Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Looking at the calendar, we had arrived in Leon on January 14th with the plan of staying a few days. Two months later on March 17th (St Patricks Day), we were saying a final goodbye as we moved onto Laguna de Apoyo. I think this is one of the huge benefits of not having fixed dates to be somewhere for a flight or other type of event while travelling. To have the open flexibility to stay longer somewhere or move on faster because the place isn’t what you were expecting. We loved our time in Leon, the new friendships we made and the countless numbers of amazing people we met.
Laguna de Apoyo
This is a large turquoise/blue/green crater lake between Managua and Granada, about 25 minutes from Granada. It is roughly 200m deep and is said to be Nicaragua’s cleanest swimming destination. The water is fed some warmth from undersea volcanic vents to make that swim extra desirable.
To get here from Leon, we took an inter-local bus to UCA in Managua (1.5hrs – 51cords/$2ea) and changed immediately into a slightly larger express bus to Granada. We asked to be dropped at the entrance to Laguna de Apoyo (40 minutes – 24cords/$1ea) but the driver forgot about us and we went past by a few kilometres, needing a quick change to another bus to return. At the start of the access road you can try to hitchhike, but a bus came along and took us to the crater top for 6cords/$0.24ea. There are about 3 buses a day that go all way to the water’s edge, but we weren’t sure about times so we hiked a couple of kilometres down the road to Hostel Paradiso.
March is busy season, so there wasn’t a lot of availability but we managed to get into a small private room for $22 with shared bathroom. On the night we were there we were also very lucky to watch the full moon rise from behind the crater as if it were the sun. See below for one of the photos we managed to get from the lake edge.
The place itself is really nice just to sit back and relax and pass some time. The water is refreshing and they have free kayaks you can take out along with a floating swimming dock you can use to work on your sun tan. The food cost a little more than typical Nicaragua at $5 or more a plate, but it was also slightly fancier. We did find a water front comedor just further down the road with a special going for beer of 30 cords for a litre. The food at those comedors also ranged around 100cords ($4) so not much cheaper than the hostel.
Hostel Paradiso has a deal with Hostel Oasis in Granada for day trippers to come by shuttle. There was an option to go on a shuttle back to Granada at 10.30am or 3pm. It was all a little poorly organised at the Paradiso side, but we ended up getting a collectivo taxi for 75 cords / $3 per person to take us to Granada. Good business for them, as we chose to stay at Hostel Oasis because we’d landed on their doorstep. A private with shared bathroom was $20 per night. We later discovered other cheaper places in town for around $12/night, but Oasis had a nice shared kitchen, refreshing swimming pool and free pancakes with fruit for breakfast to keep our attention.
Rodora had come up with the idea to climb the nearby La Merced church bell tower for sunset. A cost of 25 cords / $1 each was well worth it for the higher up perspective and colourful sunset.
Granada is renowned as the oldest city in the America’s, being founded in 1524 by the Spanish. It is a very colourful and typical looking Central American town with decorations and open courtyards along with many churches. This is very much one of those towns on the tourist trail along with ex-pat inhabitants. There are countless hostels, hotels, B&B’s and other forms of accommodation to choose from. There are also many tour companies to happily accept bountiful amounts of American dollars from your wallet.
We explored Granada a few times and enjoyed a cheap meal in the central market and a walk down to the boat dock on the lake. This is the same boat that we would get on at Ometepe towards San Carlos in the far South. The lake front seemed nearly uninhabited, but a lot of money had been spent on development of the road and surrounding areas. Maybe this was a plan in development and still waiting for something else to happen.
Day trip to Masaya Volcano
As time goes by, we try and find cheaper and easier ways of seeing things. Quite often this means not going on organised tours when options such as chicken buses exist. The added benefit is you dictate your own time schedule and get more time to explore a place. Masaya Volcano is definitely one that ticks these boxes since the very regular and fast buses between Granada/Masaya/Managua drop you literally at the entrance point. We’d seen a tour priced at US$35 per person in our hostel which admittedly included a side trip to some markets (seen too many by now) and Laguna de Apoyo (which we’d already seen).
The cheap option here is get on the Granada to UCA bus (15cords/$0.60ea), get off at the Volcano and pay your entrance fee of 100cords/$4 each. In hindsight we should’ve also paid the transport cost of 50cords/$2 each to get us up and down from the crater edge. We opted out, thinking the walk would burn some calories, but the heat was not particularly friendly in the middle of March. It’s roughly a 5km walk up to the crater with many buses and cars passing you on the way up. There is a visitor centre here which is well worth a look; since it has displays explaining a lot of volcano knowledge with at least half of it having English translations.
The crater itself is quite nice and big, but full of badly smelling sulphur dioxide so thick that you can’t see much. There are adverts in Granada offering night tours where you can apparently see some orange glows of lava, but I’m not convinced of this.
If you are doing this by yourself, take some extra time to walk up on the trails behind the crater in the direction of the visitors centre. There is a second large inactive crater to look at and a good viewpoint of Masaya Lagoon and even out towards Mombacho and Granada.
Day trip to Mombacho Volcano
We’re still debating whether this was worth the money or not and may not ever come up with a truly defined answer. This was another of those tours you could do for US$35 from Granada, but also do much cheaper on your own. You can take one of several buses going in that direction to the entry road for 16 cords / $0.64. It’s a 1.5km walk to get to the park entrance, or there are tuc tuc’s waiting to speed you up for 10 cords / $0.40 each. We took a tuc tuc because we knew a truck going up the volcano would be leaving in the next 10 minutes and would be another 1.5 hours until the next.
This is where the debate of the volcano starts. It cost us 400 cords / $16 each to enter the volcano including the return transport. The entry without transport I think was 75 cords / $3. I highly recommend not walking up as it is not scenic, with no viewpoints and a very steep road carved through dense forest. The transport was a modified truck with fairly comfortable seats, but even that took nearly 30 minutes to reach the summit.
We arrived on top around 9am with a lot of morning cloud still hanging around. We were expecting to do the Puma trail (pay additional guide fee) however we found out it had been closed for nearly 4 months now which was fairly disappointing. We self guided our way around the trails we were allowed to access and the highlight was the viewpoint out towards Granada and Las Isletas in Lake Nicaragua.
We covered the trail in under an hour as it is well developed and semi interesting as it is a cloud forest. We then waited until the return truck at 11.30am to get us down the bottom to hike to the road and wait for a chicken bus. We were back in Granada much earlier than expected at I think around 1pm for a cheap lunch at the central market.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/