Known as “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes”, Nicaragua unsurprisingly offers many opportunities to hike and explore volcanoes. In fact, there are 19 volcanoes in Nicaragua, of which 9 are active!
No trip to Nicaragua is complete without hiking a volcano!
Before I left for 14 months of traveling Europe, Central and South America, I worked out almost every day. I was a yoga junkie; I craved the heat, humidity, and spiritual connection. Continue reading for an embarrassing yogi photo below! Although I had been practicing and teaching yoga daily while abroad, it doesn’t quite compare to being at home and going to my favorite classes. My consolation? Hiking! Particularly volcanoes, as Nicaragua is brimming with volcano hiking opportunities!
In no particular order, here are four of the best volcanoes to hike in Nicaragua followed by a few more recommended volcanoes, and tips for hiking them!
Cerro Negro Volcano Hike
Location: near León, Nicaragua
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Upon arriving in Nicaragua, I knew I wanted to board down Cerro Negro, an active volcano.
This activity requires you to first hike up the volcano. Cerro Negro is about one hour outside of Leon, surrounded by several other volcanoes.
It’s only about an hour hike up to the top of the volcano. You’ve got such interesting views along the way. The volcano is true to it’s name sake: black hill. It’s primarily black sand, mixed with shades of white and burnt red. An expansive green valley surrounds the mountain, mimicking the Serengeti. Telica and San Cristóbal volcanoes, the country's tallest volcano, are in view.
Read this for full details on the Cerro Negro volcano hike and volcano boarding.
El Hoyo Volcano Hike
Location: near León, Nicaragua
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Hiking El Hoyo volcano was a spur of the moment decision for me, and I'm so happy I did it!
I met a girl named Dominique one night in León for a night of history, BBQ and Toñas just outside of the city, looking onto it from an old fortress. From Amsterdam, she was living in León doing research for her thesis on Volcano tourism in Nicaragua. She was going on an overnight, full moon hike to El Hoyo Volcano the next day and asked if I wanted to join last minute. I said, YES!
The next day our group of 5 set off to hike El Hoyo. The volcano is an hour outside Leon, the base of the volcano very near Cerro Negro.
TRAVELER'S TIP: You can volcano board on Cerro Negro in the morning and then overnight hike El Hoyo in the afternoon.
The first few hours of the El Hoyo hike are quite dirty and barren. The first hour is also very steep and the barren landscape which provides little relief from the relentless sun. We had backpacks in tow with additional clothes for the night and next day, lots of water, food, camp gear and firewood. It was hot, and hard. Then things seemed to level out a bit. More trees began to cover us and provide relief from the hot sun.
Many people hike El Hoya volcano for the day, starting at 5 am "Nica time" (similar to "island time"). This is a nice option as the early morning sun is much more forgiving than the afternoon sun!
We arrive to the campsite before sunset. This was probably the most spectacular sunset of my travels in Central America. On the west the fiery red sun was preparing to rest for the night, to the east the cool hues of the moon rising for the night.
After a night of eating and drinking around the campfire and gazing at the incredible, glowing moon, we woke for sunrise then continue the hike for another four hours to the lake. If you're doing a day hike to El Hoyo you will be hiking up and back the same route, not going to this lake.
Concepción Volcano Hike
Location: Ometepe, Nicaragua
Level of Difficulty: Difficult
Concepción volcano is one of two volcanoes on the island of Ometepe, the other being Maderas.
These two volcanoes conjoin to actually create the entire island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, which is the 19th largest lake in the world!
Concepción is the taller and steeper of the two volcanoes on Ometepe island, towering at 1600m (5,249 feet). Maderas is known to be quite muddy, it also offers a lake at the top of the volcano.
Contrary to my belief of volcanoes being barren, Concepción from the very beginning was with brimming with trees, plants and wildlife. It was a tough hike, very steep, requiring stamina to climb the mud, rock and stairs. I was incredibly thankful for the shade.
At around 3,267 feet on Concepción, there is a view point. It’s here people often stop because it’s far too cloudy and windy to safely continue to the top.
Masaya Volcano Hike
Location: near Granada, Nicaragua
Level of Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Volcan Masaya an active volcano in the Central America Volcanic Arc mountain range that extends 1,500 km (930 miles) along the Pacific Coast from Guatemala to northern Panama, along with Acatenango, Fuego, San Cristóbal, Telica, Cerro Negro, Concepción and so many more volcanos.
Volcan Masaya is Nicaragua's first and largest national park.
You can hike this volcano during the day, however since it’s known for being able to see lava I had to go at night to see this amazing probably once in a life time phenomenon.
At night, you must arrive by car, so my trip to Masaya was less of a hike and more of a ride up to the top.
Prepare to wait; bring beer (I prefer Toñas, but Victoria is good too), good company and a good attitude. I promise, this marvel is worth the wait even if you're only allowed at the top for 15 minutes! Healthy risk, they say.
More Volcanoes in Nicaragua
There are many more volcanoes in Nicaragua in which you can climb, including;
- Telica (Medium)
- San Cristobal (Difficult)
- Maderas (Difficult)
- Mombacho (Difficult)
- Cosiguina (Medium)
- Casitas (Difficult)
12 Tips for Hiking Volcanoes in Nicaragua
While in Nicaragua, hiking a volcano is an absolute must! I mean, how many chances in life do we get to hike a volcano?
- Don't hike alone, it's dangerous. Hire a local guide.
- Know the volcano before you hike it, including the climate, wildlife, etc.
- Wear or bring layers including a rain jacket, it can be very chilly or rainy on top of the volcano, especially the high elevation or cloud forest ones like Concepción, Maderas and Mombacho.
- Bring extra water! If 1 liter is recommended, bring 1.5L!
- Rest, hydrate, and avoid alcohol the night before a hike.
- Wear and bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Bring a bit of cash for a tip, or unexpected costs like a restroom or transportation.
- Bring snacks, but don't overeat! Snacks like fruit, bars, trail mix or chocolate covered raisons are great for sustained energy.
- Bring a first aid kit; band-aids or cuts or blisters, Immodium or other "stopper", hydration tablets, allergy medication, etc.
- Bring tissue, toilet paper or other wipes for when you have to "go", and a bag to keep used paper until you find a trash can!
- Leave it better than you found it! Do NOT leave trash on the volcano, pick up after yourself and if you see another person's trash, pick that up too.
- Be in the right mindset - know that this is going to be very difficult, but just put one foot in front of the other. It's going to be very rewarding when you complete it!
Nicaragua is often overlooked in favor of it's famous next door neighbor, Costa Rica. While Costa Rica is one of the most lush, beautiful and diverse countries in the world, Nicaragua has so much to offer, and without the crowds!
Interested in exploring Nicaragua? We have nine months of experience traveling that region of the world!
Contact us to help you plan your volcano hiking adventures in Nicaragua, Central America and beyond.