Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Isla de Ometepe is a most-unusual place - a large island formed from two volcanoes in the middle of a largest freshwater lake, itself surrounded by land and surrounded from only a few hundred miles by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It's also a rustic place, not quite ready for tourism but filled with nature galore; a place for peace and quiet, and a place where you need at least 3 days to fully appreciate. Beware; if you intend to get from Moyagalpa to anywhere on the Maderas side, it will take you at least 3 hours if you're lucky... horrendous is an understatatement for the roads surrounding Volcan Maderas. You'll need to book a full day to get to and from your destination; don't let the low mile counts deceive you. Keep in mind that the Northern coast of Maderas is much easier to get back to Moyagalpa than the South coast, but from both places you'll most likely need to hitchhike. From experience, one can walk 5 miles on the South coast in the afternoon and not see one motorized vehicle.

With that said, Maderas is a wonderful cloud forest hike and worth the hike if you can afford the time to get to a trailhead! Contrary to what the tour guides say, the later the better; in the morning the volcano is covered in fog and it's not possible to see into the crater lake or out beyond the island. Book 6 hours if you're fast, 8-10 if you're not to climb to the top and back. Guides run $20/ea solo or split among groups of max. 3; book at any hotel.

For the record, if you decide to go to Maderas and need a place to stay, I would suggest avoiding Hacienda Merida; although it had good reviews in the Lonely Planet, I only found a profit-maximizing "resort" with truly horrendous customer service.

Volcan Conception from Merida

Cloud forest on Volcan Maderas


Isla de Ometepe from Lago de Nicaragua

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