Due to budgetary reasons, we don’t always get to do a lot of tourist activities. However, when we found out that we could board down an active volcano and camp there for the evening for under $30, we said, “heck yes!” We opted to go without a guide and hiked up the youngest volcano in Central America, Cerro Negro.
When we reached the top we undid our goodie bag from the park service, which revealed a sexy denim jumpsuit, goggles and gloves.
We weren’t totally sure where we were supposed to take off from so we let some tour groups go ahead of us and then it was our turn…
It was by far one of our favorite activities so far and we recommend that if you want a little bit more stylish outfit, sign up with a tour.
An Unexpected Coffee Tour and Romance
After volcano boarding, we headed into the mountains of Nicaragua, to a finca outside of Matagalpa. As we turned into the driveway we noticed another large camper and it turned out to be our friends from Spain, Jose and Luisa! The next day after our arrival we went on a hike around the finca and decided to follow our trusty guide, a german shepard. At one point, when we thought we were lost, Austin said that the dog was probably taking us to his girlfriends house. We laughed it off, but when we turned on a dead end road, it turned out Austin was right!! Luckily for us, the shepards’ girlfriend lived on a coffee plantation and the owners were kind enough to give us a brief tutorial on the harvesting of coffee beans!
Lago de Masaya
We followed our Spanish friends to a free camp spot at Lago de Masaya and from here we could see the ominous glow of the highly active Masaya volcano at night. This wasn’t a particularly nice camp spot, but Jose offered Leah the use of his fishing pole and to everyone’s surprise, she caught a fish! She was so ecstatic, that Jose bequeathed the fishing pole to her since he hadn’t caught anything since Alaska.
Laguna de Apoyo
If you want a relaxing vacation in Nicaragua and your not a huge beach person, than you must go to Laguna de Apoyo. It’s absolutely stunning with views of Mombacho volcano and warm water! The lagoon was created over 20,000 years ago by a volcanic explosion and is still considered a sleeping volcano to this day. We stayed in front of a lovely hostel that offered free coffee and tea all day plus the use of their kayaks. We also enjoyed their little tiki bar that offered 2×1 Nica Libres.
One major list item for Austin was to see an active volcano, but as we discovered on this journey, the term “active” just means that things are going on beneath the surface. His bucket item then changed to seeing an active volcano with some magma! We had been told by a few travelers that it was possible to drive to the top of a volcano, look down into the cone and see the lava. So off to the volcano we went; where we learned that it is possible to see the volcano during the day, as well as at night. We decided that it would be best to see the lava at night, so we parked off to the side of the entrance and entertained ourselves for six hours.
At 4:30 pm the park closes for daytime visitors, then reopens again at 6:00 pm for the night visitors. Around 4:40 pm the guards at the gate walked over to our truck and persisted that we load up and park in front of the closed gate within 5 minutes. We were grateful for their advice because within 20 minutes of their warning, there was a line of cars and tour vans 30 deep.
The top was incredible, the smell of sulfur, a beautiful orange glow and the Moon with Venus shining brightly. It was an adrenaline race to the summit, but we were able to enjoy a few precious minutes alone at the top. We were able to capture tremendous views into the cone without having to be pushy at the crowded viewing point. We were able to spend 20 minutes at the top, then we were all forced to leave so the next group of 20 cars could ascend the volcano.
Touted as one of the best towns in Nicaragua, Granada sits on the western edge of Lake Nicaragua. We did find it to be a great little place where we were able to find a clean laundromat, a cute town square, an exquisite lunch, a chatty older American man and thousands of gnats! With hopes to set up camp at the local red cross, which did not end up working out for us. A teenage boy that greeted us was asking double the price we were told to expect. The police station around the corner was not as nice as the red cross and had no amenities, but we decided that it would work just fine because we would be safe and it was also free. The police were very friendly, so we parked and took off to town for the afternoon to splurge on lunch.
Once we reached the center of town, we were rather hungry and ended up at a very posh little restaurant called Garden Cafe; it was amazing and some of the best food we have consumed while on the trip. We happened to meet a very nice gentleman who was very supportive of our journey and told us about his trips back in the 70’s. He also loved their origami chandelier as much as we did.
After lunch, we wandered into the beautiful Hotel Granada that was straight out of an american western movie. We ended up in this beautiful stairwell where Austin captured this photo of the ceiling.
After our self-guided tour of the hotel we headed back to our campsite and it started to become increasingly buggy. Once back at the truck we had decided that we would not be happy with our location at the police station. Our Dutch friends, Nils and Nynke, who were in Granada just days before had told us of a hostel where we would be able to park safely. The hostel was great and we ended up meeting three other traveling couples.
San Juan Del Sur
After visiting Granada we had every intention of going to the island of Ometepe. The island is situated in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and is home of two volcanoes. It is a major tourist destination, but for us, it is a bit of a logistical nightmare. We would have had to either find a safe place to park it the truck for a few days or to arrange for a ferry service to take the truck over to the island. We chose the ferry service, but when we arrived we were immediately put off by the sales tactics of the ferry companies. We decided to follow our instincts and forgo the island and instead head to the beach of San Juan Del Sur. We are so happy that we did because we ran into our Dutch friends and spent five days fishing, swimming and adventuring throughout the area.
One of the reasons why we were in the area for so long was because our camp host said he would be roasting a pig for the Superbowl. Nils and Nynke were particularly excited because they had not witnessed a Superbowl yet and this quickly became one of the most memorable days of our trip. And of course, we had to capture a photo of the pig, so the next picture is a bit graphic. This seemed to be a great way to top off our adventure through Nicaragua, so the morning after the big game we took out toward Costa Rica!