After spending the bulk of my time in Granada snoozing in the shade, enjoying massages, and indulging in regular smoothies and frozen Flor de Caña concoctions, I began to get the feeling that it was time to get my body moving and do some exploring outside of Granada’s pretty colonial streets.
I was perhaps feeling a bit too comfortable in my new Nicaraguan home, and was enjoying spending my days strolling along the cobblestones and aimlessly wandering, taking pictures, and relaxing in the tropical air with new friends from my hostel.
Luckily, those friends were in agreement–it was time for a day trip. They suggested a volcano hike, which I was totally down for.
We opted for the inactive Volcan Mombacho, or Mombacho Volcano. We had visited Masaya–the home of Granada’s popular active volcano–earlier in the week to do some shopping in the markets there, and decided that we wanted to see a different part of the region.
The two volcanoes offer quite different experiences. While Masaya is barren and covered in rocks and volcanic ash (as well as a constant layer of steam), Mombacho has been transformed into a lush, cool cloud forest in the 400+ years since its last eruption, sporting cool temperatures and high humidity.
While it’s possible to visit Mombacho on your own, booking a guided trip is by far the easiest way to access the volcano. And considering the multiple park entrance fees and network of connecting bus fees involved in visiting the park on your own, the $30 cost for our guided tour didn’t seem too shabby.
We snagged three spots on the 9:30am tour that same day. There were a grand total of four other travelers on our tour, making for a total group size of seven people–nice and cozy!
We all loaded into the back of big truck, and our driver headed off towards the volcano. As we approached the volcano and began to ascend, the drive became gruelingly slow. Our truck twisted and turned along the narrow and winding brick road, making its careful way up the side of the mountain.
When we reached the top and hopped out, the air was noticeably cooler, and the wind whipped our hair and loose clothing around. Compared to the sweltering heat in Granada below, it was heavenly.
Our guide explained a bit about the hike we’d be doing; a two hour round-trip hike around one of the volcano’s four craters. We set off into the jungle, with our guide leading the way.
He was extremely knowledgeable, pointing out plants that were key to survival for trekkers who got lost in the dense forest (not only were they nutritious, but they stored a ton of water) as well as berries and plants that would make you sick and paralyze you if you ate even a small bite.
The hike was just difficult enough to raise your heart rate a bit, and the shade and cool temperatures were greatly appreciated by all. The trail was mostly flat, with a bit of uphill and a bit of downhill walking mixed in.
The ground was muddy, and I regularly felt droplets of water falling from the thick green tangle of branches above. If you looked up, you could barely make out the cloudy gray skies above the trees.
A bit less than halfway into our hike, we arrived at one of the viewpoints overlooking Granada. You could see the city, Lake Nicaragua, and Laguna de Apoyo all from the same spot, even with the thick cloud cover and rolling mist.
We continued along the trail, heading back into the thickly-forested jungle along the muddy path. We spent the next few moments hiking steeply uphill, and our guide told us the story of how the Nicaraguan government had decided to build a canal through Lake Nicaragua in the near future (similar to the Panama Canal), much to the dismay of the country’s citizens.
He explained that around 80% of the country–himself included–strongly opposed the construction of the canal, which would permanently damage the lake’s ecosystem and contaminate its fresh water supply, which is crucial to the many people and animals who live on the lake.
He talked passionately about the subject and we listened intently, and by the time he was done with his explanation we had reached a flat part of the trail again.
We passed through an amazing natural rock tunnel, which during rainstorms floods with water along both sides of the passage. Nicaragua is currently in a drought, and so the tunnel was dry enough for us to pass through to the other side.
We were greeted with sweeping views of Mombacho’s crater, which is completely covered in a dense blanket of trees and foliage.
As we stood admiring the views, our guide told us how dangerous it was to explore the volcano’s crater without a professional trail guide, due to the terrain and the animals you might encounter down below.
“Like dinosaurs, maybe,” said one of the girls in my group. We all laughed, when suddenly, THE single more terrifying animal sound I have ever heard came thundering out of the jungle. From seemingly out of nowhere, a deep and guttural RAWRRRRR echoed across the crater.
If someone had tried to tell me that it was the sound of a velociraptor, I swear I would have believed them.
Turns out, it was a howler monkey that was causing all the ruckus. Although we heard them, we didn’t actually run into any during our trek…and based on the sound we heard, I’d dare to say that was a good thing.
The crater view (and the serenade of the howler monkey) was the grand finale to our hike, and we arrived back to the trail-head a few moments later.
However, there was one last treat in store for us before we loaded back into the truck and descended down the mountain.
Our guide led us around a bend to a small pond, and rustled around in the leaves for a bit before reappearing with a new friend: a red-eyed tree frog. I even momentarily overcame my irrational fear of small reptiles and held the little guy in my hand for a few shriek-inducing moments.
When we had all had a turn admiring our new friend, we bid adieu to Mombacho and headed back to Granada.
Have you ever hiked a volcano? Where?