The beauty of Masaya Volcano National Park

Masaya Volcano National Park Travel Blog

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The smoking crater

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 lava lake from 1772
In the bus there were two young couples from USA and also woman who we met several times during our coming two weeks; in both Ometepe and in Esteli.

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.

The current Santiago crater was created in 1852
The park is located some 23 kilometers south of Managua, and is very accessible by car or by tour-operators like the one we had joined. Inside the park there is a 5 km long road that leads all the way to the Santiago crater.

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.

The current Santiago crater was created in 1852
It has a mostly green body with a reddish-brown back and belly. There is a bright blue stripe above the eye and a blue-bordered black patch on the throat. The flight feathers and upper side of the tail are blue. The tips of the tail feathers are shaped like rackets and the bare feather shafts are long.

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.

Handpainted

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
The Santiago Crater is the only volcano in the western hemisphere, where you are able to drive to the rim! All the cars have to be parked facing the road down from the crater in case of an eruption.

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.

The current Santiago crater was created in 1852
The Masaya Volcano is also known as POPOGATEPE, meaning the "MOUNTAIN THAT BURNS" in the language of the indigenous Chorotega tribe. During the pre-Columbian age, Masaya Volcano was on object of veneration by the indigenous people. They believed the eruptions were signs of anger from the Gods and to appease them they offered sacrifices, which offer included small children and maidens.

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.

"La Cruz de Bobadilla"; named after Father Francisco Bobadilla, on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.
We walked down to get away from the fumes and the smell; we could all even feel a bit of the acid in our eyes.

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.

Chokk says:
It was a wonderful place - you should go there one day
Posted on: Dec 29, 2010
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The smoking crater
The smoking crater
The lava lake from 1772
The lava lake from 1772
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
Handpainted
Handpainted
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
La Cruz de Bobadilla; named afte…
"La Cruz de Bobadilla"; named aft…
Stunning view
Stunning view
Stunning view
Stunning view
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
La Cruz de Bobadilla; named afte…
"La Cruz de Bobadilla"; named aft…
They were here!
They were here!
The stunning view
The stunning view
The group
The group
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
Rusty nails
Rusty nails
Going down
Going down
Instructive
Instructive
Clouds blowing by
Clouds blowing by
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
Plants of the crater
Plants of the crater
Plants of the crater
Plants of the crater
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
The current Santiago crater was cr…
The current Santiago crater was c…
Plants of the crater
Plants of the crater
Termites
Termites
The stunning view
The stunning view
Almost all the way to Managua
Almost all the way to Managua
The green crater
The green crater
The green crater
The green crater
Babs going all the way
Babs going all the way
The bus
The bus
Lava bombs
Lava bombs
Micky Mouse
Micky Mouse
Huge
Huge
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Tropical forest and the lagoon
Cracking Babs
Cracking Babs
Masaya Volcano National Park Sights & Attractions review
Parque National Volcan Masaya
If you are in Granada I can strongly recommend that you take an organized trip to Parque National Volcan Masaya. We used Tierra Tours that operates fr… read entire review
Masaya Volcano National Park
photo by: delsol67