The Volcanos on Ometepe
The barren summit of Volcano Concepción (1610 m) is evidence of its active state.
The Concepción is Nicaragua's second highest volcano and one of the most perfectly shaped volcanos of the Americas.
The symmetrical cone is an ever-present feature towering over the north-western part of Ometepe - not really threatening, but certainly a powerful presence.
It frequently produces debris and small lava flows, and there is a continuous discharge of vapors.
The Concepción was dormant for several hundreds of years until it erupted again in 1880. Since then, there were 8 eruptions, the last one occurred in 1957. Last activity was in March 2010, when it spit out a huge ash cloud.
A couple of thousand years ago the summit of the Maderas (1394 m) exploded and a multitude of lava boulders were scattered all around the slopes of the volcano. Today, the truncated cone of the Maderas is covered in thick cloud forest. On its summit a crater lagoon has formed where you can swim in a serene setting. The cloud forest shelters a diverse floral and faunal life, including howler and capuchin monkeys, many birds, butterflies, amazing orchids and ferns. Because of its ecological and archeological importance most of the Maderas side of the island has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Hiking the volcanos of Ometepe
Hiking Volcano Concepción
The 10-hour hike on the Concepción starts at dawn and has a high degree of difficulty. The most popular trail starts in La Flor, 4 km from
Moyogalpa. Another trail head is near Altagracia at La Sabana.
You should be aware that you climb an active volcano that could erupt at any time. The first leg of the hike leads through farmland and jungle, then later over rocks and debris. Especially towards the summit the trail becomes dangerously steep and there is a stiff, cold wind blowing.
Once you reach the rim you can gaze into the stony inside of the crater from where hot, sulfurous air blasts upward. On a clear day you enjoy from the summit of the Concepción a 360-degree view from the Pacific coast of Nicaragua to the Caribbean side. Most times, however, the top of the Concepción is shrouded in clouds.
Hiking Volcano Maderas
A hike on the Maderas volcano takes approximately 8 hours. The most popular trail starts in Balgüe
from the Finca Magdalena and is 4.5 km one way. Another, a bit shorter trail is from Santa Cruz and a third one from Merida, which includes
various scenic lookout points. The Maderas hike is an ardous endeavour on a steep defile dug into the
rock and excavated by water. The humidity transforms the trail into a muddy, slippery path and sometimes you
have to really climb instead of walk. From the top of the Maderas you can descend to the crater lagoon which is hemmed in by
the steep rising forest. You can swim in the cool water of the perfectly still lake, bordered by reeds. Often
the lagoon is fogged in by a mysterious curtain of mist and seems to have no other side.
Views during the Maderas hike are limited as it passes through impenetrable cloud forest, with tree limbs covered in hanging bromeliads and lichens. From the thickets you hear the calls of hidden birds and monkeys howling somewhere near.
Pack plenty of water, some food and wear long pants and sturdy hiking boots. For the Maderas hike be prepared to become all covered in mud, while on the Concepción it is cold and windy. For climbing each of the volcanos it is mandatory to go with an experienced local guide. Even if you just want to explore the lower parts of the volcanos you get lost easily or have an accident on the treacherous terrain.
A volcano hike on Ometepe Island can be made during dry season months from December - August. For the Concepción some days in December and January can be too windy.