Towards Granada

The journey from Lago de Managua to Lago de Nicaragua passes several volcanoes including Volcán Santiago whose crater spews out tonnes of sulphurous gases over Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya. Nearby, the town of Masaya is a centre for handicrafts in a coffee-growing zone. The blasted remains of Mombacho are near the historical city of Granada. The perfect cone of Concepción, on Isla de Ometepe, rises out of the waters of Lago de Nicaragua, which has a number of other islands that can be visited by boat.

Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya

There are picnic facilities, toilets and barbecues nearby. It's possible to camp, but there are no facilities after the centre closes. Soft drinks, bottled water and sometimes fresh coconut water are available at the summit of Santiago crater. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at Km 23 on the Managua-Masaya route. It's easy to hitchhike from either city, especially on Sun. At the entrance, park rangers might be available to drive you up to the summit..

Created in 1979, Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya is the country's oldest national park. It covers an area of 54 sq km, and contains 20 km of trails leading to and around two volcanoes rising to around 400 m.
Volcán Nindirí
last erupted in 1670. The more active
Volcán Masaya
burst forth in 1772 and again in 1852, forming the Santiago crater between the two peaks; this in turn erupted in 1932, 1946, 1959 and 1965 before collapsing in 1985, and the resulting pall of sulphurous smoke made the soil uncultivable in a broad belt to the Pacific. Take drink, a hat and hiking boots if you're planning on doing much walking. If walking to the summit, leave early as there is little shade along the road.

Santiago's most recent eruption was on 23 April 2001. Debris pelted the parking area of the park with flaming rocks at 1427 in the afternoon, shooting tubes of lava onto the hillside just east of the parking area and setting it ablaze. Today the cone remains highly irregular with large funnels of sulphuric acid being followed by periods of little or no smoke. On 4 October 2003 Santiago emitted an eruption cloud 4.6 km in length, but no actual eruption was forthcoming. A real eruption is expected soon.

Although research into the activity of Volcán Masaya is limited, gaseous emissions range from 500 to 3000 tonnes a day, making the volcano one of the largest natural polluters in the world.

Volcán Masaya was called
Popogatepe
or 'mountain that burns' by the Chorotega people who believed that eruptions were a sign of anger from the goddess of fire, Chacitutique. To appease her they made sacrifices to the lava pit, which often included children and young women. In the 16th century Father Francisco de Bobadilla planted a cross on the summit of Masaya to exorcize the
Boca del Infierno
(Mouth of Hell); the cross visible today commemorates the event.

The biggest natural heroes of the park are the unique
parakeets
(
chocoyos
) who nest in the active Santiago crater. These orange- or crimson-fronted parakeets are best spotted just before the park closes between March and October. They lay two to four eggs per nest in the interior cliffs of the crater in July and after incubation and rearing lasting roughly three months, leave their highly toxic home for the first time.

From the visitor centre, a short path leads up to Cerro El Comalito, with good views of Mombacho, the lakes and the extraordinary volcanic landscapes of the park; longer trails continue to Lake Masaya and the San Fernando crater.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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