Ometepe - Sights & Attractions

Natural Sites

Volcán Concepción

The Concepción volcano is ca. 1610 meters in height.

Volcán Concepción, the northern volcano, is the taller of the two volcanoes with a near-perfect cone shape,,although it's usually shrouded by thick cloud cover.

Volcán Concepción

Volcán Concepción is still active. It has erupted at least 25 times since 1883, with notable recent eruptions in 1986 and 2010. Concepción's eruptions are characterized by frequent, moderate-sized explosions. Those who summit the volcano to peer down into its crater will also be able to see active fumaroles.

Volcán Maderas

Volcán Maderas is ca 1,394 metres in height.
Volcán Maderas

Technically still active, the latest activity occurred over 3000 years ago. There are no confirmed eruptions in historical time. In September 1996, however, a mud slide on the volcano (caused by heavy rainfall, not volcanic activity) killed 6 people.

Laguna de Maderas

Laguna de Maderas is located in the 800-meter-wide summit crater. The lagoon is bordered by reeds and often fogged in by a curtain of mist. The lake water is cold, but it is possible to swim in it.

Casacada San Ramón

Another classic Maderas hike is to the the mossy, 40m [131ft] San Ramón waterfall.

Reaching the San Ramón waterfall involves a ca. four-hour trek. Bus service to the base of the trail is available each morning from Moyogalpa and Altagracia. Exit at the ecological station. Buses return from San Ramón in the early afternoon.

Reserva Charco Verde

The Reserva Charco Verde offers swimming, hiking and kayaking amidst beautiful nature and abundant wildlife. The reserve is situated on the southern end of Volcán Concepción, near to San José del Sur.

The trail into the reserve passes the Laguna Charco Verde, a green pond said to be home of the ancient witch Chico Largo. According to the legend, he Chico Largo protects the tomb and gold throne of Cacique Nicarao. In exchange for your soul, Chico Largo will give you a life of luxury.

Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor

Between July and December (peaking in August and September) some 30,000 female Olive Ridley turtles and a few hundred leatherback turtles visit Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor to nest. It's a joy to behold the turtles laying eggs on the beach, not to mention tiny baby turtles making their death-defying run for the water.

Several hotels, including Hotel Nina and Casa Oro Hostel, run night tours, including transportation (bring insect repellent). Unfortunately, the tour guides aren't always vigilant in protecting the turtles on these trips, during which distance and respect are vital necessary to the turtle's well-being. New environmental legislation is, however, being brought into effect to promote the turtles' substantially.

Located south of San Juan del Sur, Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is managed by Fundación Cocibolca.

Playa Santo Domingo

Playa Santo Domingo is a 4 km long stretch of gray sand (i.e., black and white) situated on the north-eastern side of the Island, just north of the narrow isthmus that connects the Concepción side and the Maderas side (roughly equidistant between Altagracia to Balgüe). It is the longest beach on the island and said to be one of the prettiest freshwater beaches in Nicaragua.

Along Playa Santo Domingo are some of the island’s finest accommodation options and scenic lakeside hotels, restaurants and bars. There is also a small canopy zip line and, as in other places on the island, you can rent bikes and go horse riding. The swimming can be nice, but the water is usually choppy.

Playa Santo Domingo

If you're taking a chicken bus, just ask the driver to let you off there. Nearby accommodations are Finca Santo Domingo and Villa Paraíso (Tel: 045-34675). Both accept credit cards and cost ca. $4 per night.

Playa Marsella

Playa Marsella is a spectacularly beautiful beach with good snorkelling and an adequate estuary break. Watch the currents here, and don't forget the sunscreen because there's very little shade. If you need to escape the sun's rays, you can always kick back with a cool drink at the upmarket resort complex.

Merida

Merida is a village on the west side of Vulcán Maderas. The town is a hub for a range of activities, including horseback riding, kayaking and mountain biking. It is also an easy point for scheduling excursions to Vulcán Maderas, Cascada San Ramón (a 40m high waterfall) and to El Cogüito (Monkey Island). There also a new boat service between Merida and Moyogalpa.

Ojo de Agua

Ojo de Agua is a natural pool of running mineral water.

Cultural Sites

Moyogalpa

Located on the north-western coast of the island, Moyogalpa is the largest village (with a population of 6700 inhabitants) and commercial centre on Isla de Ometepe. Visitors can find a choice of hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and Internet cafes [the fastest internet on the island], a post office, a tourist office and most of the island's tour companies. Moyogalpa also has the only bank and ATM on the island.

From the port, Moyogalpa's main drag rises up to a charming Catholic church where it meets the main road connecting to the rest of the island's communities. There is also a small archaeological museum, La Sala Arqueológica, located toward the top of the main street. The museum features a small but interesting collection of pre-Columbian artefacts.

Fun cultural events include the Fiesta de Santa Ana, July 23-26, featuring the Baile de las Inditas which is performed with traditional costumes and the resonant sound of the marimba. Sometimes there are also bull fights and duck and chicken races. Staple foods of the fiesta are chicken, rice, beans, and fish, with vegetables, breads, cheeses and coffee also.

Moyogalpa is accessible via 1-hour ferry ride from San Jorge on the mainland. The ferry from San Jorge arrives in Moyogalpa.

Altagracia

Altagracia is a small town situated northeast of Volcán Concepción. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the name of the town was Astagalpa, meaning 'House of the Herones' in the Náhuatl langauge.

Altagracia is the second largest town on the island. At its centre is the (aptly-named) Parque Central—a grass lawn with a small shop selling snacks and drinks, a small garden, and some tall trees. Around the park are a variety of small shops and food stalls. Nearby are the church and the museum.

The main annual Fiesta celebrated in Altagracia is Fiestade San Diego, November 12-18—a week-long commemoration of the pilgrimage and death of Altagracia’s patron saint. The community gathers to dance the Baile de Zompopo. A representation or statue of the saint is carried around the island, a symbolic re-enactment of the saint’s pilgrimage. The idol is returned to the Catholic church of Altagracia on November 18th. Every April 28-30, the people of Altagracia throw a festival in honour of San Pedro Martir.

Just north of Altagracia there is a ferry terminal, Puerto de Gracia, which provides transportation to Granada and San Carlos (twice per week to both destinations) as well as to San Jorge (daily). If you happen to be arriving to Puerto de Gracia, you'll be greeted immediately by local, offered a free ride into town, and invited to stay at various hospedajes. Refuse once, and you’ll be offered a second time, with a discount on kayak rental. Take the flyers, accept a ride: you'll be in the loving care of very hospitable nicaraguensës. Have fun, have a drinking, play some guitar and join a feast.

Altagracia Church

Altagracia church is situated next to Parque Central. It is a yellow building dating from 1924 and it is connected to an older church building. In the older church there was a photo exhibition when I visited. It was a lovely photo exhibition with photos from Nicaragua, by Nicaraguan photographers. To visit the exhibition a donation of 20 cordobas should be paid (July 2009). Outside the church there is a Sculpture Park with pre-Colombian basalt rock figures, like eagles and jaguars.

For a close encounter with well-maintained stone carvings, visit the church located right in the center of town.

Museo de Ometepe

The Museo de Ometepe was founded in 1994. This small museum covers the history, geography and traditions of the island. On display are pottery, traditional dresses and a model of the island and its volcanoes. The museum also showcases some petroglyphs and stone statues.

Admission is 30 cordobas (as of July 2009). The museum is open between 8am - 4pm, Mondays - Saturdays. After you've finished learning all about the island, you'll be invoed to purchase art objects and replicas.

El Ceibo Museum

Visitors also can learn about the history of Ometepe at the history El Ceibo Museums in Sacramento (10 kilometers from Moyogalpa).

Moisès David Ghitis Rivera, the museum's founder, started his collection at age 12 (1976) by collecting bills, coins, agricultural implements and other archaeological artefacts that he found on his parents' land. El Ceibo was inaugurated as a Numismatic and Precolumbian Museum 31 March 2007. It is the only private museum of prehispanic artefacts on the island of Ometepe and one of the few museums with a large collection of pre-Columbian pieces on permanent displayin Nicaragua. The initiative was supported by Rivera and his friends who donated pieces found in different parts of the island.

Access to the Museum is free to island residents, has a modest entrance fee of US $ 6 for foreign tourists to visit both museums and US $ 4 for domestic visitors.

Finca Ecologica, El Zopilote

Finca Ecologica El Zopilote is a permaculture farm and hostel located about 10-minutes up a private dirt trail from the village of El Madroñal. Run by a few peace-loving Italians assisted by seasonal worker (including many international volunteers), the farm cultivates respect for the environment and nature. The farm does its best to limit the use of cement—construction building to the greatest extent possible from natural stone and rock, recycled materials such as glass, bottles and metal, and natural materials such as bamboo and palm. The compound also utilizes compost toilets.

Pizza Night at Zopilote

The land is completely planted with trees and plants of all kinds, including a nursery and a vegetable garden. For those interested in permaculture, sustainable living and ecology, El Zopilote organizes tours: learn about composting, rainwater harvesting, solar power, trash recycling and more. El Zopilote also hosts members of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

When visiting Finca El Zopilote, be sure to check out the lookout tower, which offers exceptional sunset views of Volcán Concepción in the foreground.

View from the Lookout Tower: El Zopilote

Also check out their small shelling farm- and locally-made organic products, including coffee, chocolate (6 different flavours), nutella, peanut butter, tahini, marmalades (made with seasonal fruits, herbs and spices from the farm), chutnies, liqueurs, honey, as well as cold pressed coconut oil and banana vinegar, as well as natural soaps made with oils and plants from the farm) and notebooks (made from their homemade recycled paper).

Finca Magdalena - Organic Coffee Farm

Finca Magdalena is an organic farm on the slopes of Vulcán Maderas, a 20-minute hike uphill from Balgüe.

The farm is part of a working cooperative that produces coffee, honey and organic fruits and vegetables. It also serves as a backpacker's hostel, offering dorm-style accommodations in an old wooden farmhouse, along with some cabañas for those who'd like a little more privacy. Volunteers are welcome to help the co-op. The hacienda, built over 120 years ago, comprises two large buildings and several smaller ones. Meals are served from the finca's porch, which terrific views. There are also several petroglyphs scattered around the grounds.

During the coffee season, which usually runs from November to February, guests can watch or even participate in various stages of the coffee harvest and processing, all of which is done the old fashioned way—by hand. Volcano hikes and horse riding tours can be arranged on request.

Petroglyphs

Isla de Ometepe is known for its rich pre-Columbian past. Petroglyphs and stone statues are scattered all over the island. More than 1,700 petroglyphs have been found, most of them on the Maderas side of the island. These petroglyphs were carved in volcanic basalt ca. 800 to 1,200 years ago [the earliest dates back about 4,000 years ago / 1000 B.C]. The carvings are about a centimetre deep. Petroglyphs on the island of Ometepe paid homage to the Nahuatl gods. The most common motif is the spiral, representing perhaps calendars or the Nahuatl concept of time and space. Their calendar consisted of 18 months of 20 days each, which made a year of 360 days. Other images carved in the rocks depict anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, like lizards, turtles, frogs and monkeys.

The biggest concentration of petroglyphs can be found on the north and northeastern slopes of Volcán Maderas. Around El Porvenir there is a marked trail where about 20 petroglyphs are marked [as of December 2010, visitors have to pay US $1, but for guests of Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir]. Others can be found around Balgüe. Some hotels will offer tours, like Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir, Finca Magdalena and hotel Finca El Porvenir. Some petroglyphs can also be seen in the museum in Altagracia.

Other good sites to find the petroglyphs are Finca Magdalena, Finca el Porvenir and La Palma

References

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