Visiting Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua

July 27, 2017

The sound of the lava splashing on the walls of the volcano is suprisingly calming. If you close your eyes you can imagine being at the Pacific coast listening to the waves hitting the beach. The sound is smooth but powerful. It's the sound of the ocean but this ocean has a rumble in his voice. The sound echoes off the walls of the volcano and despite standing hundreds of meters above the red waves you can hear every splash. I had always thought that magma was this thick and sticky matter that would slowly made it's way down the volcano during eruption but now I'm certain that the lava waves would catch me in seconds.

The wind changes direction and you're suddenly breathing sulphur. It makes you cough and you know that the toxic gases certainly aren't something you should fill your lungs with but you can't take your eyes off the insides of the volcano that are filled with lava.


Masaya Volcano National Park

I had no interests on going anywhere near volcanoes. Or that's what I thought before I landed to Central America. I was scared of the natural phenomena that were occasionally terrorising the region and was not willing to take a risk of dying in a volcano eruption. I had been in Central America for only few weeks when I saw a picture of Masaya Volcano at night and it just blew off my mind. The pictures of smoke rising from the depths off the earth along with the deep red glow of magma were enough to convince we that seeing this volcano would be well worth taking the risk of getting covered in magma.

Masaya Volcano National Park is the oldest National Park in Nicaragua and it includes two volcanoes and five craters. During my visit to the national park only one of the craters was open to the public. Many volcanoes in Nicaragua are active and whereas you're sometimes able to visit two craters there are also times when the whole park is being closed for safety reasons.


Visiting Masaya Volcano without a tour

The prices of Masaya Volcano tours were mad. The night tours in my hostel were 30$ (USD) which sounded like a total rip off considering that the entrance fee to the national park was only around 3$ and the park was located just 20km outside Granada. In a country as cheap as Nicaragua there was no way I could justify spending that amount of money to be able to see a volcano at night so after a bit of research me and bunch of other people at the hostel decided to do a day trip to Masaya by ourselves.

When we arrived to the national park we were told that we couldn't climb the volcano but would have to take a ride to the top instead. You used to be able to climb to the top on your own but it seems like Nicaragua is either becoming slightly more aware about the harmfulness of breathing toxic gases or it has discovered a way to make some extra money. There is a schedule for the drives up the volcano so prepare to wait for a bit - although, if you got enough passengers to fill the whole car you might be able to get a ride to the top straight away! Because of the toxic gases you were able to spend only 15 minutes on the top of the volcano. I don't even want to imagine how bad the gases must be for your health!

After waiting for half an hour we were ready to go. We first drove halfway up the volcano to visit the volcano museum. We should have probably done that on our way down as I was way too excited about the volcano to give a proper look for the exhibitions. With no other cars on the road we arrived to the top of the volcano just few minutes after leaving the museum. The driver checked his phone for time, covered his face with fabrics trying to protect himself from the gases and I started running towards the crater.


The volcano was absolutely stunning. It felt like you had just travelled to another dimension through a wormhole. The rugged landscape was filled with grey smoke coming out of a huge volcano crater. In a list of places that have made me feel very small and powerless, Masaya stands on the very top. You could have fitted a mansion or two on the crater. If you had thrown something down the volcano it would have taken ages to hit the bubbling lava. I had seen volcanoes in my life but I had never seen quite anything like Masaya. The smell of sulphur, the landscape, the bubbling lava and just the insanity of standing on the edge of an active volcano made Masaya one of the most memorable travel experiences I've ever had in my life.

We were extremely lucky. Most of the time the wind is blowing to the direction of the viewpoint and you won't be able to see the lava. That's why the night tours are so popular - even if the smoke is covering the views you'll still be able to see the deep red glow of the lava inside the volcano! I would totally recommend going daytime though - there was just a handful of people around there and I feel like you'd really miss out on landscape if you'd go there at night.

15 minutes on the top felt like two seconds. There's something extremely mesmerizing about volcanoes and let's be honest, how many times in your life do you get an opportunity to peek inside a volcano? I climbed multiple volcanoes in Central America and watched few of them erupting in distance but it was very different to stand so close to these natural forces. When the driver started waving at us I couldn't have cared less about the toxicity of the air I was breathing, I just wanted to keep staring the splashing lava.

Visiting Masaya Volcano was hand down one of the greatest experience I had when travelling across the Central America. It was such an unique experience and I got absolutely nothing to compare it to. If you're heading to Nicaragua make sure not to miss Masaya!


How much does it cost to visit Masaya Volcano?

The cost of visiting Masaya Volcano without a tour is around 10$ (USD).

You had to pay around 6$ (200 cordobas) to enter the national park and get a ride to the top of the volcano as you weren't allowed to walk to the top as the gases the volcano produces are toxic. The entrance fee also included a visit to a volcano museum where the driver dropped you on the way to the top.

The bus rides were around 2$ both ways but the cost depends what sort of bus you catch. We took a chicken bus to Masaya volcano and came back on a minivan which was slightly more expensive but it was the first form of public transportation that drove past when we were waiting for a bus. If you want to visit Masaya markets and Laguna de Apoyo the same day and that adds about 5$ to the transportation costs per person.


How to get to Masaya Volcano National Park?

The cheapest way to access Masaya Volcano is by a local bus. Most of the buses heading to Managua will drive past Masaya Volcano National Park. You can also take a bus to Masaya and change buses there if you wish to visit the markets. Make sure you tell where you're heading when you purchase the bus ticket to avoid jumping on a wrong bus and for the driver to know to drop you off by the entrance of the national park. The national park entrance is located on the opposite side of the highway so you're gonna have to do some crazy highway crossing to access the park but I'm a living proof of it being possible.

It's also possible to take a taxi to Masaya Volcano from Granada. It's not cheap but if you got a car full of people it's probably still cheaper than taking a tour.

Have you ever visited a volcano? 


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22 kommenttia

  1. Wow! It must be so great to see an active volcano! I actually didn't know that there were active volcanoes in Nicaragua, thanks for sharing!

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    1. There are plenty but unfortunately you cannot climb them all :(

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  2. Absolutely great and informative post! The place looks amazing <3

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  3. Wow! Honestly, that's so exciting to see an active volcano from that close. I have never visited one but I would love to experience it too. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I bet you would love it! :)

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  4. I love Central America! I have only been to Tabacon in Costa Rica. Your writing is great, full of descriptive language.

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    1. I went to Costa Rica last year but didn't get a chance to visit Tabacon. Googled it and it looks great! If I ever end up going back I'll keep it in mind :)

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  5. That is seriously so cool!! I'm actually half Nicaraguan (my mom is from there) and I'm dying to visit. I'll have to check this out when I do!

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    1. How cool is that your mom is Nicaraguan! Good excuse to go for visit :)

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  6. Those views from the top are incredible! I missed out on this because it was actively erupting when I was there (although seeing the smoke billow out from the cone from Masaya town was pretty cool). You got lucky that you were able to get so close!

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    1. Ah that's such a shame! I bet seeing it erupting was cool as well though. At least I really enjoyed watching Fuego erupting in distance.

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  7. I have never been that close to an active volcano. You did a great job describing it, so I could get an idea of what it was like. I am glad you were able to do a tour on your own!

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  8. I was just in Colombia for a conference, so I have Central America/South America on the brain. This place looks like somewhere that I will need to put on my bucketlist! Love it.

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    1. Ah lucky you, I've only been to Central America but constantly dreaming of a six month (or even longer) escape to South America!

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  9. Isn't it awesome and scary to visit one all at once!? I got to see Volcan Poas in Costa Rica and recently heard there have been two erruptions. So glad it didn't happen when I visited! It was awesome to see though!

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    1. You went to Poas!? I don't understand how I missed that, it looks absolutely beautiful in there! Haha good that we both made it out alive without eruptions :D

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  10. This sounds amazing, I would definitely love to go there!! also your writing style is my favorite, I felt like I was there with you!

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    1. Aww thanks a lot! Totally recommend going there :)

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  11. Excellent photos! Interesting that you were only allowed to spend 15 minutes at the top. I hiked up the side of Telica in Nicaragua and was there for hours. It was spectacular to watch the sunset from the side of an active volcano with the other volcanoes puffing in the distance.

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    1. I was considering doing Telica as well but it was inanely hot when I was in Nicaragua and didn't really feel like hiking in +40 degrees. Amazing that you got to spend so much time on the top though! Need to climb Telica the next time I end up to Nicaragua!

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