Massaya, a live volcano in Nicaragua- The devil’s gates –

That day we went up to Massaya, to a live volcano in Nicaragua, and saw the lava…

Visit a volcano in Nicaragua

Did you see those scenes in Lord of the Rings where Frodo has to throw the ring in the lava at Mount Doom? After hiking in New Zealand and having a feeling of the outside of a volcano, today I came up close and personal with the insides of a volcano in Nicaragua. Well, up close and personal from behind a wall keeping tourists from falling in.

The volcano is in Masaya, 25 kilometers (miles) north of Granada in Nicaragua. Spending some time in Ometepe felt like a long time since we crossed from Costa Rica into Nicaragua. But Granada isn’t that far away from Costa Rica. Since we climbed another volcano on Ometepe, expectations were high for the one here on Massaya.

Several tour guide companies offer packages to get there. We saw the best price was $17, up to $30 per person for a private tour. We ended up with a $25 tour, in a minivan with a New Zealander guy, girls from Costa Rica, Canada, and the USA. My Dutch travel mate and I completed the international group.

Tours happen at the end of the day, as the view in the night is the most spectacular one. So we were picked up at 4:30, and Guilliam, our very novice driver, was on his way.

The long wait in Massaya

Getting there by car isn’t that complicated. It took us about 45 minutes from the center of Granada to the access of the park. But that is actually where the wait starts. The access to the park is controlled at two levels. The entrance gate, where the tickets are sold to enter the park, and a filtering blockade where only 70 ppl at the time are allowed to go up to the volcano. With 6 kilometers of route, you could have imagined the architect not placing the access control in such a fashion that cars have to wait ON the highway to access the park…

Once your car makes it up the volcano, guards will show you where to park. And then you’re given 15 minutes to hang around, take some pictures and listen to the stomach of the earth. It’s a unique sound that I hadn’t heard before, and it’s a sight that one must see when we have a chance.

Like in other volcanic areas, there is the distinct smell of sulfur, and you see the clouds coming out of the crater hole. And the orange-red glow that comes out of it makes it all look like “devil’s gates.”

If I had a bucket list, crossing off “visiting a live volcano” would be what I’d do now!

Massaya Volcano in Nicaragua (by Koen Blanquart)
Massaya Volcano in Nicaragua (by Koen Blanquart)

If I’d do it again? (Or: Koen’s travel tips to visit this Volcano in Nicaragua)

  • It might be more comfortable to rent a car with some friends and drive up yourself. The entrance fee is $10 per person, so depending on the deal you can make for the car, this might also be cheaper.
  • bring a book or something. From arriving at the gate to the point where we could actually enter the park, we waited over an hour. And if you bring a real book (and not a lit e-reader), bring a reading light
  • Bring enough water and some cookies. We left at 4:30 pm, and were back well after 8 pm. When we left, some cars were still queuing to get up, so they might have well had a long day there.