Altagracia is a small town situated northeast of Volcán Concepción. Before the arrival of the Spaniards the name of the town was Astagalpa, which means House of the Herones in náhuatl.
In Altagracia there is a large Parque Central. This is where the buses stop. Around the park there are several food stalls and you will also find the church and the museum near by. If you want to stay in Altagracia there are a few hotels.
Just north of Altagracia there is a ferry terminal with ferries to Granada and San Carlos (twice a week to both destinations).
During November 12 - 18 the Fiesta de San Diego is celebrated in Altagracia.
Altagracia church is situated next to Parque Central. It is a yellow building dating from 1924 and it is connected to an older church building. In the older church there was a photo exhibition when I visited. It was a lovely photo exhibition with photos from Nicaragua, by Nicaraguan photographers. To visit the exhibition a donation of 20 cordobas should be paid (July 2009). Outside the church there is a Sculpture Park with pre-Colombian basalt rock figures, like eagles and jaguars.
The Museo de Ometepe was founded in 1994. This small museum will give you good information of the history, geography and traditions of the island. In a small courtyard there are some petroglyphs and stone statues. In the exhibition you will also see pottery, traditional dresses and a model of the island and its volcanoes.
The admission was 30 cordobas (July 20099.
The museum is open between 8am - 4pm, Mondays - Saturdays.
The ferry from San Jorge arrives in Moyogalpa, a small town with a population of 6700 inhabitants. As I arrived I arranged for a hike to Volcán Concepción, and then bought snacks, sweets and water at one of the small supermarkets up the road. Then I bought an ice cream at Eskimo, situated by the yellow church at the end of the road, before going to the bus stop.
If you want to travel on from Moyogalpa you can catch a bus down by the ferry terminal or from the road opposite the church.
In Moyogalpa you can find several hotels, restaurants and Internet cafes. There is also a small archaeological museum, which I didn’t visit.
A short walk from Playa Venecia is the Reserva Charco Verde. I took a hiking trail beginning at Hotel Charco Verde and this late afternoon I didn’t see any other persons along the path. I saw a lot of birds though and the landscape was lush and green so it was a very nice walk.
The trail passes the Laguna Charco Verde, a green pond said to be home of the ancient witch Chico Largo. According to the legend he is there to protect the tomb and gold throne of Cacique Nicarao, who is buried here. In change of your soul Chico Largo can also give you a life of luxury. But remember your soul will become a cow!
The second volcano on Isla de Ometepe is Volcán Maderas. It is inactive and 1394 metres high. If you take the Maderas hike you will ascent through tropical forest up to the rim of the crater (there is no view from here), and then there is a steep descent to a crater lake. The volcano was mostly covered in thick clouds during my visit on the island.
I had planed to do the Maderas hike as well and asked for it at El Porvenir. A guided tour would be 20 dollars (July 2009) if I was alone and 10 dollars if another person also came. In the end I didn’t do the hike as I realised a Public Holiday was coming up and there could be problems with less transport the day I was supposed to go to Granada, so I left Ometepe a day earlier than planed.
Volcán Concepción is the highest of the two volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe. It has a perfect cone shape and is 1610 metres high. Concepción is an active volcano with smoke coming out of the crater. I visited during the rainy season so the volcano was mostly covered with clouds (very much the day I did the hike).
Right after arriving to Moyogalpa I arranged for the hike to Volcán Concepción with Ometepe Expeditions. The tour was 15 dollars (July 2009) to the middle (actually 1000metres) and 20 dollars if we went further (to the top I thought). The price only includes the guides, no transport and no snacks. When I booked the tour we were three people in the group and we were told to be in Moyogalpa at 7am (there was a bus passing Playa Venecia around 6am). But in the evening the man from the agency was at Playa Venecia and we were now eight people in the group, so it was arranged that a car from the hotel would take us in the morning, not only to Moyogalpa, but to the place were the trek began. And it was going to pick us up later in the afternoon to return us in the afternoon. It was going to be 5 dollars each. In the morning the group had increased and we were now ten tourists. No prices decreased though.
In the morning we stopped at a supermarket in Moyogalpa to buy water and snacks. The guide advised us to buy three big bottles each, that’s 4.5 litres. I had only intended to buy two but followed the guides advise. The backpack became very heavy of course and after the hike I had still one bottle left.
We had two guides and were divided in two smaller groups of five and then started the hike. The first part of the trek is only sloping gently but it soon becomes steep. We walked through a lush green tropical forest and saw both howler monkeys and white faced monos. At higher elevation the vegetation changed and soon after passing the tree line we stopped. We were at 1000 metres and from here you will have a spectacular view if it is clear, which is was not on the day I visited. We sat down to rest and ate our snacks. It was quite cold and windy and I changed my wet t-shirt to a dry one to keep warm.
It had been a quite hard ascent and we were only three from the group who wanted to go further up. It was now even steeper and it was rocks and loose volcanic rook (see photos in travelouge). We went to 1300 metres and were told we could not go further. It is too dangerous with strong wind and ravines. I guess that if you want to reach the top it should be done in the dry season.
When we walked through the forest on our way down we suddenly heard a roar, it was the rain arriving, one of the most heavy downpours I have seen. I was lucky I had my camera in two plastic bags. In the end of the hike we caught up with the rest of the group. Even if we were all soaking wet and it had been cloudy the hike was absolutely worth doing.
You can rent a mounting bike at many hotels on Isla de Ometepe. I rented a bike at Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir where I stayed and it was 3 dollars (July 2009) per hour (I think). I cycled to Mérida, had lunch and went back, so I was only away for three hours.
The road is a rough dirt road so it was very bumpy, but the surroundings were green and beautiful and it was peaceful. Along the road there is little traffic. I saw a few people with bikes and a couple of cars.
If you want to cycle around Maderas it is 35 km.
More than 1700 petroglyphs have been found on Isla de Ometepe, most of them on the Maderas side of the island. The petroglyphs on Isla de Ometepe have been carved in volcanic basalt 800 to 1200 years ago and the carvings are about a centimetre deep.
Around Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir, where I stayed, there is a marked trail where about 20 petroglyphs can be seen. Also in many other places there are petroglyphs scattered around in the landscape and to see some of them you can ask for a tour at your hotel.
This place is so beautiful...well, that is if you like remote islands, lots of water, beaches, extraordinary vistas, hiking, swimming in clear and cool transparant pools of water, relaxing, making love, star gazing, listening to the whispers of the ancient people, sun bathing, kayaking, horse back riding, mountain biking, walking through protected reserves filled with exotic life, etc... For the more adventurous you can even climb either of the volcanoes. Can't do it, by law, without a guide. A few people tried it a couple of years ago and fell to their death. So the islanders does not want a bad name for themselves and now require all climbers to use a local guide.
Ojo de Agua is a nice spot to hang out for a few hours in the middle of a typical jungle environment while enjoying the cooling and transparent pools of water. They sell a few things to drink, so bring some snacks.
Just about anywhere you hike or venture off to, you will find uniquely beautiful experiences. I have not climbed the volcanos and vow to do so on my next visit. But I can tell you from climbing other similiarly high volcanoes that you will need a few very important things if you expect to summit them: good boots, a small back pack for water/snacks/parka(minimum), more important then anything else...excellent physical condition. Forget it if you are thinking of Conception and are not in shape. Law requires a guide if you climb either of the volcanoes.
There are a lot of beaches in the island, the most popular is the Santo Domingo Beach with some hotels around. But everywhere is a good place to have a swim, just remember the fresh water Bull sharks.
The second highest volcano in the island, with 1394 mts. The area near the volcano is a rural zone with small agricultural villages. It´s a good place to enjoy the tropical cloud forest. There are several trails lead to the lagoon located atop; whitin the area there also some places to observe the pre-columbian petroglyphs.
This almost perfect cone-shaped volcano is the highest in the island, with a height of 1,610 mts, and is still active sending smoke from the crater and other fumaroles from the slopes. Its possible to climb the volcano, ascending and descending takes between seven to ten hour, you can join a group to ascend it or hire a private guide.
Is the only way to visit the island but the short cruise (1 hour) from San Jorge to Ometepe is great. Try to get the upper deck, taking the sun and enjoying beautiful views of the island volcanoes. During the trip i met a couple of Ometepe´s guys working in Managua wich told me about the hard life in the island. Most of the young people migrate to cities like Managua or Granada to study or find a work there.
The ferry was full of backpackers and local people carriying big boxes and luggage, so was very hard to get a seat (i couldn´t) but i enjoyed very much the trip.