Sadly, since writing the post tourism has suffered in Nicaragua due to civil unrest. So, unfortunately many places mentioned in this post may not exist anymore. The New Zealand government currently has a warning asking travelers to avoid any unnecessary travel to the region. These warnings can also void travel insurance so it is best to check your governments travel advice for this region before booking a trip.
Volcano boarding and hiking El Hoyo
One of the highlights from our time in Nicaragua was trekking/ hiking El Hoyo, a volcano just outside Leon. We completed the trek with Quetzaltrekkers who are a locally based charity that assist children with education.
The El Hoyo hike takes two days and includes overnight camping on the side of a kind of El Hoyo which is an active volcano. Food and water is provided as part of the hike along with all the equipment that you need. Be warned though you will likely be carrying about 15kg in you backpack when you set off.
The cost of the trek with Quetzaltrekkers was $60USD per person, a pretty fair price and we added on volcano boarding for an extra $9USD per person. All the profits go to charity which was a bonus.
We were also warned right before we left that we were taking on volcano boarding and the hike at our own risk as there had been some volcanic activity over the past few months… usually this means El Hoyo (which is a few years overdue) could erupt at any moment… We went anyway, we live in NZ… volcano’s are no problem…
Early in the morning we heading to QT’s office in Leon for breakfast and to pick up our share of the supplies for the hike. After breakfast we headed off in the back of a pick up truck to the start of the track. The track starts at the Rangers Station located between Cerro Negro and Las Pilas.
Before setting off up Las Pilas (and onto El Hoyo) we went Volcano Boarding. This was an optional extra which we took advantage of (as did the rest of the hiking group). Volcano Boarding involved hiking up Cerro Negro with our boards for about 45 mins. The hike up was really challenging and because it was windy it made carrying a wide board really difficult. It was very windy at the top (great motivation to get down). When you arrive at the top it is time to put on the suits and safety gear provided and watch a safety demo.
The volcano boarding itself was awesome fun as well as terrifying as it was stepper and faster than expected (hence losing some tread from our shoes). Lucky we escaped without injury, although some were not so lucky… However, we would still encourage other daredevils to have a go if you are in Leon!
What we weren’t quite prepared for was our shoes, hair, eyes pretty much everywhere to be covered in volcanic rock. Luckily there was a shower at the rangers hut but despite this we left for the hike pretty dirty.
Tips for Volcano Boarding:
- The hike up is challenging
- Ensure to bring all the recommended safety gear
- Watch the guides instructions and follow them
- Wear old shoes
- Don’t be an idiot – we saw some pretty messed up people who had crashed. The Cerro Negro volcanic environment is harsh and crashing on volcanic gravel at speed would not be fun
- Bring your bravery
Hiking El Hoyo
After volcano boarding we had a quick snack at the rangers station and a much needed shower. The first hour is uphill on a very steep incline. This was the hardest part of the whole trek but we were treated to awesome views of Cerro Negro and the valley below. Once the trek started to level off we stopped for lunch which was welcomed by all.
After lunch, it was only another 2 hours to base camp. This was a gentle hike across the landscape with views of the surrounding volcano’s. There is some up hill parts but nothing compared to the start. About 30 mins from base camp we gathered firewood for dinner and breakfast.
Base camp for the night is about 20/30 mins from the summit of El Hoyo and offers spectacular views of the active volcano Momotombo, Lake Managua and the surrounding area and once sun had set we could see the lights of Managua in the distance.
Where you spend the night is not an established campsite so there is no water or toilets. As it is a natural environment ensure you take away all your rubbish (including toilet paper).
After pitching our tents and grabbing a flashlight we heading to the summit of El Hoyo for sunset.
Summiting El Hoyo
We heading up to the summit of El Hoyo to watch the sunset. On the way up we got to visit ‘the hole’ and see a large active steam vent. Seeing the steam vent makes you appreciate that you are in fact on top of an active volcano! Try sleeping easy with that..
Once at the top we were offered a wonderful view back across the volcano’s (there are so many). It was a magical moment watching the sun dip behind them and was definitely worth the climb up. Once the sun set we had about half and hour to get back to base camp before it went totally dark.
Before bed the guides made us dinner (pasta with a creamy sauce and toasted marshmallows for desert) with everyone sitting around the fire keeping warm. With little left to do everyone headed to bed at 7pm but we did have an early start the next morning.
Sunrise and the climb down
We got up at 5.30am to watch the sunrise over Lake Managua and Volcano Momotombo and it was worth it, Katie and I were the only ones to bother so it was nice to share this moment together. Before we set off the guides prepared breakfast with plenty to go around. We packed up our tents and started the decent down. The first hour was down hill with parts of it being steep but then it leveled off. After walking around the base of Volcano Cerro Asososca we reach Laguna de Asososca.
We spent a couple of hours at Lagnua de Asososca which allowed everyone to go for a swim to cool off and clean ourselves as we were super dirty by this point. A yummy raw burrito lunch was provided before we set off for the final part of the hike.
From the lake it was about an hour’s walk to the bus stop to catch the bus back to Leon.
- Watching the sunset from the top of El Hoyo
- Seeing the sun rise over Lake Managua
- Swimming in Lagnua De Asososca
- And of course the group we hiked with
What to know before you go
- You carry all your own gear, this is not a glamorous hike
- 8 litres of water is heavy! But you need all of it, it gets hot out there
- It was not too cold at the top, we managed with a light jacket, some long pants and a sweatshirt
- Most things are provided by Quetzaltrekkers such as food, snacks, sleeping bag, mat and tent as well as all the water. Bring your own pack, flashlight and wet wipes as there is no water available to clean yourself
- Cost is $60USD
- The guides tend to be young volunteers, but they seem to know what they are doing
We had an awesome couple of days on this hike with Quetzaltrekkers and if you are into hiking we would highly recommend this trip. They also offer other great hikes in the region so check them out when you are in Leon!
For more on Nicaragua check out our post – Nicaragua in a nut shell
Want some more hiking adventures? Check out these posts;