Tuesday, January 13, 2015

For The Ultimate In Volcano Hiking Nicaragua Is The Place To Be

By Enid Hinton

If you love active travel, a wonderful destination is Central America. It's easily accessible from the USA and Canada, is relatively cheap and offers an astonishing variety of things to do, from treks through the jungle to spectacular scuba diving. If you've always wanted to try volcano hiking Nicaragua has everything you need.

Nicaragua is the region's largest country. It's also one of the most fascinating. In spite of their turbulent history and widespread poverty, Nicaraguans are incredibly friendly and love making visitors feel welcome and safe. They are discovering the possibilities of tourism as a way to earn foreign income and are determined not to make the same mistakes as Costa Rica.

Travelers who prefer staying off the beaten track choose the largest country in Central America rather than its southern neighbor, Costa Rica. Costa Rica has long been the destination of choice for ecotourism but it has become quite expensive. In addition, in the more touristy areas there isn't much left of the local character. Its neighbor to the north not only offers the same level of natural beauty at a fraction of the cost but also has unique attractions such as Lake Nicaragua and the Corn Islands.

Central America sees many earthquakes and has plenty of volcanoes, many of which are still active. This is because the isthmus lies where a number of tectonic plates come together. The Nicaraguan landscape features a large number of volcanoes, both active and dormant, and the country is a pioneer in the extreme sport known as volcano-boarding.

The two most accessible volcanoes are Masaya and Mombacho. The former is active while the latter is dormant. Mombacho lies just outside the colonial city of Granada while Masaya is a short bus ride away, so it makes sense to base yourself in Granada for these hikes. Granada is a beautiful place with a well-developed tourism infrastructure.

Two other volcanoes that are easy to climb are Madera and its twin Concepcion. Together they form Ometepe Island, a stunning piece of paradise in Lake Nicaragua. Allow at least three days on the island so that you can explore the beaches and coffee plantations and have time to climb each volcano. The hikes are strenuous but you'll be rewarded with stunning views and fascinating petroglyphs.

The climate in the country is tropical. This means that it's hot throughout the year. In summer, humidity levels are very high, so if you're planning on hiking, it's best to come during the drier and cooler winter months. Bring sturdy boots, enough water, sunscreen and also a good insect repellent. You shouldn't be completely out of shape either because the hikes are challenging, especially on the way up.

When you plan a volcano hike, think about investing in the services of a local guide. This is not only for a more enriching experience but for safety as well. In Granada, simply ask at any of the local travel agencies. On Ometepe, many hotels will be able to provide a guide.

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