In my recent visit to Masaya National Park in Nicaragua, I was able to experience something I have never done before; climb to the top of a very active volcano and witness the stunning, artistic show that our planet has to offer, deep within the surface of the earth. Pure, smoldering hot lava bubbling around like a boiling pot of chicken soup heating on the stove. Thick, tainted black smoke escaping from the pit of Hades, releasing sulfuric gases into the atmosphere, and constantly sending a reminder of alertness to the cities below. It was like nothing I have ever seen before in my life and something I will never forget.
The entire landscape of the surrounding areas of the National Park is covered with rocks and volcanic ash, making it a harsh terrain to navigate, but there is a lot to do if you ever get to visit this magnificent place. The park itself includes two different volcanoes, five craters, a gigantic cave that is home to hundreds of bats, a remarkable visitor’s center and lots of picnic areas for you to enjoy a peaceful snack. You could easily spend a whole day here if you wanted to and the entrance fee doesn’t cost very much. However, there are two different prices when entering the park. They have an entrance fee for the local nationals of 30 Cordobas, which is a little over One American Dollar, and then what I like to call the gringo price (non-local nationals) of 100 Cordobas, which is almost about $3.50. They even give you different colored wrist bands to label you as a foreigner, which I found to be quite comical.
The most common attraction as you can see from the pictures, is hiking (or driving when the option is available), to the top of the Great Masaya Volcano and peeking over the edge to view the massive crater below. Now, I have been told that due to the high consistency of sulfur in the air, for safety reasons, the park staff only let you view the crater for about ten minutes at a time, or sometimes doubled when the wind is right, but I can’t confirm if this is true or not. If it is, then it would make sense why they were always blowing the whistle at us. Whatever the reason was, we spent longer than 20 minutes observing the crater without any problems.
After you are finished viewing the crater, you can choose to venture off on the several trails surrounding the place to experience the other attractions and more fascinating views, but unfortunately all of these trails are guided and cost a small fee, which doesn’t amount to much and only around a dollar in the local currency. I don’t know exactly why you need a guide, but it’s probably due to the fact since this volcano is active and can erupt at any moment, it is probably better to have a professional with you in case of an emergency. I believe for this very reason, I sadly could not experience the rest of the beauty that this park had to offer because at the moment, the volcano is showing active signs that an eruption could occur, so the rest of the park is closed down to the public at the moment. Luckily, it is not too far from where I am staying and I can go back anytime I choose.
They also offer a night tour which starts around sunset and consists of visiting the crater at night to view the spectacular lava show. You will also get to witness green parakeets returning to their roosts within the crater, after a long day of searching for food and on the contrary, bats leaving their caves in multitudes and getting ready to start their day. The last thing on the tour that I am hoping to do in the future is experience the park’s underground tunnel through the crater, which was recently (10 years ago) formed by lava streams, leading to an up close and personal, once in a life time view of the crater’s mouth, to experience the fiery hot lava below.
This whole tour doesn’t cost much, only about ten dollars per person and you will have to make a reservation of at least one day in advance, with a minimum of six people in your group.
Since Nicaragua is home to 19 active volcanoes which erupt on a regular basis, being able to experience one first hand and actually witness the lava being tossed around at the bottom, has truly been one for the memory books. If you ever get a chance to visit the country of Nicaragua, make sure this is one place on your itinerary, because I guarantee you that you will not leave disappointed.
If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience of the Masaya National Park, I encourage you to please leave a comment below.
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