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- 24 Sep 2021, 3 nights
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Crossing Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island feels like a passage into another world. This secluded island is made up of two volcanoes: the active Concepción and the extinct Maderas. It's covered in lush forest, with dirt roads connecting its many areas of natural beauty. Listen for the howler monkeys and look out for capuchins in this biodiverse paradise, full of swimming lagoons, breathtaking hikes and ancient rock art from the Chorotega, Nahuatl and Mayan people.
Ometepe hostels include a beachside location with daily yoga and homemade chocolate, a place with a swimming pool and hammocks and even one with its own permaculture farm. Meet hiking buddies at an Ometepe hostel with an on-site bar or outdoor terrace, or bond over a game at a social Ometepe Island hostel. If you've been on the road a while, a hostel with laundry facilities is a handy way to refresh your gear. Choose a stay with free breakfast to make your Nicaraguan córdoba go further.
Moyogalpa is where the ferry docks and it's a good base for exploring Ometepe Island. Here, you're within easy walking distance of the shops and restaurants and it's one of the closest towns to the Concepción summit. The town of Santa Domingo is ideal if you're keen to be near the beach. Closer to Maderas, Balgüe town is a perfect balance of remote and visitor-friendly, with convenient amenities among waterfalls and lush views. It's also fairly central, making it a handy place to start most adventures.
Ometepe Island's twin volcanoes dominate the landscape. Concepción (1610m) is a steep climb to reach breathtaking views, which are worth the difficult ascent. Maderas (1394m) is an easier hike thanks to the cloud forest that's emerged since it last erupted 2,000 years ago. At the summit, you can swim in its crater lake. The island is famous for the petroglyphs (stone carvings) left by its early pre-Columbian inhabitants, which you can explore at two of the major archaeological sites, Tagüizapa and San Silvestre. You can take to the water by kayaking Rio Istián, or dipping into the crystal-clear natural springs at Ojo de Agua.
To get to Ometepe Island, head to Rivas (Costa Esmeralda Airport is nearest, about a 45-minute drive away). You can take a minibus direct to the Port of San Jorge, then catch the ferry to Moyogalpa for 60–90 minutes. On the island, renting a motorbike is your best bet for the dirt roads. It may seem small, but it's too big to navigate entirely on foot.