Concepcion is one of two volcanoes that can be climbed on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. At 1,610m, it is the highest on the island and the second highest in the country. Because we can’t seem to get enough of volcanoes or physical challenges, we decided to climb it during our visit. It was a grueling 9 hour hike and our legs were feeling it for days, but it was definitely an amazing experience! Read more below 🙂
After arriving on Moyogalpa and dropping our bags at the hostel, we walked around town to get a few quotes from travel agents (you need to have a guide to climb). One guy stopped us and told us he could offer the service for $20 US pp, which was the cheapest we’d seen. We walked with him over to Hostel Papagayo where we chatted with the owner and made arrangements. He said we wouldn’t have more than 5 people in our group, plus our guide, which we were happy with.
We headed to Papagayo with our bags the next morning at 6:30 am. After some waiting around, we jumped into a pick-up truck with one other couple (who we would be hiking with) and our guide. By 7:15 am we were starting the hike. The first hour of the hike is relatively flat, through fields of coffee plants and other farms. We chatted a bit and got to know each other and our guide, Jury, who pointed out a few interesting things along the way. Next we were in the forest, and the climb began.
There were steps at some points, but it was mostly climbing up tree roots, rocks, or anything else that could propel us forward. I was glad for the walking stick I grabbed at the front gate. It quickly became clear that one of our hiking companions was having trouble with her knee, which resulted in a lot of breaks along the way – the perfect time to have some water, grab a snack or look out for monkeys. By 9:45 am we had reached the first lookout and felt some of the craziest wind I have ever experienced! We took a few photos and tried not to blow away. Our fellow hiker chose to stay here and rest her knee, while we continued on with her partner and our guide.
This was when the fun (read: intense and pain inducing) part started. We took our time, doing our best to avoids slips and falls on the loose rock beneath our feet and turning around every so often to catch the views. I got out my headphones and put on a playlist of my favourite 80’s and 90’s songs which gave me the push I needed (and my quads needed) to get to the top. 15 minutes from the top our guide took out a Tupperware container of rice and beans and placed it in one of the grooves emitting heat from the lava; I brought my hands close enough to feel the heat and then quickly pulled back before burning myself.
A final push and we were at the top, which was a windy mix of steam and sulphuric fumes. We couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us, but were still giddy to be at the top and feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
The bad news is that we still had to get down, which (for me) was even more difficult than the climb. I HATE (or, more accurately, my knees hate) descending. The walking stick certainly helped keep me steady, but I was wishing I had proper trekking poles for this bit. All of us fell at least once, but luckily nothing more than a few small scrapes. We were soon out of the smoke and had a beautiful view of the island.
We could see a large group of about 20 people snaking their way up and our guide told us (based on watching them climb) that they wouldn’t make it to the top. Sure enough 10 minutes later the group was turning around and starting their descent. We caught up with them which caused a bit of a traffic jam, but also gave me a chance to rest my knees a bit.
By 1:40 pm we were back at the lookout, reunited with the other hiker. By then, some of the smoke around the top of the crater had cleared and we had great views all around.
After a bit of lunch and a water break we were heading back through the forest. I kept telling myself ‘at least it won’t be slippery going back down through the forest’ and had apparently forgotten that it was also covered in loose rock; not to the extent that the top of the volcano was, but it was still slippery all the same and my legs were really starting to hate me. An hour and 15 minutes after leaving the lookout we were back on flat terrain and we began talking and laughing again. We reached the gate at 4:00 pm, nine hours after beginning the hike.
This has to be one of the most difficult day hikes I’ve ever done, and my legs were feeling it for days afterwards. But physically (and mentally) challenging activities tend to be the things you remember most when all is said and done and this hike won’t be soon forgotten!