Explore the Colonial and Volcanoes Route of Nicaragua

Visitors to Nicaragua may have difficulty deciding what to see and do because of the multitude of choices in this beautiful Central American country. Fortunately, there are a number of tourism companies offering packages highlighting various aspects of the country, and travelers are sure to find something to suit their interests – and budget. One of the more popular options is the Colonial and Volcanoes Route which winds its way along the western region of Nicaragua, incorporating some of the country’s historic Colonial cities and most interesting volcanoes. While tours may vary, depending on the tour operator and preferences of visitors, they general include the Cerro Negro, Mombacho and Masaya volcanoes, as well as Colonial cities Granada and León.

Located in northwestern Nicaragua, León is the country’s second largest city (Managua is the largest) and served as the capital city off and on over the years until Managua was designated as the country’s capital city in 1858. Visitors to León will find superb examples of Colonial architecture, particularly in the city’s churches, with one of the most noteworthy being the Cathedral of León which has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Located around 30 km from León are the ruins of the ancient city which was destroyed by a series of eruptions of the Momotombo volcano. Following an eruption in 1610, it was decided to rebuild the town in its current location. Known as León Viejo, the old city is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada has a long and fascinating history going back to its official founding in 1524. Landmarks and attractions of the city include the San Francisco Church and Museum, Plaza de la Independencia, Xalteva Church, Episcopal Palace, Central Park, the Old Railway Station and the privately owned museum, Mi Museo, to mention a few. The architecture of Granada is typically Colonial, with white trimmed colorfully painted buildings neatly set out in rows.

Located around ten kilometers from Malpaisillo village in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range, Cerro Negro is thought to be the youngest volcano in Central America, as it only came into existence in April 1850. Contrasting with the rich green vegetation of the surrounding hills, Cerro Negro (Black Hill) has experienced a number of eruptions in its lifetime, with the most recent being in 1999. While volcanic eruptions can endanger lives, they also tend to generate life as the volcanic ash, rich in minerals, makes soil more fertile. Cerro Negro is closely monitored and evacuation strategies are in place in the event of a potential eruption.

Instead of rising up from the ground, Masaya is a complex volcano consisting of calderas and craters, areas that have sunk below the surroundings due to volcanic activity. A continuous cloud of sulfur dioxide gas rises up from Masaya, and this is one of the features studied by experts to establish how the volcano works and whether it poses any health risks. The volcano and area around it became Nicaragua’s first national park in 1979 and visitors to Masaya Volcano National Park can drive right up to the rim, as well as explore the underground tunnel where the glowing lava of the volcano can be seen.

Mombacho volcano rises up to a height of 1344 meters and is classified as a stratovolcano which is extinct. Nature lovers will enjoy the hiking trails which lead up to the cloud forest where endemic fauna and flora are found, including some exquisitely beautiful orchids. It also offers spectacular views of the city of Granada and the magnificent Lake Nicaragua