Photo Essay – Sunsets and Volcanoes in Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua

Isla Ometepe
Within Lake Nicaragua, which is the largest lake in Central America, lies Isla Ometepe. It is a small island shaped like an hourglass – both sides of the hourglass being volcanoes (Concepcion on one side, Maderas on the other) joined together by a narrow isthmus.

My mom and I stayed at Totoco Ecolodge on the Maderas side of the island. It was phenomenal. The views towards Conception volcano were great in the day and spectacular at sunset. The sunsets at Totoco were one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in all my travels.

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One of the tourist activities is hiking up Maderas volcano. I hired a guide (Melvin) through the lodge and we set off very early in the morning. The ascent to the summit is about 6 hours at a fast, but grueling pace. The best part of the hike was seeing the howler monkeys in the first hour while still in the lowlands. After that it is a sweaty, dirty climb up poor trails towards the top. I don’t mind a tough hike when it’s rewarded by great views – but in this case there isn’t much to see, the trees and brush covering up any vantage points. The best view I got was when I climbed a tree and took a picture looking down towards the lake (see the photo below the monkey).

Across the isthmus, you can also climb Concepcion. I’ve read that it is a tough, slippery climb up a steep, shale-covered slope. You have to be in good shape. Unlike Maderas there is no vegetation – just fantastic views in every direction. It is on my agenda for the next time in these parts. More on hiking these volcanoes here.

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Besides the hike, our time was spent laying out by the swimming pool and enjoying the nature. I would recommend this place to anyone and I would come back here with Lissette for a more romantic kind of vacation. The food at Totoco was fantastic. One thing; bring earplugs. I couldn’t believe the NOISE at night from all the bugs and animals, it was unbelievable. There is one bird, a small grey bird that seems to only appear at night, that constantly hung out right next to our lodge calling out what sounded like “fuck you”, “fuck you”, “fuck you” all night. I’m not kidding, that’s what it sounded like. Then, when the noise from the night animals finally starts to die down close to dawn, the howler monkeys start up. There is no peace and quiet in the jungle.

Below: A few more photos of Concepcion from the Lodge

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Below: the family-sized lodge at Totoco.

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Heading back to the mainland on the ferry:

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Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua (22)


We only spent a week together in Nicaragua. My mother stayed on in Granada for her Spanish courses and I had to go back to work.

It’s nice to have money and to be able to travel in Nicaragua. Everything is relatively cheap. Since I was travelling with my mom I booked private transport (with Oro Travel) for all our transfers. But Nicaragua is a poor country and you can’t help but feel bad at times; I saw a boy who couldn’t have been more than 10 on a horse tending to a herd of cattle. In Canada kids that age are playing nintendo and getting fat. Skinny horses pulling carts are still the principal mode of transport. You can see that most Nicaraguans, especially in the countryside, live a very basic existence.

A few Nicaraguans I spoke to in the travel industry expressed their frustration that Nicaragua was portrayed as a dangerous country, especially in the US (see the Bureau of Consular affairs website). In actual fact, Nicaragua is known as the safest country in Central America, safer even than Costa Rica. I never felt in danger – the flip side of few tourists is that locals aren’t overwhelmed by foreigners and are so much friendlier because of that. And I always say; in the end, it’s the people that make a difference between liking or disliking a place. Based on that, I would definitely come back to Nicaragua.

For more, see our Guide on Nicaragua


Have you been to Isla Ometepe? Have you done either hike? Would love to hear your stories and experiences!


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  1. Wow! This is an awesome post about a country that we’ve yet to discover! (but is on the list!!!). And such amazing wildlife photos! Totoco lodge looks amazing…I could see myself blogging from that thatched hut! Wow! (PS – loved your description of Canada’s favourite interracial couple! You guys are cute!). Happy Travels! Jill from Road Warrior
    Jill at Road Warrior recently posted…Egypt: Diving the Sinai PeninsulaMy Profile

  2. Loved your post. We were there in 2011.Stayed at what was then called Se Porvenir, now Totoco lodge. Just wanted to add that the fantastic food is all locally grown and raised, organically.The staff is the friendliest we encountered in Nicaragua. Those photos bring back fond memories of our stay there.One place we would revisit.

    • Hi Maurice – thanks for your comment and the background on the place. Yeah, they were great, very friendly. Glad I brought back memories :)

  3. The photos of the sunset are amazing! It sounds like a great place to explore! I have always been fascinated with volcanos and it must have been awesome to see and explore the area surrounding a volcano! It looks like a very peaceful place!
    Constance recently posted…Ghost Month: Rooted in Beliefs and TraditionsMy Profile

    • Hi Constance. It is a peaceful place, would definitely recommend it for a romantic getaway (and not a trip with your mom :))

  4. It looks like you had a really lovely stay! It looks rustic, but very friendly.

    I especially love your sunset photos! Simply gorgeous!
    Lori recently posted…Mesmerizing lotuses and water lillies in a thermal lake in Baile FelixMy Profile

  5. How awesome, in Nicaragua, our favorite place. We stayed at Totoco as well!

    Loved the Ferry and the town where you get the ferry to go to the island.
    Marina K. Villatoro recently posted…Theme Restaurants in NYC – Taking it Up a NotchMy Profile

  6. Ometepe was definitely a highlight of my (first) trip to Nicaragua. I really liked the hot springs there.

    I didn’t hike either volcano, and your post doesn’t make me regret it too much! I’ve heard Concepcion is brutal as well, with the opposite problem of there being no shade. But, the views must be cool.

    When we left, we took the over night ferry to the other side, to San Carlos, which was kind of a trip in that it makes you realize how damn big Lago Nicaragua really is!
    Sonya B recently posted…mission pie, san franciscoMy Profile

    • Thanks Sonya – that’s exactly what I heard about Conception. Plus that there’s a lot of shale, so hard to get good footing. I’m told it’s a tough hike up.

  7. Awesome post – I loved Ometepe Island and your post has just made me realise how much! I can sympathise with the birds shouting obscenities at you too! happened to me every night! ;-)
    Have subscribed to your future posts – keep up the great work!
    Hayley Griffiths (LovePuffin) recently posted…All aboard for the best night you’ll have this yearMy Profile

  8. I love volcanoes

  9. Great photos!! I love isla ometepe and lake nicaragua, SO beautiful. And I totally agree, I try to tell everyone who asks me about safety in C. America that Nicaragua is NOT as dangerous as the media portrays it. I traveled even in Managua, Masaya and Grenada and never had a problem. Nicaraguans are such good people and they have been working very hard the past few years to increase their tourism. My host family in Nicaragua were the sweetest people ever with big big hearts. Glad you had a great time, I’ll have to check this place out next time I do my border run!

    • Thank you for your comments, know you guys are pretty much experts on Central America and much appreciate your input.

  10. Those sunset photos are KNOCKING me out! Wow! I can see why they are the most impressive of your travels. What a gorgeous post. Nice work getting the animal photos too. That can be tough. and Melvin was kind to pose with the butterfly :)
    Erin recently posted…New York City Photographic Tour (or Yes, I Probably Have Traveler’s ADHD): Part 2My Profile

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