While on a day trip in Nicaragua, my husband and I got to see and do many really awesome things. We climbed to the bell tower of an old Cathedral. We navigated an artisanal market. We took a boat onto Lake Nicaragua and fed some monkeys.
But one SUPER cool thing we did was visit Masaya Volcano National Park, where we actually peered into the mouth of an active volcano.
While the volcano hasn’t erupted enough to create lava flow since 1772, there has still been some noteworthy activity in recent years. Most recently, in 2008 when the volcano erupted ash and steam.
I imagined that the volcanic activity was being monitored by some geologist-sciencey-volcano guy and that we probably wouldn’t be allowed into the park if there was some cause for concern. I mean. If the thing spewed ash less than 10 years ago, it could spew again. Right?
[Side note: turns out three months later, the volcano started showing increased activity, canceling many tours to the area. There is now visible lava within the caldera. My worries were completely legit.]
I let my bit of worry get lost in the back of my mind as I peered out the window. We passed huge chunks of rock that was once hot, flowing lava. All the way up to the mouth of the Volcano, these volcanic rocks mixed with the vegetation, creating a sea of green and black.
As we reached the top, we could see thick steam rising from the crater. Peering over the rock, all you could see was a giant hole in the earth, and so. much. steam.
If you stared into the hole long enough, you could make out a smaller hole inside, which served at the source of the volcanic smoke.
It’s around this time that you start to feel it. You can literally feel the sulfuric steam crawl into your nostrils, slide down the back of your throat, and make itself cozy in your lungs.
It’s around this time that the coughing starts.
I stared into the volcano as long as I could, but my throat was getting more and more irritated. I excused myself from the viewing platform to see what else was around.
On the mouth of the volcano, I noticed a pathway to a large cross. We were told by our guides that we could not take the path, as the steam was too thick and they didn’t want anyone getting sick.
I resorted to asking the story behind the cross.
As the story goes: Once upon a time the native tribes would perform human sacrifices, sending people into the mouth of the volcano, to appease the angry gods inside. Well, when the Spanish came over to conquer the land, they were not all about the human sacrifices and thus planted a cross to 1) remind the natives not to throw people into the volcano and 2) to commemorate those who were sacrificed within.
From there, we turned our attention out, away from the volcano. From the top you could look down and follow the trail of the volcanic rock running down the sides. Not only that, but there were some pretty sweet views of Nicaragua. I was surprised at how far into the distance you could see.
After about a half an hour at the volcano, we were all trying to manage our coughs as well as the intense Central American heat. We were happy to have air conditioning and fresh air inside our van. We made our way back down the volcano, still in disbelief of what we had just experienced.
Do it Yourself
We visited Masaya Volcano as part of a day tour with Mardigi Tours. You can sign up for a tour leaving Guanacaste, Costa Rica here.
You can also visit the park independently.
Note: With recent volcanic activity, this volcano may not be accessible to tourists right now
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[…] We parked at the top, just feet away from the mouth of the volcano. We were informed we would only be here a short time, due to the fumes. At first I didn’t think it was all that bad. But as soon as I peered into the caldera and allowed the steaming sulfur to ride down my throat and into my lungs, I understood. I stayed long enough to take some photos and marvel in the fact that I was on a real live volcano. (Read more about it here!) […]