San Juan del Sur and Ometepe Nicaragua!
It is enough to look at the roadways, usually full of garbage, to see that in Nicaragua things are not going as they should. Economic poverty and, above all, educational poverty sustain a society where throwing garbage on the ground is almost a norm. Nicaragua has a lot to teach, but the government and Nicaraguans are going to have to start taking care of their environment. The tourist’s money awaits. These are my reflections after my days traveling through San Juan del Sur and the island of Ometepe.
( 03-18-16 ) The last time we spoke, I had just arrived in Nicaragua, where I spent a few days of churches, culture and university plans in the city of León . From there, I made my way through Nicaragua to the south of the country, where I planned to meet Yoge the next day. Getting there was my first serious experience with Nicaraguan buses, an activity that should be classified as a risky sport.
The game is simple: buses have no timetables, no seats, and no capacity limit. The driver arrives when he wants and leaves when he considers that he has already put enough millions of people on the bus. If there is room to breathe, there is room for someone else. Luckily for me, this journey I was able to do sitting down although I had to share the position of my head with the odd ass. About 5 hours of travel later I arrived in Rivas , the city where I would meet Yoge the next morning. Nothing to say about this place, a road town in one of the most chaotic areas of Nicaragua. Not suitable for tourists. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to find a decent lodging to spend the night.
San Juan del Sur
( 03-19-16 ) Around 10 in the morning I met up with Yoge, with whom we did nothing more than have something for breakfast and leave for San Juan del Sur, one of the most touristy coastal towns in Nicaragua.
Where to sleep in San Juan del Sur
With so many people it was not easy to find an accommodation according to our personal and economic concerns, but by pulling the intrepid backpacker’s manual we ended up getting it. Our recommendations:
- We spent the night at Chale’s House, for about € 24 a double room. A nice option for all budgets.
- For € 32 a double with breakfast you can access the Hotel Nuestra Casa. Rated 9 on Booking.
- If you prefer something of a certain level, the Hotel HC Liri will surely meet your expectations. About € 60 is the price of a double room with breakfast in this hotel rated 9 on Booking.
Installed, showered and eaten …
… we went out. I must admit that I am not a coastal man. That is to say, I like coastal towns and beautiful beaches but as long as the place has something more to offer than sand, hammocks and beach bars. And that is exactly what San Juan del Sur offers.
San Juan del Sur is a coastal town of about 8000 inhabitants, located in the south of Nicaragua, very close to the border with Costa Rica. Due to its location on the map, in this locality national and foreign tourism converge, creating an atmosphere that is less curious.
Actually this mix of tourists is something purely theoretical because in practice they do not come together too much. Nationals go one way …
… And foreigners on the other.
And although basically both are looking for beach and alcohol …
… Each has their own service offering.
Of course, the beach is oriented to the west …
… so the place offers truly spectacular sunsets.
In this way the sun said goodbye to us, putting a precious finishing touch to our day there.
( 03-20-16 ) Although it fit our plan to have spent one more day in San Juan del Sur, this is not the type of place that people like us especially enjoy, so we resume our journey mid-morning.
How to go to Ometepe Island
Our next stop was going to be Ometepe, a volcanic island located in the middle of Lake Cocibolca that has become one of the most famous places in Nicaragua. Logically, to access the island you have to do it by ferry or boat. Around the lake there are several ports, but during this time the water level of the lake is very low and they only leave from the town of San Jorge , in the municipality of Rivas.
Our passage through San Jorge was somewhat grotesque. For whatever reason, we had to wait about half an hour for ferry tickets to come out and we were surrounded by impatient tourists and rude locals. I open parentheses. Although for some time now in Nicaragua it is becoming a tourist destination, my feeling is that Nicaraguan society has not yet taken advantage of this situation. Far from taking advantage of the growth possibilities that tourism can bring to a country in great need, in general terms, little care is taken of the tourist, he is treated roughly and he is deceived too much. Even in many places the feeling that the traveler bothers. Of course I cannot generalize because there are many places where people have been wonderful to us,
San Jorge was one of these places that did not leave us good feelings. Even more so when we almost missed the ferry despite arriving on time. Like buses, boats in Nicaragua do not have to leave at the indicated time, but rather when the captain considers it.
But despite everything, the ferry trip was truly infinitely worth it. And it is that the two volcanoes of more than a thousand meters of altitude that make up the island create a truly spectacular picture from afar (and near).
A little over an hour later we arrived at the island of Ometepe, where we had the first surprise of the night: the accommodation we had reserved was almost 30 kilometers from the port of Moyogalpa, the landing site. The second surprise was that when we arrived there was no longer a bus and the only way to get there was to pay for a taxi. The third and final surprise is that the taxi cost … $ 20!
Accommodations in Ometepe
$ 20 for a 27-kilometer journey in the same country where I have paid less than $ 5 to travel nearly 200 kilometers. But it was already night so it was that or it was nothing, so as much as I was outraged and showed it to the taxi driver… in the end we released the money. At night we arrived at our accommodation, which looked much better from the reception than when they gave you the keys to your room. It wasn’t a big deal, but any mattress makes a good bed. Although I prefer to recommend other places to sleep on the island:
- Due to its authenticity, Ometepe is an ideal place to use AirBnb and stay in local houses. If you have not yet registered, here is an invitation.
- In Moyogalpa, the town where the ferry leaves you, is the Hostal Casa Moreno. € 19 for a double room in this accommodation valued at 8.4.
- On the other side of the Concepción volcano, in Altagracia, is the Hotel San Juan de la Isla. € 71 for a double room in this beautiful accommodation costs 8.4 on Booking.
- In Balgue, on the slopes of the Maderas volcano, is the Totoco Eco Lodge, one of the most “luxurious” accommodations in Ometepe. € 90 is the price of a double room in this hotel rated 8.0.
( 03-21-16 ) As almost every day of the trip we fell out of bed early, although for blog reasons it took a little while to leave the place. Big mistake. By the time we wanted to realize it, it was close to 11 in the morning and the heat was unbearable. To give things more drama, the distances in Ometepe are long and taxis, as you have seen, very expensive, so we opted to rent bikes. Although traveling there with a rental car (you can get on the ferry) is also a good option.
As I have already told you, Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Cocibolca, shaped like an 8 and that has two volcanoes on its surface: Concepción and Maderas. Although today they are inactive, their development is largely the result of the activity of these colossi.
It is believed that Ometepe has had a human presence for more than 3,000 years. There was even a time when the island was a small fort for pirates who tried to control the city of Granada.
Currently, the nearly 30,000 residents that populate the island are largely dedicated to tourism, although they also maintain their old trades in the field of livestock and cultivation, especially banana.
That morning our plan was to reach the Charco Verde lagoon, one of the most visited corners of the island. In theory less than 15 kilometers separated us from there for what seemed an acceptable destination for our bikes. In practice, the nearly 40 degrees it would make on the island left us melted half an hour from the hostel so we changed our plan. We would spend the morning soaking.
Precisely Ojo de Agua is the result of this mentioned volcanic activity. A fresh water stream flows from the Concepción and has been used to create a “natural” pool.
Obviously it is not a pool to use since you are well surrounded by nature and under the gaze of two impressive volcanoes. But the atmosphere in the venue is the same as it is probably in the swimming pool in your town.
Although just to be able to spend a while at less than 30 degrees justifies the 3 dollars that the entrance costs.
Refreshed, we return to our bike path, this time in search of food.
Luckily, it didn’t take long to find what we were looking for …
… and with the gut already full, we take the opportunity to visit one of the Ometepe beaches.
Obviously, the island rises on a lake so the beaches of Ometepe are not of fine sand and turquoise water.
However, they are quite charming and it is a good place to see the last rays of the sun …
… They gave way to a beautiful moon.
( 03-29-16 ) Knowing that we were in the land of volcanoes, our last day in Ometepe was dedicated to climbing one of them. Given that our hostel was less than half an hour walk from the Maderas volcano, around 8 in the morning we set out to conquer it.
A priori the challenge did not seem too complicated: about 6 kilometers separated us from our destination. Nothing seemed to indicate that the route was going to get as complicated as it finally did. The first kilometers of ascent to the Maderas volcano are relatively easy. Although there is some slope (the top is almost 1500 meters away), the path is not in bad shape and you can walk at a certain pace. In addition, the route has a certain charm.
When you have traveled about 3 kilometers you reach the Maderas Volcano viewpoint, a place that is truly worth it.
The panoramic view of Ometepe from that point is truly impressive as it offers a privileged view of the Concepción volcano and both sides of the island.
But after this viewpoint, the ascent to Maderas goes from being something relatively simple to gradually destroying you. The trails are getting narrower, steeper and slippery until the path ends up becoming mud. It was at that precise moment when, with no food, almost no water and really tired, we had a reality attack and we decided that no matter how beautiful the top was, we were not in a position to reach it. Of course you have to have more head and physical capacity than we had to face this type of excursion, and that probably would have been more successful if it had been done with a guide. If, like me, you like to make war on your own, it doesn’t hurt that you go backed by some travel insurance. Without insurance, any mishap abroad can become a problem.
Returning to the hike, in the absence of something more than an endless kilometer, we turned around and started the descent, which was less casina but more complicated due to the instability of the ground. A few stumbles later and almost 8 hours later we reached the beginning of the road …
… And after we bought and drank 2 liters of water in one sitting, we decided to take refuge in the hostel, where we polished ourselves in the shower and went to sleep. Our days at Ometepe had come to an end. Hard days, very hot and busy but very satisfactory for having been able to discover one of the most renowned corners of the country. Now our route has taken us to the city of Granada and we are not alone, someone has joined our adventure. But we’ll talk about that later. For now, the comments are open.