The beauty of Masaya Volcano National Park
Masaya Volcano National Park Travel Blog› entry 11 of 52 › view all entries
The two days we were staying in Granada we bought a trip with Tierra Tours each day. Our first trip was a visit to the Masaya volcano, the city of Masaya and further on to Laguna de Apoyo; that is a picturesque blue lagoon in an extinct crater near the village of Catarina.
It was my first visit ever to a volcano, so I was probably much more excited than Babs who had been crawling on them almost everywhere; she had also been on the top of Tajumulco, which is Guatemala's highest peak and the highest volcano in Central America.
Our guide and driver picked us up at the hotel in a minibus at 7:15 am and we were the last stop that they had in the city before going to the national park where the Masaya Volcano is situated.
The drive took roughly 40-45 minutes and then we were at the entrance; we were the first guests to arrive to the park, which was nice. We arrived at the same time as the National Park opened. There were a lot of young people arriving at the same time changing to the sand colored shirt of the park.
The Masaya Volcano National Park, Masaya became Nicaragua's first National Park and dates back to 1979. The National Park has an area of 54km2 and includes in total two volcanoes, the Masaya Volcano and the Nindira Volcano, and five craters.
We didn't drive far in to the park before the guide stopped the bus so we could get a brief orientation on the plants and the wildlife. It didn’t take long before we saw a Motmot, which is the national bird of Nicaragua and a very beautiful one indeed.
The Turquoise-browed Motmot bird is going under the name “Guardabarranco” by the inhabitants of Nicaragua. It is a colorful, medium-sized bird, approximately 34 cm long and weighs about 65 grams.
It inhabits Central America from southeast Mexico (mostly the Yucatan Peninsula), to Costa Rica, where it is common and not considered threatened. It lives in fairly open habitats such as forest edge, gallery forest and scrubland. It is more conspicuous than other Motmots, often perching in the open on wires and fences. From these perches it scans for prey, such as insects and small reptiles.
Although it is often said that Motmots pluck the barbs off their tail to create the racketed shape, this is not true; the barbs are weakly attached and fall off due to abrasion with substrates and with routine preening.
A bit further down the road on the way to the volcano we halted again, this time to search for iguanas and have a look at the vegetation of the lave stream than slides towards the lowest point in the area. We managed to see one iguana before we had to leave for the Santiago crater. This was the first but later we saw them everywhere, quite often they were sold along the road as food even though it was not legal.
Visiting Masaya volcano gave me a first insight in the smell of an active crater like the active Santiago crater. The volcano is constantly emitting large amounts of sulphur dioxide gas! It was not the best smell that I could imagine, as it smelled like rotten eggs. Being a lazy kid like I am, I really liked that we were able to drive up the border of the crater.
The current Santiago crater was created in 1852 and is the most active crater of the park and one of the most active volcanoes in Latin America. The volcano maintains a constant pool of lava in its crater. When we arrived we had almost no possibility to look down in the crater due to white smoke or clouds, but the smell was really distinct.
The volcanoes have erupted several times in history, and both the indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors feared them. The Spanish baptized the active volcano "La Boca del Infierno" or "The Mouth of Hell". They planted a cross, "La Cruz de Bobadilla"; named after Father Francisco Bobadilla, on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.
We all as a group walked up 169 steps to the cross and enjoyed the stunning view from there. When we arrived at the top, we were still to only group there but shortly after a couple of cars and a bus came. I will estimate that there were less than 20 other people there beside us, so it wasn’t a place that, were overrun by tourists. While we walked down, the first persons from the other group arrived at the cross, so most of the time we had the view for ourselves.
We tanked up with some water and started to walk up the neighboring large crater, which is all green inside with loads of birds flying around. The view from up there was completely stunning and it is definitely worthwhile to walk up there if you have the time for it, and you don’t have to be an athlete to reach the crater.
After a while we walked back to the bus and returned to the service center, which was close to the entrance. In the center they had a small museum with local art illustrating the former eruptions. The place had also a museum of both lava and the plants living on the lava. The most impressive about the center was the view over the lagoon and the tropical forest. It was stunning and for me just confirming that I was in the right place on the right time. We got the group together at said goodbye to the wonders of The Masaya Volcano National Park and headed for the city of Masaya and the local art marked.