Masaya Volcano 15 minutes of red hot fame

Nicaragua is known for volcanoes. There are 19 throughout this small Central American country. Each volcano has a specialty in regard to adventure travel. The specialty for visiting the Masaya Volcano is staring down into the crater and seeing molten lava. You cannot loiter long though as fifteen minutes is your limit.

Masaya Volcano
Getting my 15 minutes with the Masaya Volcano

Related: Four Nicaragua Adventures

Masaya Volcano is the closest to Managua

The Masaya Volcano is the most accessible volcano in the country due to its proximity to Managua and Granada. The town of Masaya is located almost halfway between Managua and Granada. It is easy to secure tours from either Managua or Granada. Since not many people stay long in Managua, Granada is probably a better hub to visit the active volcano.

Related: Hiking Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe

Tours leave at night

The best time to visit the Masaya Volcano is at night in order to easier see the lava. During the day, the volcano can be seen for miles around thanks to the smoking miasma billowing out of the blown out crater. I could even see this phenomenon from the top Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Island.

Hostal El Momento
Hostal El Momento

I stayed at Hostel El Momento. They offered a tour for $25.00. The tours left every day at around 4 p.m. I paid them and secured my spot. There are numerous tour agencies in town. If there are not enough people in the hostel going on the tour, they just outsource to another agency.

Masaya Volcano National Park
Hiking into Masaya National Park while our tour guide checks in

Picked up at the hotel

I was picked up at the hostel in a mini van. There was a couple from Amsterdam and a family from Wyoming already in the van. The van had air-conditioning, which is key even at night in Nicaragua.

Masaya Volcano National Park entrance
Masaya Volcano park entrance

Hike and Visitor Center

It takes about 45 minutes to get there. The driver and guides need to check in with the park. There was a long line to do this, so we were able to hike into the park along the ride while they waited in line. It was sunset, so we were able to get some nice pictures of the lowlands below the volcano.

Masaya Volcano lowlands
Masaya Volcano lowlands

We then had about 45 minutes to spend in the Visitor’s Center once it got dark while we were waiting for our time on the crater. The Visitor’s Center had a lot of information on the Masaya Volcano, creatures that lived inside the park, Nicaragua, and other volcanoes in the country.

Once we were done in the Visitor’s Center, it was our turn for 15 minutes of volcanic fame. We got back into our van, and they drove us to the top of the volcano.

Masaya Volcano Visitor's Center
Masaya Volcano Visitor’s Center

Masaya Volcano lava

At the rim of the volcano were barriers like one would see at Grand Canyon or Zion. We lined up along the railings and peered down into the volcano to see the red glow of the lava. I felt like I was in a Lord of the Rings movie. There were a couple of vantage points to see the molten lava.

Fifteen minutes was plenty of time. It was really amazing to see the molten lava, but after staring at it for ten minutes, I was ready for a tona. We got back into van and drove back in Granada knowing that our 15 minutes of fame on top of the Masaya Volcano was well spent.

Please note

The author visited Masaya Volcano in March of 2018 before the political crisis. I would not recommend visiting Nicaragua at this time. Please check the U.S. State Department for current travel information or your country’s travel warnings for more information.

Unlocking adventure at Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho Volcano looms ominously over the city of Granada. It is a favorite photo op especially with Granada’s beautiful church in the forefront. However, not many travelers make the trek to the tropical forest and trails that cover the dormant volcano.

Mombacho Volcano Granada
Mombacho Volcano looms over the city of Granada

Related: Hostal El Momento in Granada

It is extremely easy to travel in Nicaragua if you stay along the main tourist trail. Once you step off, it can get a little more difficult, especially if you do not speak Spanish. Mombacho Volcano is only less than 20 kilometers from Granada; however, not a lot of people go there. It can be a little bit of a challenge to travel there.

Mombacho Volcano Nicaragua
Mombacho Volcano from near my hostel

How to get to Mombacho Volcano

Take a taxi

The first step is getting there. Granada is the most likely stepping off point, since it is so close. There are basically three ways to get there. You can take a tour, take a taxi, or take a chicken bus. Taking a taxi would be the easiest. Just stop any taxi in Granada and ask to go to Mombacho. It should not cost more than $4.00 to $7.00 depending on your taxi and negotiating skills. If they want more, I would recommend trying another taxi.

Mombacho Volcano
Mombacho Volcano coming into view from the window of a tuk-tuk

Take a tour

You can set up a tour in Granada to visit Mombacho Volcano. There are both day tours and overnight tours. A day tour should cost anywhere from $25.00  to $40.00 depending on what is included. If you do an overnight tour, it should cost around $75.00 to $80.00.  I tried to set up an overnight tour, but the company I inquired with was not running it for that day, so I went with option number three.

Mombacho Volcano hiking
Hiking the tropical forest on top of Mombacho Volcano

Go your own way

Option number three is to go there yourself. If you are renting a car you can drive there, but if you are backpacking, you can take the bus. Go to the main bus terminal for Rivas and jump a bus going to Rivas. Let them know you are going to Mombacho. It cost around one dollar to get to the road to Mombacho. It then cost me $4.00 for a tuk-tuk to my hostel. You can also hike up, but it is uphill and about 2-3 kilometers depending on where you are staying.

Where to stay

If you plan on staying the night near Mombacho, there are several options. If you leave early in the morning, you can do Mombacho in one day and return to Granada, but I recommend staying in the area at least one night.

Auberge la Granadilla
For a real authentic Nicaragua experience, stay a day or two at Auberge la Granadilla

Alburgue la Granadilla

This hostel is basically a room with a family that lives near the volcano. They charge $20.00 a night. They serve three meals a day that are fresh and tasty. The only issue is no one in the family speaks English, but as far as a cultural experience, it does not get any more authentic than this. Despite the language barrier, I did not have much trouble communicating, and they helped arrange a ride to the gate of Mombacho Volcano for $1.00.

Mombacho Volcano Hostel

There is a hostel at the top of the volcano. For travelers the price is $50.00 with meals included or $30.00 without meals. It is a little pricy, but it is worth it to stay on top of the Volcano and have easy access to the trails.

Mombacho Volcano road
The top of the road that leads to the trails, visitor center, and hostel on top of Mombacho Volcano

Eco-Lodges

There are a few higher priced lodges within a short distance of the reserve. El Respiro Eco Lodge and Mombacho Lodge cost around $80.00 to $100.00. With the lodges there are obviously more amenities and comfort.

Getting up Mombacho Volcano

Once you have made it to Mombacho Volcano, the next task is getting up to the top. The park entrance is down below, but to get to the trails, you have to get to the top. You can either hike or pay for transport. The price for transport is included if you stay at the hostel. If not, it costs $10.00.

Mombacho Volcano road
The cobblestone road makes the hike look cute, but it is a son of a bitch

I highly recommend paying for the ride because it is an exhausting hike straight up the volcano. The incline is insane. It takes over an hour and you will arrive tired and sweating. Save your energy for the trails at the top.

Mombacho Volcano
More incline up the Mombacho Volcano

Hiking Mombacho Volcano

There are several trails at the top. Some require guides and some do not. I hiked the crater trail that did not require a guide. The Puma Trail is the main long trail and this cost $22.00 for an English speaking guide or $17.00 if you can speak Spanish. It also costs $6.00 to enter the trails.

The prices for Mombacho Volcano are  not that high, but they add up. I ended up not doing the Puma Trail. I enjoyed my time at Mombacho, but I would like to come back and do the Puma Trail and stay at the hostel in the park. If you stay at the hostel, you can also do a night hike, which does cost another $10-$15.

Mombacho Volcano Crater Trail
Outstanding view from Mombacho Volcano Crater Trail

The Crater Trail is less than a mile and goes through sections of the forest and then out into some fabulous overlooks of Granada and the surrounding area. You can even see the smoking Masaya Volcano.

Granada church
Many people photograph Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Granada with Mombacho Volcano in the backdrop, but not many capture the church from Mombacho Volcano

Recommend coming to Mombacho

The Mombacho Volcano is a bit off the tourist trail, but it is worth making the effort. If you stay on the Granada, Leon, Ometepe Island, San Juan Del Sur tourist trail, you will not see a whole lot of wildlife and nature. At Mombacho Volcano you have the opportunity to see wildlife and there are 278 species of birds seen throughout the year.

Mombacho Volcano
I recommend squeezing a day or two into your schedule for a trip to Mombacho Volcano

Another perk for coming to Mombacho is the climate is a little cooler than the rest of the area. Mombacho Volcano is a tropical forest and due to its elevation makes for a more pleasant environment.

Mombacho Volcano howler monkeys
Howler monkeys seen walking up to Mombacho Volcano

The adventure is up to you

As you can see, there are many options on how to tackle a Momacho Volcano adventure. Depending on your budget, time frame, and fitness level, you can experience a lot here; on the other hand, you can have a cool experience in just a day. Mombacho Volcano is worth getting off the tourist trail for a day or two.

Check out this website for more information on visiting Mombacho.