In April 2012, my wife and I took a trip to Nicaragua. As a part of that trip, we wanted to visit the volcano at Masaya. It’s not too often that one gets an opportunity to stand on the edge of an active volcano and look down into it, but that’s just what we were able to do.
Our hotel set us up with a driver to take us to the Masaya Volcano National Park. The park is open every day starting at 9:00 a.m. It is located on the highway to Masaya (Carretera Masaya), kilometer 23. It’s a short drive from either Granada, where we were staying, or Managua. The city of Masaya, nearby, has a nice crafts market and a few other things of interest to see.
The park has a visitor center with some interesting pictures and models which talk about the history of the volcano. Deeper into the park, you start seeing lots of lava from past eruptions. Significant lava flow happened in 1670, and 1772. More recent eruptions have been mostly gas and ash, and have occurred as recently as 2008.
Pulling into the parking lot at the crater, there is a short ledge that keeps you from falling in:
Of course, that doesn’t stop you from looking over the edge into the crater. It’s a long way down!
As you can see from the photos, there is a lot of gas coming out of the volcano. It smells very strongly of sulphur, and people can quickly be overcome and need to leave.
You can climb to the top of small overlook to get a better view of the area:
At the top there is a cross, apparently placed there to help ward off the devil (the indigenous people and early Spanish explorers believed the devil to be present at the volcano).
Climbing the stairs affords one better views, including this one of a large rock that was expelled from the volcano:
There are multiple craters, though only the large one was smoking.
The view from above is quite stunning. In this photo, the cars put the size of the crater in perspective. We were told all cars had to be parked facing out, in case a quick getaway was needed:
The walk back down shows some of the steep sides of the crater:
After about 20 minutes at the crater, the fumes started to get too strong for us. As we began coughing, we decided it was time to go. Visiting an active volcano is an incredible experience, and I’m glad we were able to see it.