Hike A Volcano: Concepcion, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Hiking is a sport of focus, endurance and most importantly fierce respect for nature. And what natural power is greater and more deserving of human respect than a volcano?
Located on the ‘Ring of Fire’ Central American geography contains numerous volcano’s, 29 of which are active or potentially active. Nicaragua is often referred to as a country of volcanoes and lakes, thus making it the perfect base to try your hand at volcano hiking. But with 13 volcanoes, why choose Concepcion on the small island of Ometepe?
Concepcion is a genuine beast. Active and the second highest volcano in Nicaragua, this volcano dominates the skyline of the island Ometepe. Located on the Western side of the Island she stands 1,610m tall and is a cone shaped stratovolcano. During the dry season, between December – July she is usually shrouded in a dooming low-lying cloud. But do not be dismayed! She’s a friendly monster who has numerous tracks that are begging for adventurers to journey up! Concepcion last erupted in 2015 but is a safe option for any adventurers keen to get their volcano shoes on.
Taking anywhere between 6-10 hours, Concepcion offers travellers a volcano climbing experience that is less travelled, raw and real with spectacular views.
So why should you climb volcano Concepcion?
The Road Less Travelled.
Unlike other volcano hikes in Central America, Ometepe and Mount Concepcion offers much quieter tracks. Be aware, you cannot hike this volcano without a guide and it is great to support the island economy by shopping around for a local guide. Depending on which guide you get you will either use a quieter and under utilized track or the main track. Depending on your fitness level, the road less traveled is ALWAYS a good idea and requesting a quieter track is recommended. It is unlikely you will see another hiker on the mountain, particularly towards the summit offering a unique experience and closeness to nature you cannot get in a big group of people. Low season is even better for a quiet hike, however be aware that visibility from the top is poorer. Standing on the summit of Concepcion, with just your friends and guide, with all her energy below you is a truly indescribable experience.
The ‘REAL’ deal.
Ometepe is a destination of travellers. Hence you will find that tracks leading you to the summit of Concepcion are relatively isolated and the experience of hiking the volcano feels raw, earthy and real. The variation of ecosystem is also amazing to experience. Expect to walk through agricultural plots, muddy jungle, dry cliff tracks, loose ash rocks and even some rock climbing at the top. Coral Snakes, spiders, colourful beetles, butterflies, and monkeys – you name it. The fauna on Concepcion is unique and thrilling to see in the wild. The smell of sulphur and carbon monoxide is exhilarating and placing your hand on a warm rock is totally exciting. The decent down the volcano is much tougher than the accent. Running and jumping down the lava flow channels on the side of the volcano is an experience to look forward to in itself.
Expect a consistently uphill and steep hike. While the first 2km are relatively flat and kind, a good 6km are uphill and muddy. The last 500m is hands and knees crawling/ rock climbing up a loose rock face with wild and freezing winds lashing and pulling at you. As you quickly incline up into the clouds you will also experience precipitation from within the cloud. But all of this is worth it. Even if low-level clouds prevent a view the lip of the volcano is impressive. If you are lucky enough to have a clear day you will see 360 degree, panoramic views of the island including the main land of Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. This is a physically challenging hike but the view and experience will be worth it.
Tips for hiking Volcano Concepcion
- Proper shoes. If you do not have hiking boots it is worth hiring some. It is slippery and the decent is quite technical in the wet.
- Wet weather and wind gear. Walking into a cloud means you will experience wet conditions. The wind at the top is also quite strong meaning the last quarter of the hike to the top can be very cold.
- Water. Take plenty of drinking water there are no places to buy water along the way and the steepness of this hike means that sweatiness and dehydration can be an issue.
- Snacks. Take plenty of salty and sugary snacks. Pack snacks depending on fitness levels. I suggest peanut butter sandwiches, Oreos, trail mix with m&ms and fruit.
- A guide. Be a responsible tourist and find a local guide. Also, do not be cheap. Local guides range from $20-$30 (U.S) and offer wilderness and first aid knowledge. If you are lucky you will also share Spanglish jokes about how many times you fall over in mud on the way down.
- Sunscreen, bug repellent and lip balm. You will experience all elements and it is best to protect yourself from the sun, the wind, the rain and the mosquitoes.
- Dry clothing. Optional but recommended, as you will get wet.
Photo credit: @Andrea Santini