Volcanoes are as plentiful in Nicaragua as Starbucks on your average Seattle block. I counted four as my plane approached the Managua airport, and then got to see the same four from the ground as we drove to San Juan Del Sur. Having climbed up Diamond Head in Honolulu a month prior, I decided to make 2015 my volcano year and head up one of the many Nicaraguan peaks.
Ometepe Island and its twin peaks seemed the obvious choice, as it was the closest to our base in SJDS. But things don’t always go as you planned. When one disagreement amongst travel partners led to another (a long story), I decided to hop into our rental car and head to the volcano in Granada’s backyard: Mombacho. After admiring its green slopes the whole time we were in Granada, and finding out that it was a relatively short hike or shuttle to the top, Mombacho seemed to be the one for me. Plus I would have the day to myself. I was in.
I decided to take the shuttle, an old military truck, up to the top. Halfway up the steep slope, we made a pit stop next to a cafe. The signs on the way up pointed to Cafe Las Flores, and that’s where we stopped. I hopped off the truck and decided to cool down with an iced coffee. That’s when it happened: pure caffeinated bliss. I love me some coffee, and this was the best iced coffee I had ever had. My mood, already lightened by the solitary drive over, soared above the clouds.
There are two hiking trails at the peak of Mombacho: Sendero El Crater (a 1-hour hike), and Sendero El Puma (a 4.5-hour hike). I chose the former and got a guide to lead the way.
The path took us through a lush cloudforest where we spotted sloths, howler monkeys, and hummingbirds among several variations of orchids and patches of bamboo. A 20-minute, fairly easy hike led us out of the forest and on the side of the volcano headed toward the fumaroles. I got lucky, the peak is usually clouded over since it’s own ecosystem, but that day was all clear skies. The view from the top covered about a third of the country: Lake Nicaragua and the Islets, Granada, Apoyo lagoon, and Masaya volcano. It was absolutely breathtaking.
There’s something about forests and mountains that speak to me. Maybe it’s because green, the most abundant colour in forests and mountains (at certain times of the year) is my favourite colour. Maybe it’s because there’s a calm among the loudness of the forests beauty, and the gentleness to the imposing height of a mountain. Maybe it’s because, as loud and imposing as they are from a distance, once you’re in the thick of it, they are both embracing of your humanity, and you fit into this jigsaw puzzle of animal, insect, and plant species that make up the unique ecosystem. Maybe I’m just waxing poetic, but the truth is, I felt all those things that day. All kinds of points awarded to Nicaragua.
It was a combination of the solo road trip, my awesome guide, and being at one with nature that allowed me to look back at the trip so far and take it all in: the treehouse accommodations, the sunsets from various beaches and infinity pools, the colonial gem that is Granada, dramatic Maderas. But it was Mombacho and that cup of iced coffee that clinched the deal: I was in love with Nicaragua.
Entrance to Mombacho costs 20$USD which includes transportation to the top. A guide will cost you an additional 12$USD, and is required to hike the Sendero El Puma.
Check out these pics from the walk through Mombacho, and more from Nicaragua on Instagram (@portjam) with the hashtag #PortjamInNicaragua.