Go Extreme: Climb Nicaragua’s Tallest Active Volcano
PHOTO: San Cristobal Volcano is Nicaragua's tallest. (Courtesy Wikimedia)
Fans of extreme travel have a new adventure hub. At the base of San Cristobal Volcano, Nicaragua’s tallest, there is a brand-new space for visitors, the Center for Extreme Tourism, that includes an inn, a dining hall, a visitors center, a tourist service facility and trails for climbing the 5,725-foot volcano.
The center topped Lonely Planet’s list of “Hottest New Travel Experiences” and opened in October of last year. The project was funded by the European Union and the local Chichigalpa city government. It is also the newest addition to Central America’s Colonial Cities and Volcano Trail, which offers easy access to more than a dozen volcanoes in seven countries.
The center is part of a broad plan to develop sustainable tourism along Central America’s Pacific coast, extending from Antigua, Guatemala, to Panama. It is one of the most ancient colonial trails in the region, part of the Camino Real, built by the Spaniards along existing indigenous routes during the 16th century.
Hiking the Volcano
San Cristobal, also known as El Viejo, is located in the Northwest corner of Nicaragua, near the city of Chichigalpa. It is among the most active volcanoes in the country and has an immense crater that is approximately 500 meters by 600 meters wide. While it was once covered in tropical forests, the large amount of gas emitted by the volcano has killed off much of the vegetation.
Hiking to the top is definitely an extreme adventure. The volcano is still quite active and, while hiking, you will notice copious amounts of gas and smoke coming from the crater. The last major eruption of the volcano was in 2012, when hundreds of locals were evacuated from the region to protect them from the plume of ash.
The climb to the top is also known as one of the most difficult in the country with steep slopes that make the trek a challenge. However, once at the top, climbers are rewarded with amazing views of the giant crater and the landscape of the countryside below.
Climbing San Cristobal is definitely a day-long activity. It takes between three and four hours to reach the top of the crater. Hikes generally last between 10 and 12 hours with transportation to and from the volcano, and most guided hikes leave in the early hours of morning. Information and guides as well as lodging and extensive information can now be accessed by tourists visiting the Center for Extreme Tourism at the base of the volcano.
There are also many tours available that include several different volcanoes in the region over a multi-day, multisport adventure.
More by Janeen Christoff
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