Our volcano experience continued in Granada! After climbing the monster Concepcion on Isla Ometepe, we were keen to have more volcanic adventures that maybe didn’t involve so much hiking. And Nicaragua is the perfect place for it – there are 18 volcanoes in total, with 7 being currently active. One experience we’d heard about was being able to go and see actual magma in the crater of Volcan Masaya. There are not many places in the world you can see magma so we jumped at the chance to go, and made the nearby city of Granada our stop after Ometepe.
Even without the attraction of Volcan Masaya, Granada is a great place to go and visit. It is one of the oldest cities in Central America (neighbouring Leon is only a few months older), having been founded in 1524. It’s also really pretty! I’m a sucker for a nice colourful building and Granada is full of them. We spent a day just wandering around taking in the colours and people-watching in the plazas.
As with any colonial city, there are lots of churches, and Granada has some great ones. We really liked La Merced, which didn’t look that nice from the outside but the views from the bell tower make it worth the $1 cost to climb. Such beautiful views of Granada and Lago de Nicaragua!
Granada also has a good amount going on at night. Calle La Calzada is lined with bars and restaurants (plus a very good ice cream shop) and has a great atmosphere in the evening. Everyone sits outside with food or drinks and there are often street performers attracting small crowds. We went back to Calle La Calzada during the day for one main reason – to get fish and chips at O’Shea’s Irish Pub. And we loved it!!
I’m struggling to put into words how excited we were to see Volcan Masaya.
We booked a tour to see its famous crater full of magma through our hostel (Hostel Azul – really nice, does great Mexican food) for around $16 USD, which left at 5pm and returned at 8pm. It’s possible to hike in the park around the volcano during the day, however to see the magma in all its glory you need to visit in the evening when it’s dark.
Although the tour was 3 hours long, you’re only given 15mins at the crater. Apparently this is because of the strength of the fumes, which is definitely believable because we both came away with headaches and feeling a bit dizzy. But it was totally worth it! After waiting in a queue for around 40mins then visiting the museum to learn more about the volcanoes in Nicaragua, we drove to the crater and saw Masaya.
As soon as we got out the van we saw the huge orange glow from the crater. It was like something out of a movie! Photos couldn’t do it justice, the crater was massive! We literally stood on the edge of the crater (behind a little wall, don’t worry Mum) and could see the lake of magma at the bottom. We could even hear it bubbling away, it was pretty loud!
After our 15 mins was up we headed back to the hostel in the van. We are so glad we visited Masaya, definitely an unforgettable experience!
Laguna de Apoyo
To add even more to our volcano experience, the day after Masaya we took a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake about 20 mins from Granada.
It’s possible to get public buses to Apoyo but we decided to get a shuttle through our hostel, which only cost $6 USD each for a return trip. When you get to the lake, typically people pay day access for one of the hotels or hostels on the shore. We went to Hostel Paradiso and paid $7 USD each for use of their deck chairs, inner tubes, kayaks and wifi, as well as unlimited tea and coffee.
We made the most of it and spent the day floating, paddling, swimming and lounging!
We’re not sure whether the minerals in the water made a good difference to our skin, but it was a nice change to swim in fresh water rather salty! The water was choppier than we expected so we kept forgetting we weren’t in the sea.
Laguna de Apoyo was a great place to chill out for the day and we were glad we went to Hostel Paradiso. We had lush salads for lunch for $6 USD, a bit pricier than in Granada but I guess that’s what you get when there’s not many other options around! And the salads came with mozzarella sticks so we were VERY happy!
Overall, we enjoyed our stay in this lovely colonial city although the highlight was definitely seeing Volcan Masaya! If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, definitely stick this on your list!
Have you ever seen an active volcano? What’s on your bucket list? Let us know – leave a comment! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to see our latest travel photos.