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Trekking a Volcano on Ometepe Island

It was a tough trek up Volcano Maderas on Ometepe Island.  Much tougher than we had expected.

Volcano Maderas, part of the ring of fire volcanos around the Pacific, is located on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. There are two volcanos on the island, but Maderas is the dormant one and sits lower at 1394m.

Unlike her taller sister  Volcano Concepcion to the north, which has her conical sides exposed to the elements, Maderas is primarily situated in a cloud forest and constantly muddy, even in the dry season. Waterproof boots or shoes are highly recommended.

It’s rainy season on Ometepe Island where we were house sitting. We were chatting with travellers who attempted the climb a week before and had to abandon the trek at the look out which is 3km up the 7km hike because of the mud and slippery nature of the steep trail. After hearing this we felt a little unsettled with what we were going to take on.

Our Guide Abel for our trek on Ometepe Island
Our Guide Abel

You Must Use a Guide for the Volcano Treks on Ometepe Island

Our guide Abel (who came highly recommended to us) was from the Cooperative of Professional Guides of Ometepe.  We chose to hike to El Mirador (the lookout) visiting unusual ancient petroglyphs on the way.

Petroglyphs on Ometepe Island

The first petroglyph is known to be representative of the Mayan Calender and dates back over 2000 years.  You will come across the petroglyph on the right of the trail at the start of the hike.

There are over 2,000 petroglyphs recorded on Ometepe Island.  It is still a mystery to this day who produced the petroglyphs and what for as there are no written records.


There is an entrance fee to the park  paid at the Hostel Finca Magdalena located at the beginning of the trek.  Guests of the  Hostel Finca Magdalena ascend for free, otherwise $C30 per person (approx USD1.25) is payable by trekkers to pass through their coffee plantation.

Bouganvilea on Ometepe Island

At the entrance to the hostel, Abel explained the advantages of the pink Bougainvillea. It is only this coloured flower that is suitable for use by humans to aid in curing sore throats and flu like symptoms.  Boil the flowers with honey and sticks of cinnamon to make a soothing natural health drink

The trail winds its way through the fields of the local land owner where we passed crops such as lucerne hay, maize and rice growing. After squeezing ourselves through narrow gaps in the fence we start the rocky treacherous part of the trek.  It had rained for a few hours each night over the last week making the path muddy and slippery. We tried to avoid the slippery markings of previous trekkers as we made our way slowly uphill.  This trek has been designated physically challenging and we started to understand as we made our way slowly over rocks, through the jungle and over creek beds.

Anise Plant on the island of Ometepe Island
Anise Plant

We suddenly stopped and Abel bent down and plucked a leaf from the ground covering, it smelt like licorice and turned out to be an anise plant.

Leaf Cutting Ants on Ometepe Island
Leaf Cutting Ants

Next we came across the leaf cutter ant army carrying almost ten times their weight in leaves to and fro on the path in front of us.  The leaves are carried to underground nests  where the army chews the leaves up to form a pulp.

Termite Hill on the slopes of Volcano Maderas Ometepe Island
Termite Hill

Abel then points out to the right of us a termite ant nest that he knows that has been there over 25 years (the number of years he has been hiking up and down this path) where we can see the worker ants beavering away working hard.

At last the path opens up into a field of crops, hoping that we must be close, we wander through the field, the heat is intense now that we are out of the shade of the jungle.

Howler Monkeys on the slopes of Volcano Maderas Ometepe Island
Howler Monkeys

Screeching sounds come from the jungle in front of us and as we come closer we can see the howler monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

The path becomes steeper, rockier and even more slippery as we climb higher and higher.

View of Santa Cruz and Santa Domingo Ometepe Island in the background and kidney bean plants in the foreground
View of Santa Cruz and Santa Domingo in the background and kidney bean plants in the foreground

Navigating through this we come out onto a field of kidney beans growing up a steep slope and at the top is El Mirador.  The narrow rocky pathway winds through the field to the top. It is not an official lookout as such, no signs or seats but just a viewing point known by the local guides.  It is steaming hot and we are extremely tired, our legs already aching but as we turn around the view is incredible.  We can see both sides of the island and in the distance the cloud covered top of Volcano Concepcion.  It was worth the tough climb.  Thankfully we had not committed to climb to the top as it was still another 4km of uphill slippery rocky pathways.

Cost: USD10 per person

Entrance to the park: USD1.25 per person

Track: Physically challenging to both lookout and to the top

Time: 5 hours return from Santa Cruz to the Lookout



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