Isla Ometepe

The island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua basically consists of two volcanoes connected by a narrow land bridge. Seen from above, Ometepe has the shape of an eight.

In the north you will find the active volcano Concepción with its perfect cone, in the south the extinct jungle covered Maderas, with a lagoon formed in its crater. Many visitors come to Ometepe to climb one of the volcanic peaks in a strenuous hike, but the island has other attractions and activities to offer and has a remarkable history. Separated from the rest of Nicaragua by the Cocibolca, as Lake Nicaragua is called, life on Ometepe is a world of its own. Often referred to as an “oasis of peace”, the island itself survived the revolution and the subsequent contra war mostly unharmed.

The early indigenous settlers saw the “Promised Land ” in Ometepe. On their sacred island, the Chorotega, Nahua and Mayan groups left numerous artifacts, including petroglyphs and stone figures. Although the Spanish conquistadors “converted” the locals to Christianity, many customs and traditions were adopted into the Catholic faith and thus preserved. To this day, more religious and traditional festivals are celebrated on Ometepe than elsewhere in Nicaragua. Nevertheless, the living conditions of today’s inhabitants are anything but paradisiacal. Although the ubiquitous volcanic duo provides fertile soil, unemployment is high, drinking water is still scarce in many parts of the island, regulated electricity is an unknown luxury for many, and medical care is still problematic.

A sustainable tourism that also benefits the locals is an important prospect for the future, so that the designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2010 and the airport opened in 2012 have great expectations. Many accommodations on Ometepe are still rather simple, with small cabins and dormitories or rooms with shared bathrooms. However, more and more small hotels with a higher level of comfort are being built. Many of the accommodations are following the trend towards organic farming and cultivate their own organic vegetables and fruit. A good location for exploring the tourist ‘highlights’ of Ometepe is the small town of Santa Cruz in the east of the island on the north side of the Maderas Volcano: within a radius of a few kilometres you can reach the starting point for an ascent of the Maderas, some sites of pre-Columbian petroglyphs, the San Ramon Waterfall, the tropical river landscape of the Río Isthian and the romantic bathing place of Ojo de Agua on the island’s isthmus. Only the trip from Moyogalpa, Ometepes capital, where most of the ferries from the mainland dock, is a bit difficult (alternative route with shorter journey: San Jorge – San José).