Volcanoes | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Volcanoes | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Visiting Vatnajökull Glacier https://moon.com/2016/07/visiting-vatnajokull-glacier/ Wed, 20 Jul 2016 14:28:20 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=42058 Iceland earns its ubiquitous “fire and ice” nickname in the Vatnajökull region. Vatnajökull Glacier's ice cap covers several active volcanoes; you'll frequently see hot streams erupting from beneath frozen banks of ice.

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In the Vatnajökull region, Iceland earns its ubiquitous “fire and ice” nickname. You’ll see Vatnajökull Glacier descend into black sands and hot streams erupt from frozen banks of ice.

The region is easy to access, as there are frequent flights and buses between Reykjavík and Höfn. For flights, check out Eagle Air, and for buses, try Strætó and Reykjavik Excursions. Höfn is the best gateway to the region and the perfect town to base yourself in.

Vatnajökull features miles of white, pure ice, intertwined with blue and smoky hues in interesting shapes formed by compressed ice.

Vatnajökull features miles of white, pure ice, intertwined with blue and smoky hues in interesting shapes formed by compressed ice. Photo © Oliver Taylor/123rf.

Vatnajökull Glacier

Vatnajökull’s vast, rugged terrain is a large draw for hikers and climbers around the world, but be sure you come prepared.Vatnajökull (Water Glacier) is a cool spot to visit—quite literally, as it’s Iceland’s remaining piece of the last ice age. Vatnajökull features miles of white, pure ice, intertwined with blue and smoky hues in interesting shapes formed by compressed ice. It’s a wide-open space, sitting on top of active volcanoes. You will experience whipping winds, sky-high elevations, and cold temperatures.

Vatnajökull has the distinction of being the largest glacier in Europe and the third largest in the world (after glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica). The glacier spans 8,805 square kilometers, which covers about 8 percent of the country, and the average thickness is 400 meters.

Of the volcanoes, the most active is the system near Mount Grímsfjall (1,719 meters) at Grímsvötn (1,725 meters). Mount Barðarbunga (2,009 meters), which awakened in 2014, is another volcano fissure. There were thousands of earthquakes over the summer of 2014, stirring the sleeping giant awake. Mount Kverkfjöll (1,929 meters) and Mount Hvannadalshnjúkur (2,110 meters) also lie beneath the glacier.

Vatnajökull’s vast, rugged terrain is a large draw for hikers and climbers around the world, but be sure you come prepared. Bring the necessary gear, monitor weather conditions, and alert people of your whereabouts.

Glacial Floods

When Grímsvötn volcano erupted underneath Vatnajökull in 1996, the world watched in fascination as lava flowed from fissures and ash launched thousands of feet into the air. But another phenomenon captured the attention of millions—jökulhlaup, which is Icelandic for glacial floods. A glacial flood occurs when water dammed by a sub-glacial lake is released, triggered by volcanic eruptions. Glacial lakes can hold millions to hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water and can wreak havoc on surrounding areas when released.

Locals still talk about the 1996 eruption, and you have a chance to relive it through a film shown at the Skaftafell visitors center.

Vatnajökull has the distinction of being the largest glacier in Europe and the third largest in the world.

Vatnajökull has the distinction of being the largest glacier in Europe and the third largest in the world. Photo © Oliver Taylor/123rf.

Tours of Vatnajökull Glacier

You can explore the glacier on a tour or with a private guide.

If you’d like to explore the glacier by snowmobile and jeep, Vatnajökull Travel (Bugðuleira 2, Höfn, tel. 354/894-1616) offers tours all year. An 11-hour tour includes pickup at your hotel, jeep and snowmobile rides, and a boat ride on Jökulsárlón, which features large pieces of glacial ice that languish off-shore. It’s a spectacular sight. It’s a fantastic way to spend the day and explore the region. The tour costs 42,000ISK.

Atlantsflug (tel. 354/854-4105) offers flights from Skaftafell Airport, its private airport near Vatnajökull National Park, to various locations around Vatnajökull glacier, including locations like Grímsvötn (volcano), Katla (volcano), Eyjafjallajökull (volcano), Langisjór (lake), Laki (crater), and Lakagigar (crater). You’ll get a spectacular aerial view of volcanoes, mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. Flight tours start at 33,000ISK for 75 minutes.

Travel map of the Vatnajökull Region

The Vatnajökull Region


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.

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What to See along Route F26 in Iceland’s Highlands https://moon.com/2016/07/what-to-see-route-f26-icelands-highlands/ https://moon.com/2016/07/what-to-see-route-f26-icelands-highlands/#respond Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:28:11 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=42055 Black lava, gigantic boulders, and towering mountains in the distance await you along Sprengisandur (Route F26 through Iceland's Highlands), essentially an Arctic desert. Here are the sights you won't want to miss.

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Black lava, gigantic boulders, and towering mountains in the distance await you along Sprengisandur, Route F26 though Iceland’s Highlands. Tourists travel to this region to check out what is essentially an Arctic desert. It’s dry and barren with water trapped in the glaciers. Iceland’s summer is warm enough for significant melting.

Mount Trölladyngja

Mount Trölladyngja (Troll’s Volcano) is the largest shield volcano in the country and connects the Grimsvotn and Bárðarbunga central volcanoes. Mount Trölladyngja (1,468 meters), which is still active, is 10 kilometers in diameter with a 100-meter-deep crater on top. Lava flowed from it in all directions, especially to the north and west. The Gaesavotn Route F910 passes through the north of it, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary. The GPS coordinates are N 64.8931, W 17.2547.

Ódáðahraun's lava shapes range from flat and smooth to rough and jagged.

Ódáðahraun’s lava shapes range from flat and smooth to rough and jagged. Photo © Ulrich Latzenhofer, Flickr/CC-BY-SA.

Ódáðahraun

Ódáðahraun (Crime Lava Field) not only is the largest lava field in Iceland, but also it’s the largest desert in Europe, spanning over 6,000 square kilometers. Black, brown, and gray dominate the landscape. Visitors to the area will see kilometers of sand, vast expanses of lava, and interesting geological formations shaped by volcanic activity over the centuries. The lava shapes range from flat and smooth to rough and jagged. The region garnered its name “crime lava” based on lore that numerous criminals hid out in the area trying to elude the authorities. The wind blows strongly, and there always seems to be a chill in the air. It’s an eerie place to visit—the isolation is overwhelming. Route F88 takes you to Ódáðahraun.

Laugafell

Laugafell (Bath Mountain) is situated near the northeast of the Hofsjökull glacier and about 20 kilometers southwest from the end of Eyjafjarðardalur, a valley. What makes this area so spectacular is that the mountain (879 meters) is adjacent to a geothermal hot spot. Three mountain huts are open during the summer with cooking facilities and a geothermal nature pool outdoors. Hot springs are on the northwestern region of the mountain. It’s a special place in the vast barren stretch of the highlands. Patches of grass and plants with bubbling pools make it a desert oasis. Laugafell’s GPS coordinates are N 65.0278, W 18.3319, and the region is accessible by Route F821.

Askja is one of the most popular destinations in the highlands.

Askja is one of the most popular destinations in the highlands. Photo © Galyna Andrushko/123rf.

Askja

Askja is a caldera in the Dyngjufjöll Mountains. Calderas are dramatic volcanic features that were formed by collapsing land after a volcanic eruption; they are essentially huge volcanic craters. The area is remote and awe-inspiring. Askja (1,510 meters) emerges from the Ódáðahraun lava field, and the terrain is quite rocky. Víti is a tremendous pale blue lake-filled crater that emerged after the great eruption of the Askja volcano in 1875. It’s possible to take a dip in the water, which reaches a temperature of about 30°C (86°F).

Askja is one of the most popular destinations in the highlands. There are two mountain huts (the Dreki huts) on Route F88, about 100 kilometers from the Ring Road. From there, it’s an eight-kilometer drive up into the Askja caldera. It is a walk of about 2.5 kilometers from the car park to Víti. Keep in mind that the roads are usually only open for about three months, from late June until September, depending on the weather. It could be longer or shorter.

Hiking Mount Askja

Passionate hikers will want to walk the rim of Askja. The difficult eight-hour hike offers some slopes and ultra-rocky terrain along with spectacular views of lava fields, mountains, and the mighty Víti crater. While the trail is well maintained, the main challenge is weather. If the weather forecast calls for wind, it’s best to skip the planned hike. Do not underestimate the power of Iceland’s wind, especially in the highlands.

Askja is about a 30-minute moderate hike from the car park up to the caldera. If you are not planning to hike the rim, you can just explore near the car park. To reach the car park, take Route 1 to Route F88. The GPS coordinates are N 65.0300, W 16.7500.

A glacier cave at Kverkfjöll volcano.

A glacier cave at Kverkfjöll volcano. Photo © Filip Fuxa/123rf.

Kverkfjöll

The Kverkfjöll volcano (1,764 meters) includes two calderas that are filled with ice. The area is striking for its colors. The deep black background gives way to gorgeous blues and icy white. The main event is ice caves that were created by hot springs slowly melting the ice into interesting shapes. However, please observe the caves from the outside; you never know when the ice mass could give way. Stay safe. The GPS coordinates for Kverkfjöll are N 64.7475, W 16.6315. To get to Kverkfjöll, take Route F910 southeast to Route F902.

Travel map of Iceland's Highlands

The Highlands


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.

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Weather and Climate in Iceland https://moon.com/2016/04/iceland-weather-climate/ https://moon.com/2016/04/iceland-weather-climate/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 19:01:44 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=40514 Iceland isn’t as cold as you may think. The Gulf Steam works to moderate Iceland’s climate, but doesn’t mean calm, as it's also responsible for the frequent weather changes. Weather here is not casual conversation, but serious business; it can change rapidly, from calm winds and sunny skies to rain, snow, sleet and back to calm wind and sunny skies, all in the same hour. It’s unpredictable, frustrating, exhilarating, and confusing for many tourists, but Icelanders have learned to adapt and go with the flow.

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Iceland is the westernmost European country, situated in the North Atlantic between North America and Europe. Iceland is east of Greenland and south of the Arctic Circle, atop the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It lies 859 kilometers from Scotland and 4,200 kilometers from New York City. The area of Iceland is 103,022 square kilometers, and a frequent comparison among Icelandic tour guides is that Iceland is roughly the size of the U.S. state Kentucky.

Climate

If the weather forecast is showing strong winds, especially in the countryside, alter your plans accordingly.Iceland isn’t as cold as you may think. The Gulf Stream swirls along the western and southern coasts and works to moderate Iceland’s climate. But moderate doesn’t mean calm, as the Gulf Stream is responsible for the frequent weather changes—as in lots of wind and rain. The biggest climate challenge is the unpredictability of it. The “summer” tourist season runs from the end of May to the beginning of September, and during that time, the climate ranges from rainy May days to the midnight sun in July to the possibility of snow in September. The winter climate brings colder temperatures, dark days, whipping winds, and the possibility of seeing northern lights flicker and dance on clear nights.

Winter in Iceland. Photo © Jenna Gottlieb.

Winter in Iceland. Photo © Jenna Gottlieb.

Weather

Weather in Iceland is not casual conversation, but serious business. Weather forecasts are frequent but largely hit or miss. The weather can change rapidly, from calm winds and sunny skies to rain, snow, sleet and back to calm wind and sunny skies, all in the same hour. It’s unpredictable, frustrating, exhilarating, and confusing for many tourists, but Icelanders have learned to adapt and go with the flow. As a result, plans tend to be loose, whether it’s for meeting friends for coffee or a job interview. If the weather acts up, locals understand.

Some of the most extreme weather you could experience on this island is wind—the type of wind in winter that could knock you off your feet. If the weather forecast is showing strong winds, especially in the countryside, alter your plans accordingly. Do not underestimate the wind, and heed any storm advisories. Be safe, smart, and prepared. The changing conditions are part of the experience of traveling to Iceland, and the key is being prepared with layers of clothing, proper footwear, and waterproof outerwear.

Volcanoes

Volcanic eruptions are a growing source of tourism for the country. Local travel companies offer helicopter, jeep and airplane tours when an eruption occurs. Most of Iceland’s volcanic eruptions are fissure vents, like the 2014 Holuhraun eruption, where lava seeps out of the cracks in the earth’s crust. Holuhraun produced fountains of lava shooting out of the earth, delighting photographers and keeping volcanologists busy trying to determine if the nearby Bárðarbunga volcano will erupt. At the time of this writing, it hasn’t. The three most active volcanoes on the island are Katla, Hekla, and Eyjafjallajökull. Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, grounding air travel in Europe for days thanks to a large ash cloud.

Residents have learned to adapt to eruptions, and most volcanoes are away from residential areas. In the case of the 2014 Holuhraun eruption, the surrounding area near Vatnajökull was evacuated of locals, and tourists and animals were moved from the area. The main threat was toxins in the air, and those close to the region were asked to stay indoors and turn up their heating if they were sensitive to air quality.

Air

When there isn’t an eruption, Iceland’s air is some of the cleanest and purest you will experience, as pollution is low and the Gulf Stream produces a strong, steady wind that blows toxins away. The main source of pollution on the island is from industry, mainly aluminum smelters.

Water

Like the air, Iceland’s water is perfectly pure. There’s clean, tasty drinking water on tap and geothermally heated water that powers swimming pools and hot water in homes. Snow can fall in any month of the year, but large snowfalls are uncommon in the Reykjavík area, at least during the last couple of decades. Ice covers about 11 percent of the country, mostly in the form of Iceland’s largest glaciers: Vatnajökull, Hofsjökull, Langjökull, and Mýrdalsjökull. Melting ice from the glaciers and melting snow form the rivers.

Iceland’s water also serves as some of its tourist attractions. The manmade Blue Lagoon near Grindavík allows visitors to bathe in geothermally heated water, which soothes and heals the skin. Locals and tourists enjoy hot springs throughout the country, and spectacular waterfalls with roaring water tumble over basalt rock and earth. The largest and most visited waterfalls in Iceland are Gullfoss, Dettifoss, Goðafoss, and Skógafoss.

The northern lights above a lighthouse on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Photo © Sigurbjorn Ragnars/Dreamstime.

The northern lights above a lighthouse on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Photo © Sigurbjorn Ragnars/Dreamstime.

Northern Lights

The biggest winter attraction in Iceland is the aurora borealis (northern lights). People travel from around the world to catch a glimpse of the green, white, blue, and red lights dancing in the night sky. There’s something very special about bundling up in your warmest winter gear, trekking outside main towns to avoid bright lights, and hunting for the aurora borealis. The phenomenon is caused by solar winds, which push electronic particles to collide with molecules of atmospheric gases, causing an emission of bright light. The best time to see northern lights is from October to March, and there are forecasts predicting visibility on the national weather website. When the forecast is strong, it’s best to drive (or take a tour bus) to a dark area and look up. Northern lights tours are offered by Reykjavik Excursions.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.

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Things to Do on Nicaragua’s Northwest Coast https://moon.com/2016/04/nicaraguas-northwest-coast-and-cosiguina-peninsula/ https://moon.com/2016/04/nicaraguas-northwest-coast-and-cosiguina-peninsula/#respond Thu, 14 Apr 2016 17:15:46 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=37098 Although a trip to the scenic crater that makes up the highest point of Reserva Natural Volcán Cosigüina is the center point of a trip to this area, you can also relax in the Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve, take a horseback ride, explore, fish, or lounge on the beach.

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Although a trip to the scenic crater that makes up the highest point of Reserva Natural Volcán Cosigüina is the center point of a trip to this area, you can also take a horseback ride, explore, fish, or lounge on the beach.

Horseback riding on the beach in Nicaragua. Photo © Boy Driessen/123rf.

Horseback riding on the beach in Nicaragua. Photo © Boy Driessen/123rf.

The estuary is a decidedly mellower place to swim than the ocean and is home to all the wildlife (especially birds) you could hope to see.Access to this northern region is from the Nic-12 highway, most of which was paved with financial support from the U.S. government in 2009. There’s no real coastal road to area beaches, only side spurs from Nic-12. Some of the side roads are in better condition than others. Four-wheel drive is still necessary to explore this area. Buses to Cosigüina’s scattered northern villages and beaches leave from Chinandega’s Mercadito and make stops in El Viejo before continuing northwest. Many of these destinations only have bus service once a day, which means you’ll be making an overnight trip if you don’t have your own wheels. Most visitors rent a vehicle or arrange a transfer with their hotel.

Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve

Relax in the gentle waters of this protected estuary, laze in a hammock under the shade of a nearby palapa, or be lulled to sleep on a deserted starlit beach. Padre Ramos Wetlands Reserve is a little-visited part of Nicaragua that will reward you with an expanse of serene coastline and an overflowing supply of hospitality, wilderness, community, and culture.

The estuary is a decidedly mellower place to swim than the ocean and is home to all the wildlife (especially birds) you could hope to see. Check out the visitor’s center when you arrive to ask about fishing and boat trips into the wetlands.

One of the best ways to explore Estero Padre Ramos is by sea kayak, paddling amongst the birds, sea turtles, and mangroves that inhabit this rich environment. Ibis Exchange (tel. 505/8961-8548, U.S. tel. 415/663-8192, $35-120 pp) has new, safe boats, professional guides, unique expeditions, plus delicious meals, kayak gear, and camping equipment for day tours and overnight adventures. All ages and skill levels are welcome. Ibis Exchange offers eight-day package tours that include León, Estero Padre Ramos, and Juan Venado Nature Reserve. Contact Ibis’s local contact (tel. 505/8460-4854).

Volcán Cosigüina Natural Reserve

From the volcano’s rim you have amazing views of the crater lake below and a panorama of the Gulf of Fonseca and Padre Ramos estuary. Much of this hike is shaded by forests on the reserve and along the way you may catch a glimpse of local fauna and hear the call of endangered birds that conservationists are working to protect. The trail from Potosí takes three hours uphill and two more hours downhill. You can also take boat tours into the Gulf of Fonseca to see the islotes, which are stunning rock formations created from a volcanic eruption. If you want to soak your muscles after your climb, take a dip in the hot springs. To get here, take a bus to Potosí from Chinandega ($2).


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.

The post Things to Do on Nicaragua’s Northwest Coast appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

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Hiking Nicaragua’s Maribio Volcanoes https://moon.com/2016/04/hiking-nicaraguas-maribio-volcanoes/ https://moon.com/2016/04/hiking-nicaraguas-maribio-volcanoes/#respond Mon, 04 Apr 2016 21:01:18 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=37096 Each volcano along the Maribio chain is unique and offers a different sort of adventure from the quintessential cone-shaped volcano, Momotombo, to the most frequently active volcano in the chain, Cerro Negro. Start early for each of these and bring a minimum of three liters of water per person. None of these hikes should be attempted without a guide, but luckily you won’t have any trouble finding a local one. Community tourism projects are growing at the base of many of these volcanoes.

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Each volcano along this chain is unique and offers a different sort of adventure. Start early and bring a minimum of three liters of water per person. None of these hikes should be attempted without a guide because unaccompanied tourists have gotten lost and injured. Luckily you won’t have any trouble finding a local guide since community tourism projects are growing at the base of many of these volcanoes.

Momotombo

1,300 meters, 8 hours round-trip

The quintessential cone-shaped volcano, Momotombo rises up from the shores of Lago Xolotlán in a particularly menacing posture, and history has proven that the menace is real. Momotombo is climbable, but it’s not easy, especially when you hit the loose volcanic gravel that comprises the upper half of the cone. Your triumphant reward will be one of the best views possible of Lago Xolotlán without use of an airplane. From the Ruinas de León Viejo, head out of town to the main highway and turn right (north) along the highway. Follow that to the geothermal plant, where you’ll have to convince the guard to let you through to hike. They’re sensitive about people traipsing across their installation, so honor whatever promises you make.

Telica

1,061 meters, 5-7 hours round-trip

Volcán Telica. Photo © lanabyko/123rf.

Atop Volcán Telica. Photo © lanabyko/123rf.

Despite its tendency to spew ash over its namesake town, Volcán Telica makes for a good climb. Take a bus from León to Telica, then follow the road to the community of La Quimera and keep going until the road disappears beneath your feet and becomes the volcano. Alternatively, access the volcano from Santa Clara, the town adjacent to the Hervideros de San Jacinto.

Cerro Negro

675 meters, 2 hours round-trip

This is the most frequently active volcano in the chain (its last eruption was August 1999). The lowest and youngest of the Maribios, Cerro Negro rises like a black-sand pimple from the landscape, completely free of vegetation and scorching hot when there is no cloud cover. A road leads from León to the base; from there, follow the makeshift “trail,” part of which will have you scrambling over awkward rocks and fighting surprisingly strong wind. The trail loops around the steaming crater, which the brave may enter at their own risk. If the gaseous wind blows across your path, move fast to get out of it. You can also descend into the second crater accessible from the summit, again at your own risk. Getting out of this one is much harder and much hotter, so make sure you are in good shape. Going down is easy: run, skip, and hop down the backside or zoom down on a board. There are a number of approaches; the most common heads due east from León, near the town of Lechecuago. Leave early in the morning to beat the heat and avoid the afternoon thunderstorms. The metals in Cerro Negro attract lightning better than the taller volcanoes nearby, so don’t test it.

A group of volcano boarders climbing up Cerro Negro. Photo © Ryan Faas/123rf.

A group of volcano boarders climbing up Cerro Negro. Photo © Ryan Faas/123rf.

San Cristóbal

1,745 meters, 8 hours round-trip

This is the granddaddy of volcano hikes in the Pacific region. It’s long but the grade is moderate and even easy compared to some of the other volcano hikes. You’ll need a guide to help you wend your way through the myriad fields, farms, and fences that obstruct the path upward (and which change every planting season).

Cosigüina

860 meters, 6 hours round-trip to edge of crater, 11 hours round-trip to crater lake

Literally, it’s a walk in the woods and then you’re at the vegetation-carpeted crater lip with crazy views. Start walking from Potosí, or rent horses. Head back along the road toward the community of La Chacara, where the slope of Cosigüina is most amenable for climbing. From the edge of the crater, you can see across the Gulf of Fonseca into El Salvador. For those up to the extra challenge, there are some tours that can take you down into the crater lake, such as Padre Ramos Tours. To do so you will need to use ropes. Since the hike is longer, it can be broken into a two-day camping trip. Be careful: Hikers have died on this volcano.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.

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Hiking Parque Nacional Los Volcanes, El Salvador https://moon.com/2016/03/hiking-parque-nacional-los-volcanes-el-salvador/ https://moon.com/2016/03/hiking-parque-nacional-los-volcanes-el-salvador/#respond Wed, 30 Mar 2016 17:01:23 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=38431 Parque Nacional Los Volcanes commonly known as Parque Cerro Verde, includes three prominent volcanoes that create the El Salvador's most poetic portrait. They are of distinct ages rarely seen so close together. Volcán Izalco is the youngest volcano in Central America; Cerro Verde is considered middle aged, formed around 25,000 years ago; and Santa Ana is one of the region’s oldest volcanoes.

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Parque Nacional Los Volcanes (tel. 7227-5466 or 2222-8000, 9am-5pm Tues.-Sun., $3), commonly known as Parque Cerro Verde, includes three prominent volcanoes that create the country’s most poetic portrait. They are of distinct ages rarely seen so close together. Volcán Izalco is the youngest volcano in Central America; Cerro Verde is considered middle aged, formed around 25,000 years ago; and Santa Ana is one of the region’s oldest volcanoes.

Volcán Izalco as seen from Cerro Verde National Park in El Salvador. Photo © lanabyko/123rf.

Volcán Izalco as seen from Cerro Verde National Park in El Salvador. Photo © lanabyko/123rf.

Cerro Verde

Cerro Verde (2,030 meters) is the lowest of the three volcanoes and offers easy trails that can be explored in less than an hour. The humid air, abundant greenery, and multicolored birds make this a lovely walk for those looking to explore the park without too much physical exertion. A 45-minute walk around the old crater can be done with park guides and is free, but a voluntary tip of $1-5 per group is a nice gesture and enough to get an appreciative smile and thank-you from any of the young men and women that are park guides.

Volcán Izalco

Volcán Izalco (1,910 meters), the youngest of the three volcanoes and the most striking in appearance, is also the most difficult to climb because of the steep ascent. Once named the “lighthouse of the Pacific” because of its constant eruptions, today the dark, perfect cone of Izalco is inactive, last erupting in 1966. It is possible to climb the steep, gravel-laden volcano, but it is necessary to take a guide. Guides leave the parking lot of the park at 11am daily. The hike takes about four hours and costs $1.

Volcán Santa Ana

Volcán Santa Ana (2,365 meters) is the most popular hike in the park for good reason. The view from the top of El Salvador’s largest volcano looks down on its striking green crater lake on one side and gorgeous Lago Coatepeque on the other. Unlike its younger neighbor Izalco, Santa Ana has been around long enough to have vegetation. As a result, the climb up leads through coffee plantations and cool forested areas where you will see a variety of birds and flora and fauna, including lots of agave plants and various species of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, jays, and emerald toucanets.

Crater lake inside Volcán Santa Ana. Photo © Hugo Brizard/123rf.

Crater lake inside Volcán Santa Ana. Photo © Hugo Brizard/123rf.

Although Santa Ana is taller than Izalco, the hike up is easier because it is not as steep. The hike takes around four hours and costs $5-8 pp, depending on how many people are in the group (3 people minimum). Guides for this hike leave the parking lot at 11am daily.

Getting There

To get to Parque Nacional Los Volcanes (Parque Cerro Verde) from Santa Ana, take bus 248 from La Vencedora bus terminal (1 block west of Parque Colón, tel. 2440-8453). The bus takes 1.75 hours and costs $0.85. If you want to climb either Volcán Santa Ana or Volcán Izalco, you must catch the 7am bus so that you arrive in time for the 11am start time for the hikes. From San Salvador, take bus 205 from Terminal de Occidente, leaving no later than 6:30am; tell the driver you would like to get off at El Congo Bridge, where you will need to catch bus 248, which should pass by around 8:30am. The last bus leaves the park at 4pm. It is possible to get back to San Salvador from Santa Ana the same day, though by the time you get back, it will be dark.

If you are driving, the park is 67 kilometers from San Salvador via Sonsonate.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon El Salvador.

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Hiking Tenorio Volcano National Park https://moon.com/2016/03/hiking-tenorio-volcano-national-park/ https://moon.com/2016/03/hiking-tenorio-volcano-national-park/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 17:04:44 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=33427 Volcán Tenorio, rising southeast of Upala, is blanketed in montane rainforest and protected within Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. Local hiking is superb, albeit often hard going on higher slopes. Cougars and jaguars tread the forests, where birds and beasts abound.

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Upala, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of San Rafael de Guatuso, is an agricultural town only 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the Nicaraguan border. Dirt roads lead north to Lago de Nicaragua. From Upala, a paved road leads south via the saddle between the Tenorio and Miravalles volcanoes before descending to the Pan-American Highway in Guanacaste. The only town is Bijagua, a center for cheese-making (and, increasingly, for ecotourism) 38 kilometers (24 miles) north of Cañas, on the northwest flank of Volcán Tenorio.

Local hiking is superb, albeit often hard going on higher slopes.Several private reserves abut Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio and grant access via trails. For example, about 200 meters (660 feet) north of the park access road, a dirt road leads to the American-owned La Carolina Lodge (tel. 506/2466-6393), a ranch and stables with trails for horseback rides into the park. Another dirt road leads east from the Banco Nacional in Bijagua two kilometers (1.2 miles) to Albergue Heliconias Lodge & Rainforest (tel. 506/2466-8483), run by a local cooperative. The lodge sits at 700 meters (2,300 feet) elevation, abutting the park. Three trails lead into prime rainforest and cloud forest.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Volcán Tenorio (1,916 meters/6,286 feet), rising southeast of Upala, is blanketed in montane rainforest and protected within 18,402-hectare (45,472-acre) Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio ($10, via the private reserves $1). Local hiking is superb, albeit often hard going on higher slopes. Cougars and jaguars tread the forests, where birds and beasts abound.

Rio Celeste Valley in Volcan Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica. Photo © Joerg Hackemann/123rf.

Rio Celeste Valley in Volcán Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica. Photo © Joerg Hackemann/123rf.

A rugged dirt road (4WD vehicle required) that begins five kilometers (3 miles) north of Bijagua, on the west side of Tenorio, leads 11 kilometers (7 miles) to the main park entrance at the Puesto El Pilón ranger station (tel. 506/2200-0135).

Three trails are open to the public. The main trail—Sendero Misterio del Tenorio—leads 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) to the Río Celeste and Los Chorros hot springs; this is the only place where swimming is permitted. Set amid huge boulders, the springs change gradually, from near boiling close to the trail to pleasantly cool near the river. The second trail leads to the Catarata del Río Celeste (Río Celeste Waterfall) and the Pozo Azul, a teal-blue lagoon. A third trail, accessible with a guide only, leads to three waterfalls. You cannot hike to the summit (where tapirs drink at Lago Las Dantas, Tapir Lake, which fills the volcanic crater); access is permitted solely to biologists.

Guided hikes are offered by the local guides association: try Jonathon Ramírez (tel. 506/2402-1330, from $20). The ranger station has a small butterfly and insect exhibit, plus horseback riding. No camping is permitted within the park.

Where to Stay and Eat

There are several backpacker and simple budget accommodations in Upala and Bijagua.

Set high on the mountainside, Albergue Heliconias (tel. 506/2466-8483, rooms $70 s, $85 d, cottages $85 s, $95 d, including breakfast) is the simplest of the eco-lodges; it’s signed in town. It has six no-frills rustic cabins (two have a double bed and a bunk; four have two bunks) with small baths and hot showers, and there are four more upscale octagonal cottages. Dining is family style.

Feeling very much like the horse ranch that it is, La Carolina Lodge (tel. 506/2466-6393, low season $90-105 s, $130-170 d, high season $100-115 s, $150-190 d, including 3 meals and a guided tour) occupies a charming farmstead on the north flank of Tenorio. It has four double rooms with solar-powered electricity and shared baths with hot water. There are also four private cabins with private baths. A wooden deck hangs over a natural river-fed pool, and a porch has rockers and hammocks. Rates include guided hikes and horseback riding.

La Carolina Lodge.

La Carolina Lodge. Photo © Alan Turkus, licensed Creative Commons usage.

The elegant hillside Tenorio Lodge (tel. 506/2466-8282, $115 s, $123 d), one kilometer south of Bijagua, offers great valley views from amid heliconia gardens. Its eight peak-roofed stylishly contemporary wooden bungalows have walls of glass, sponge-washed walls, glazed concrete floors, plus king beds, ceiling fans, and chic solar-powered designer baths. The glass-walled volcano-view restaurant (open to nonguests 7am-9pm daily for continental fare) is a class act and features live marimba music. At night, you can soak in either of two cedar hot tubs.

Avant-garde defines the French-run eco-conscious Celeste Mountain Lodge (tel. 506/2278-6628, $133 s, $168 d, including all meals and tax), enjoying a pristine and sensational location three kilometers (2 miles) northeast of Bijagua. Innovative and stylishly contemporary with its open-plan design, stone tile floor, gun-metal framework, glistening hardwood ceiling, and halogen lighting, this dramatic two-tier lodge boasts vast angled walls of glass plus glassless walls with panoramic volcano views from the restaurant and public areas. The 18 rooms, though small, are comfy, with king beds, lively fabrics, and stylish baths. Dining is gourmet (dishes here are “Tico fusion”) and family-style. There’s a wood-heated hot tub. Trails even accommodate disabled visitors, thanks to an innovative human-powered one-wheel rickshaw; packed lunches are prepared. I love this place, where everything is made of recycled materials, right down to biodegradable soaps.

A stunner by any standard, the nonsmoking Río Celeste Hideaway (tel. 506/2206-4000, $190-259 s/d, includes breakfast), eight miles east of the entrance to Tenorio Volcano National Park, features gorgeous tropical architecture with dark hardwoods and rich Asian-inspired fabrics. Set in lush gardens, its 26 bungalows offer a king or two queen beds, luxurious linens, flat-screen TVs, iPod stations, CD/DVD players, private patios, and open-air showers. A free-form pool has a bar, and the Kantala Restaurant and blue-backlit Delirio bar are a dramatic space for enjoying cocktails and gourmet dishes.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.

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Nicaragua’s Best Volcano Hikes https://moon.com/2016/02/nicaraguas-best-volcano-hikes/ https://moon.com/2016/02/nicaraguas-best-volcano-hikes/#respond Tue, 16 Feb 2016 16:06:57 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=36338 No trip to Nicaragua is complete without visiting at least one volcano. Dormant and active peaks are scattered up and down the Pacific half of the country. With a couple exceptions, most of these hikes are long and challenging, requiring an experienced guide. Here are the best volcano hikes from north to south.

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No trip to Nicaragua is complete without visiting at least one volcano. Dormant and active peaks are scattered up and down the Pacific half of the country. The Léon region is the easiest base for volcano enthusiasts who want to hike. With a couple exceptions, most of these hikes are long and challenging, requiring an experienced guide. Using local guides is a great way to contribute to the local economy.

Volcán Concepción. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

Volcán Concepción. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

Here are the best volcano hikes from north to south:

  • Cosigüina: The southern shore of the Fonseca Gulf, Cosigüina’s vegetation-carpeted crater lip boasts crazy views. Rest at the edge of the crater, or continue on, descending to the crater lake within.
  • San Cristóbal: As the highest peak in the country (1,745 m), this is the granddaddy of volcano hikes. It’s long but the grade is moderate.
  • Telica: Rising out of a beautiful valley, this volcano makes for a moderate hike with impressive views. If you’re lucky, or the light is low, you may get a glimpse of lava simmering within the smoking crater.
  • Cerro Negro: The climb up is short, but the hot, rugged descent is even shorter careening down black sands on a modified snowboard.
  • Momotombo: This peak rises up from the shores of Lago Xolotlán. It’s climbable, but not easy, especially when you hit the loose volcanic gravel that comprises the upper half of the cone.
  • Masaya: This is one of the most visibly active volcanoes in the country. From one of its craters, you may glimpse incandescent rock and magma. The park contains several short hiking trails through lava formations and scrubby vegetation.
  • Mombacho: Every bit of cool, misty, cloud forest higher than 850 meters above sea level is officially protected as a nature reserve comprising a rich, concentrated island of flora and fauna. The longest trail (3 hours) is a loop with several difficult climbs that lead to a breathtaking viewpoint.
  • Concepción: Large parts of the hike are treeless, rocky scrambles. As you reach the volcanic cone, the wind buffets you until you reach the crater lip, where the volcano’s hot, sulphurous gas pours out—a stark contrast to its dormant neighbor on Ometepe.
  • Maderas: Ometepe’s more accessible option is still no easy feat. You’ll be rewarded at the top with a forested lagoon within the crater.
Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Maps - Nicaragua 6e - Nicaragua regional

Nicaragua


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.

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Adrenaline Rush in Nicaragua https://moon.com/2016/02/adrenaline-rush-in-nicaragua/ https://moon.com/2016/02/adrenaline-rush-in-nicaragua/#respond Sun, 07 Feb 2016 19:00:41 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=36359 Athletes and extreme sports fanatics can easily meet their needs in Nicaragua. From uphill biking and scuba diving to white-water rafting and volcano boarding and everything between, here's where to go to get your adrenaline rush.

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Athletes and extreme sports fanatics can easily meet their needs in Nicaragua.

Biking

Rent a bike in Granada or Masaya and take a back road to the Laguna de Apoyo (1.5-2 hours). The dirt roads are steady uphill treks that become steep towards the top of the dormant volcano. Once you’re over the rounded crater lip, coast all the way down to the lake where you can jump in and cool off.

Kayaking

Kayaking through the sometimes smooth, sometimes choppy water to Las Isletas, off the coast of Granada, can be as languid or as vigorous as you like. Rent directly from the boat owners at the Marina Cocibolca, or set up a kayak tour. The enormous Laguna de Apoyo, just outside Masaya, is another excellent spot for kayaking. Kayaks are included for guest use in most hotels and hostels.

Kayaks at Laguna de Apoyo. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Kayaks at Laguna de Apoyo. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, and Paddle Boarding

Scuba dive and snorkel on the Corn Islands, and don’t miss Blowing Rock, a reef formation home to a stunning variety of underwater life. Try a guided paddleboarding trip to Blowing Rock for snorkeling.

Rock Climbing

Spend a day rock climbing, rappelling, swimming, and hiking in the Somoto Canyon. The climbing route established by Namancambre Tours is accessible for all skill levels.

Volcano Boarding

Near the northern city of León, get your afternoon adrenaline rush volcano boarding over the black ash of Cerro Negro.

A group of volcano boarders climbing up Cerro Negro. Photo © Ryan Faas/123rf.

A group of volcano boarders climbing up Cerro Negro. Photo © Ryan Faas/123rf.

White-Water Rafting

Enjoy northern Nicaragua’s natural beauty between paddling through class III rapids on the Río Tuma with Matagalpa Tours.

Zip Lining

Take in jaw-dropping views of the Pacific coast and La Isla de Ometepe while zip lining through the trees outside of San Juan del Sur. On Ometepe, try a canopy tour through the trees between the island’s two volcanoes at Reserva Charco Verde. In Managua, zip line over open water at Laguna de Tiscapa.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.

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Nicaragua’s Volcanic Landscape https://moon.com/2016/02/nicaraguas-volcanic-landscape/ https://moon.com/2016/02/nicaraguas-volcanic-landscape/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:42:02 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=36362 Nicaragua’s nickname, “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” evokes its primary geographical features: two great lakes and a chain of impressive and active volcanoes; these water and volcanic resources have had an enormous effect on its human history. The country has about 40 volcanoes, a half dozen of which are usually active at any time. Running parallel to the Pacific shore, Nicaragua’s volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire that encompasses most of the western coast of the Americas, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia.

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The largest and lowest Central American country, Nicaragua is a nation of geographical superlatives. Located at the elbow where the Central American isthmus bends and then plummets southward to Panamá, Nicaragua is almost dead center between North and South America and is approximately the size of Greece or New York State.

Geography

Running parallel to the Pacific shore, Nicaragua’s volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire that encompasses most of the western coast of the Americas, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia.Nicaragua’s nickname, “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” evokes its primary geographical features: two great lakes and a chain of impressive and active volcanoes. Nicaragua’s water and volcanic resources have had an enormous effect on its human history, from the day the first Nahuatl people settled on the forested shores of Lake Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua) to the first Spanish settlements along the lakes to the plans to build a trans-isthmus canal.

Convergence of the plates ensures crustal instability, which manifests itself in frequent volcanic and earthquake activity in all of Central America, and especially in Nicaragua. Usually, earthquakes are so small they go unnoticed. In April 2014, consistent earthquakes over the course of a week led to serious damage in many homes in Nagarote, as well as permanent damage to several structures in Managua, including the large amphitheater in La Plaza de la Fe that once dominated Managua’s waterfront.

View from a stone path at the edge of the volcano's steaming crater.

At the edge of Volcán Masaya’s crater. Photo © Andrea Santini/123rf.

Volcanoes

Nicaragua has about 40 volcanoes, a half dozen of which are usually active at any time. Running parallel to the Pacific shore, Nicaragua’s volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire that encompasses most of the western coast of the Americas, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia. The Maribio (Nahuatl for the “giant men”) and Dirian volcano ranges stretch nearly 300 kilometers from Concepción and Maderas in the middle of Lake Cocibolca to Cosigüina, which juts into the Gulf of Fonseca.

The first volcanic event in recorded history was a major eruption of Volcán Masaya in the early 1500s. The lava formed the present-day lagoon at the base of the mountain. Another great lava flow occurred in 1772, leaving a black, barren path still visible today where the Carretera Masaya highway crosses it. In 1609, Spanish settlers abandoned the city of León when Momotombo erupted. In January 1835, Volcán Cosigüina violently blew its top, hurling ash as far away as Jamaica and Mexico, covering the area for 250 kilometers around the volcano in ash and burning pumice and forcing the entire peninsula into three days of darkness. All this volcanic activity is responsible for the exceptional fertility of Nicaragua’s soils, most notably the agricultural plains around Chinandega and León.

Volcán Masaya is the most easily accessed of Nicaragua’s volcanoes and boasts a paved road leading right to the lip of the crater. Volcán Masaya is actually formed of three craters, the largest of which, Santiago, is the only crater in the Americas that contains a visible pool of incandescent liquid lava in its center. The visibility of this lava fluctuates on a 30-year cycle.

Climbing a few Nicaraguan giants is a great way to experience Central America. San Cristóbal is the highest peak, at 1,745 meters. A smaller peak adjacent to San Cristóbal, Volcán Casita still bears the immense scar of the landslide that buried thousands in an avalanche of rock and mud during Hurricane Mitch and trembled briefly again in January 2002. Isla de Ometepe’s twin cones are popular for hiking and easily accessible. No matter where you hike, always hire a guide, as several foreigners have gotten lost and perished while peak bagging.

Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Momotombo, San Cristóbal, and Telica are the most active peaks and are prone to emit plumes of poisonous gases, smoke, and occasionally lava. La Isla de Ometepe’s Volcán Concepción (1,610 meters) last blew its top in 2009 and 2012. The other half of Ometepe (Nahuatl for “two peaks”) is Volcán Maderas (1,394 meters), which sleeps, its crater drowned in a deep lagoon that feeds a thriving jungle.

Volcán Telica, just north of León, erupts approximately every five years, while gas vents at its base churn out boiling mud and sulfur. Neighboring Cerro Negro is one of the youngest volcanoes on the planet: It protruded through a farmer’s field in the middle of the 1800s and has since grown in size, steadily and violently, to a height of 400 meters. Cerro Negro’s last three eruptions have been increasingly powerful, culminating in 1992 when it belched up a cloud of burning gases and ash seven kilometers high, burying León under 15 centimeters of ash and dust. Eight thousand inhabitants were evacuated as the weight of the ash caused several homes to collapse. Volcán Momotombo’s (Nahuatl for “great burning peak”) perfect conical peak is visible from great distances across the Pacific plains, as far away as Matagalpa. Momotombo is responsible for approximately 10 percent of Nicaragua’s electricity via a geothermal plant located at its base. It hasn’t erupted since 1905, but Momotombo remains a monster whose menace is taken quite seriously. In April 2000 it rumbled long enough to get Managua’s attention, then quieted back down.

A popular day trip from Granada is the cloud forest park and coffee plantations of Volcán Mombacho (1,345 meters), a dormant volcano whose explosion and self-destruction formed the archipelago of isletas in Lake Cocibolca. Mombacho took its modern shape in 1570 when a major avalanche on the south slope opened and exposed the crater, burying an indigenous village of 400 inhabitants in the process.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.

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