Star Flyer Tour to Nicaragua’s Masaya Volcano National Park and Colonial Granada
| February 26, 2013

Travel Writer Wallace Immen sailed to Costa Rica aboard Star Flyer in January 2013 and wrote about his adventure on the blog, Wallace Immen Voyages. Enjoy this post from his full day excursion in Nicaragua that included a visit to the Masaya Volcano National Park, a chance to shop for local handicrafts at the Masaya Market and a trip to the old colonial town of Granada.

Hold onto your hat and your soul at the gates of the Underworld

Hold onto your hat and your soul at the gates of the Underworld.

It’s enough to get you believing there really is an Underworld. The unholy heat, the endless smoke and the choking smell of sulfur that you sense at the rim of the Mombacho volcano’s seemingly endless abyss is just what we’ve been primed to think of as normal climate in downtown Hades. Nicaragua’s drive up volcano was the afternoon destination of our tour from Star Flyer that spent the morning in colonial Granada. This gaping, gassy hole in the earth has been the uneasy neighbor of Granada since it was founded 400 years ago by the Spaniards. Driving up the steep road to the crater it’s clear that when it wants to, Mombacho can put up quite a fuss. Eruptions in the seventeenth century created miles of twisted black lava flows that even today are nearly devoid of life. The Catholic priests feared it was the actual gateway to hell and they decided to do whatever they could to keep Lucifer at bay, our guide, Enrique says.

The volcano was officially exorcised in a ceremony that today is memorialized by a big cross on a hill at the edge of the crater. And the expulsion of its demons seems to have worked because it hasn’t erupted since—but there’s still a constant reminder that it could. A sign politely warns visitors not to smoke. All right, but tell that to the volcano that’s belching so much thick vapor that even with the sun shining there’s no way to see the bottom of the crater—if there is one.

It’s a weird volcano because instead of a smoking cone it’s a deep hole on level ground. It’s like the earth just opened its mouth one day to let off steam. With all the heat and the smoke, no one really needs a reminder not to lean too far over the edge of the wall that runs around the rim. My fellow passengers on an expedition from Star Flyer turned out to be relieved there’s no stair climbing or bungee jumping here. In fact most of us retreated to the bus coughing like Camille from the sulphur fumes. I couldn’t really figure out why they need a parking lot here that’s big enough for about a hundred cars and has 10 spaces for school buses. We were on our way within 30 minutes of when we arrived.

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