Masaya is an active volcano with constant flumes of sulfuric smoke spewing from the vents in its main crater. Lava flows have not occurred in over 200 years, although explosions are fairly frequent (the most recent, in 2001, hurled 60-cm (2-foot) rocks as far as the visitor center, injuring one tourist and damaging several vehicles). Masaya is the largest of the two volcanoes that lie within the park. The smaller volcano is Volcan Nindiri.
Indigenous people worshipped, feared, and respected the volcano before the arrival of Spanish conquerors. The Spanish considered the place evil, and called it "La Boca del Infierno". In 1979, Masaya became Nicaragua's first National Park.
Black chunks of volcanic rock strew the mountain, which is carpeted in soft green grasses.
Flora and fauna
Two of the most interesting life forms that can be seen at Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya are:
- Bats - early evening guided hikes are available which will take you to the caves where millions of bats live, emerging in clouds of fluttering black wings just after sunset each day. The park charges a small additional fee for the bat tour.
- Chocoyos - a colony of these small, green parrots actually lives inside the main caldera of the Masaya volcano! While most life forms avoid the gaseous fumes and inhospitable terrain of the crater, thousands of these parrots thrive there. The best time to see the parrots is late afternoon, when the parrots return to their nests.
Although Nicaragua is generally hot and humid, a steady breeze blows across the mountain and it can get chilly at the top, especially in the evening. Be sure to bring a hat and/or sunblock because there is no shade or shelter near the top of the mountain.
The park entrance is at the KM23 marker on the Carretera a Masaya. It's about 15 minutes by car from Managua and frequent buses between Managua and Granada pass the entrance, however, getting up the mountain from there could be problematic for the non-hiker without a car. The road is paved all the way to the rim of the crater.
Fees and permits
The park entrance fee is C$70 for foreign visitors and C$20 for Nicaraguan citizens (cedula required for discount). Guided evening tours to the underground lava caves or bat caves are an additional C$60.
- The volcanoes: Masaya and Nindiri.
- The visitor center: exhibits describe the history, culture, and geology surrounding the volcanoes.
- Cruz de Bobadilla is an observation platform that gives excellent views into the caldera.
- Caves carved by lava flows can be explored with park guides. You can find bats in the caves.
- Visit the Masaya crater after dusk. Opens at 6 pm. Great light show by the lava.
- picnic (tables and a playground are next to the visitors center)
T-shirts and hats are sold in the visitors center. Anything else you need is best purchased in the nearby town of Masaya.
There are no food services on the mountain. A bar and restaurant is directly across the highway from the park's main gate, and a full range of food and drink is available in the town of Masaya.
Visit the town of Masaya, or go onwards to Managua or Granada.
There are some posadas in Masaya. You can also find lakeside villas at Laguna de Apoyo. Major hotels are near Managua. A variety of bed and breakfast inns is available in Granada.
Climbing near the craters is dangerous. Most public observation points have walls and signs to warn visitors.