Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
Ometepe Island is a natural wonder and an important touristic destination in Nicaragua. Located in Lake Nicaragua, also known as Lake Cocibolca, the island occupies 276km² (107mi²) and is home to about 30,000 people. Known mainly due to the two volcanos that form the island, Concepcion and Madera, Ometepe also offers other reasons that justify it being included in an itinerary throughout Central America.
Despite having its own small airport, for practical purposes it is one possible to get in the island by boat. The easiest way to do it is through San Jorge, a village near the city of Rivas, from where ferries and motorboats frequently leave throughout the day. The ferry ride from San Jorge to Moyogalpa takes around one hour (motorboats are faster and slightly cheaper, but less comfortable). Alternatively, it is possible to leave from Granada directly to Altagracia, twice a week, on a four hour ride, or from San Carlos, next to the Costa Rican border, also twice a week, on a twelve hour trip.
Moyogalpa is Ometepe’s main village but it still is a very compact one, with all the activity happening on Santa Ana street, the road connecting the harbor to the church. On this street you will find everything a tourist probably needs during a stay in the island: hotels, restaurants and shops. Moyogalpa is an excellent base to explore the rest of the island, given its relatively good supporting infrastructure. Nevertheless, guesthouses and farm-hotels abound throughout the island, making it perfectly possible to be in direct contact with nature, away from the rest of the civilization, most of the time.
As if mounting guard over Moyogalpa, the Concepcion volcano arises 1,610m (5,280ft) high. The last major eruption of this volcano was in 1880, although other minor ones have been recorded every now and then – the most recent one in 2010. Concepcion is frequently visited and its top can be reached after a completing a rather difficult ten hours hike (round-trip from the base). Dominating the island’s southern half, the Maderas volcano, inactive, is slightly smaller, reaching 1,394m (4,573ft) above the sea level. This volcano can be visited too and the walk to the lake at the top crater usually takes between six and eight hours, on a less difficult path if compared to Concepcion, but going through denser vegetation. Due to their characteristics and activity levels, Concepcion is frequently called a fire volcano, while Maderas is referred to as a water volcano.
The southern side of the island, on the slopes of the Maderas volcano, also features an expressive set of petroglyphs, particularly around Balgue and Santa Cruz (Finca El Porvenir).This area is also the best to spot wildlife, especially monkeys. Charco Verde, in the northern half of the island, is a beautiful natural reserve where to walk and observe the landscape. Ojo de Agua, next to the Santo Domingo beach, is a popular park to just sit down and relax, occasionally swimming in its natural pool.