Nicaragua is known as the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, and so with good reason when our student group set out to make a comparative study of the country just north of Costa Rica's border, our first stop was the island of Ometepe: a land mass composed of two volcanoes on Lake Nicaragua.
It was truly one of the most incredible experiences. We arrived by ferry at the center of the town Moyolgalpa which had some decent shops and coffee bars. It was nice to cool off with an iced coffee in one of the seemingly hottest places on Earth. Once we piled our baggage and the students into several vans barely holding themselves together, we arrived at paradise: Charco Verde.
We were spoiled in a lavish hotel complete with queen sized beds and air conditioning, not to mention the delectable food served at every meal. From the restaurant was the view of the shore of Lake Nicaragua, a tranquil body of water and the stage for some of the most spectacular sunsets every night. At our disposal was a nature reserve, a lake shore with smooth waves for a refreshing swim, a 24/7 view of Volcan Concepcion, and a field filled with cows and goat-sheep. This was our home base for the next 4 days, and we loved every moment of it.
Over the next few days we circumvented the island, always with the same bubbly taxi drivers, exploring the history and rural culture of Ometepe. We hiked Volcan Maderes, swam in a natural spring-fed water hole, discovered ancient and little-understood petroglyphs, interviewed tourists on waste management practices, and even met a group of women running a cooperative to support rural tourism who taught a class on up-cycled art. These kinds of sustainable tourism practices are what allow a community to resist over-development while maintaining their way of life and tap into the economic resource of tourism.
With happy hearts full of energy from the short week in the wild island of Ometepe, we made our way across the lake once more to spend our last two nights in the historic town of Granada. Once there we piled into our gorgeous hotel complete with a vine-filled terrace around a pool the length of the courtyard.
For the next three days we traipsed around the rim of a dormant super-volcano at Masaya Volcano National Park, discovered the artisan's market in the city of Masaya, and explored the oldest city in the country: Granada. The super volcano was honestly one of the most incredible experiences and I highly recommend seeking this out if you are in Nicaragua. Within the rim of the long dead supervolcano lived a more recently dormant crater blanketed in lush vegetation sharing a wall with another active crater surrounded by rubble and teaming with hot gas and lava deep below. Traipsing the ridge between these two for me was invigorating and enthralling. I could not help but wonder at the past centuries this very ground had seen.
Towards the end of one of our last days in the city, we climbed to the top of a bell tower in an old church that was once nearly burnt to the ground, where we were greeted with an incredible 360-view of the city. We stood as the breeze gently flew by, and took in the splendor that had laid before us over this past week. Nicaragua is a beautiful country, and though we have visited many times over the past year, there is so much left to see. The people here are resilient and beautiful, and the cities are enchanting, while the countryside is simply breathtaking.
I know that I will be seeing you again soon, Nicaragua. Until next time, stay hot.