of having a vehicle and we soon find a place to camp out at Hostel Chico Largo for the night right on the side of the lake.

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Volcan Conception in the early morning

We move along and checkout Ojo De Agua, a natural spring on the island. After we pay our $2 USD entrance the guy at the gate gives us a huge spiel about the spring and I’m amazed to hear it’s about 25 °C and doesn’t change temperature no matter what the active Volcán Conceptión is doing. I’ve heard some rumors about hot springs on the island, this guy is certain there are none.
It turns out to big a big concrete pool with crystal clear water welling up from the bottom – a bit of a tourist trap but a really nice place all the same.

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Ojo de Agua on Isla de Ometepe

We camp at the night at Finca Magdalena, a beautiful organic farm a little way up the side of Volcán Maderas. It’s obvious they get a lot of tourists through here, with a menu entirely in US dollars and the convenience of running a tab.. All the guys in the group are really excited to hike up the volcano in the morning and we ummm and arrr about getting a guide, which is apparently mandatory, though we’re not certain about that. We decide that if we’re careful we won’t have any problems.

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The crew setting out to climb Volcan Maderas

Early in the morning the hike starts dry, hot, dusty and steep just as we had thought, but quickly changes into extremely lush wet rainforest and we begin climbing through mud and slippery rocks. This continues for hour after hour and it takes us a full four hours to reach the summit, unfortunately surrounded by very high trees. We descend an extremely steep section down to the lake in the volcano crater, which is stunning to say the least. We had hoped to swim here, though it’s quickly obvious it’s a shallow mud pit which Ben illustrates by sinking past his knees, a feat greeted with roaring laughter.

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Lake shoreline

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The very steep descent into the crater

We hang out for an hour or so, soaking in the atmosphere and chatting to other hikers before setting out for the return leg. After a while it becomes apparent we’re not on exactly the same trail we came up on, but using the two volcanoes as landmarks we know exactly where we are and decide to continue down. The trail seems much longer and a few hours later we break out into farm land, first passing through open fields with cattle, then banana plantations and more open farmland. We eventually make it down to the road and have a couple of kilometers to hike back around to Magdalena, where we arrive throughly exhausted. A few people snicker at our “getting lost” and one of the ladies says in Spanish we need to learn how to use our brains.

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The lake in the crater of Volcan Madera

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The beautiful farmland below the volcano

Almost the whole crew moves on the next morning, some heading south for Costa Rica and some moving North. Mike, Simon and I move around to the other side of Maderes and spend another night lakeside, mostly relaxing for the day after our big volcano hike. I’m feeling pretty sick with another stomach bug and am happy for the rest day.

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Hiking through a bananna plantation

Isla Ometepe is an amazing place and the peaceful, relaxed way of life is really infectious. A great way to finish up my time in Nicaragua


8 Responses

  1. Shawn says:

    Take care out there dan ! with the chile earthquake , hope your not in the mix of it all. Peace

  2. Ioana says:

    Summer will come soon, I can’t wait to start traveling.Dan, your pictures fill me up with so much patience for my expeditions. :)

  3. Juan D. says:

    Hey Dan,
    I was looking for advice on places to go in Guatemala (I’m planning a quick trip during easter) and found your blog. Really cool stuff, congrats. One question, having just 5 days to travel around.. do you think it is worthwhile to spend a day in Guatemala City?
    One more thing. I guess you already know this but there’s no road between Panama and Colombia, you must take a ferry to Barranquilla or Cartagena. Hope you can solve this, just wanted to give you a heads up.
    Good luck and take care.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Juan D.
      No question about it, don’t spend more than the minimum time in Guatemala City. It’s really just a big, dirty, dangerous city.
      Go straight to Antigua (you’ll love it) and many people have told me Lago De Atitlan is awesome too. You can see how beautiful Semuc Champey is, but it will take some time to get to/from.
      Gimmie some credit, I did a little homework before setting out D: – I certainly learnt about the Darien Gap early on.

  4. Meghaa says:

    cool to read about the part I met you at! no mention of me though, for shame! 😛
    keep trekkin. peace

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