I wrote in January of how I pulled together a trip for my family of six to Nicaragua over Christmas and New Year’s using points and miles. I haven’t posted anything else about that trip, so better late than never… I’ll start with one of my favorite places in Nicaragua, the Masaya Volcano National Park. It’s located maybe 30-45 minutes down the main highway from the capital city of Managua, and here’s a fun fact: it is the only volcano in the Western Hemisphere where you can drive to the rim. It’s got to be one of the most convenient volcanoes in the world.
It’s active in a smoky sort of way, though there hasn’t been a big eruption in a while. Here’s a picture taken from the parking lot:
Not bad, eh? That steam you see rising from the crater is sulfur dioxide. It doesn’t smell very good but the view makes up for that.
Speaking of views, there are some hiking trails that let you climb up and get a better look at things. Between my family and my in-laws, we had ten kids with us ranging in age from 2 to 14, but fortunately the hike isn’t too strenuous (though there are some trails that we didn’t take that let you go a little further).
One you get to the top you can see a long distance. Due to limitations of my camera and/or my photography skills the picture doesn’t come close to doing the view justice, but if you look in the left center of the picture you can (barely) make out the triangular outline of the Momotombito Volcano, which was active during our visit. We could actually see it smoking from our hotel, though it wasn’t active on this particular day:
It’s probably about 30-40 miles away from the Masaya Volcano. On the west coast of Nicaragua, you’re never out of sight of a volcano.
Here’s a picture from near the crater looking up the hiking trail:
And here’s a view looking back down the trail:
…and some of the crew walking back down:
And that was the trip, I don’t think we spent more than an hour and a half there what with all the kids. There is also a cave there that you can go into with a guide. I went there several years ago and it was fun–we were surrounded by bats flying all around us. Wikipedia says you can see lava if you hike far enough into the cave, but I can’t vouch for that. Perhaps we didn’t go far enough in?
If you’re into nature, Nicaragua’s got quite a bit of that. It’s also reasonably safe–I’ve had more than one conversation where I carefully explained that you most likely will not die if you go there (that’s San Pedro Sula, Honduras).
The best time of the year to visit is when we were there: December and January. It’s after the rainy season when everything is green but before the hot season kicks in. Temperatures are usually in the mid to upper 80s, there’s often a breeze, and the humidity is not too bad. I don’t see too many of the sights down there these days since our visits mostly involve seeing my wife’s family, but there’s plenty of scenery there for folks who want to get off the beaten path a bit.