Always looking over Granada is Volcano Mombacho. Rising 4,400 feet (1340 meters), I see the volcano on a daily basis as I walk around the city. It’s even visible just stepping outside of the door to my house. I always felt a bit empty that I see it every day but had never been to the top. On Thursday, I finally took the time to go for it.
Take the easy way or the hard way?
As with most attractions, there are two different ways to arrive: the easy yet expensive way, and the difficult but cheap way. If you know me, you know that I almost always choose the latter. I could have very easily taken a tour for $30, jumped in an 4×4 from the center of Granada, gotten to the top of the volcano within 45 minutes, and had a nice hike around the top of the volcano. However, the joy is in the journey.
Instead, my climb included taking a local bus from the main market to the cross-road for the volcano entrance. I then walked 20 minutes to the park entrance where I paid the $3 entrance fee, and then continued up the volcano on the road made of granite setts. I had heard this was a steep climb and was prepared for it. Either way, it was tough. The entire climb was about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) and took me an hour and forty minutes to arrive at the top. This was at a pretty brisk pace with several small breaks. The road became so steep towards the last part that a sign warned that only 4x4s would be able to make it. Along the way, I passed several coffee farms and small houses.
I arrived at the top of the volcano out of breath and with tired legs. My clothes were soaked from sweat, and I took a few minutes to recuperate before branching out on one of the trails. I decided on the trail called Sendero Crater, which coincidentally is the only trail not requiring a paid guide (actually, it’s not coincidental that I didn’t want to pay).
More about Mombacho
Mombacho is interesting. The volcano is considered active even though the only known eruption was in 1570. The highest region of the volcano is home to a cloud forest, a moist forest typically covered in fog or clouds, giving life to mosses and other vegetation. Arriving at the top was somewhat surreal. Just a few hundred feet below was normal, but the top felt like a whole different world. Everything became so green, with mosses growing on rocks, plants wrapping around trees, and the land just generally full of greenery. I read a sign saying that on just that one tree, there were 35 different types of plants growing on it, more than all of the types of plants in a typical forest in England!
Sendero Crater Trail
The Sendero Crater is a trail that wraps around one of the four craters on the volcano. On a clear day, which is rare in the rainy season, one can see Granada, Lake Nicaragua, and Las Isletas. Unfortunately for me, the clouds covered the view and I never had more than a few hundred feet of visibility. A unique part of the hike was the abundance of monkeys. On three separate occasions, I saw groups of howler monkeys ranging between the numbers of two and eight of them. They make some curious noises, especially the larger males who make a very deep, defensive battle cry. The sound reminded me of the grunts made by the main bad guys in Super Mario Brothers (the ones at the end of the level). To me, there isn’t much better than seeing animals in their natural habitats. Going to a zoo doesn’t do much for me, but seeing animals in the wild means so much more. Unfortunately, taking good pictures of monkeys while they’re up in trees is typically tough to do. Because the camera is pointed up towards the sky, the backlighting really blocks any clear, colorful shot you might otherwise get. I definitely didn’t expect to see so many monkeys, but it was a very welcome surprise!
I eventually made my way back down the mountain, trying not to fall going back down the steep road. If it had rained, it would’ve made for an extremely tough walk. Of course the walk back down was much quicker, as gravity was finally on my side. I made it to the main road and caught a bus back to Granada with legs feeling like jelly. It would’ve been so much easier hiring a guide or even taking the park truck to the top (which costs $7 each way), but I feel much better about myself that I arrived at the top without much help. Being so easily accessible, I hope to make it up to there again a bit later in the year with hopes of getting some great views of Granada and the region.