The island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua consists of two volcanoes, which are connected by a narrow land bridge, and has the shape of an eight when viewed from above. The larger of the two volcanoes, the 1600-meter high Concepcion, is located in the north of the island and is still active.
Ometepe could have been the template for Jim Knopf’s Lummerland.
On the other part of the island is the extinct volcano Maderas, which is slightly lower. The island covers almost 300 km2 and is located in Lake Nicaragua.
Ometepe is shaped by agriculture. Platanos (plantains), melons, rice, beans, grains and much more grow here. Two volcanoes, the blue sea is a lake and there is no rail traffic. But Ometepe is very relaxed and peaceful.
With the following lines I take you to the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua for two days and two nights and tell you about my experiences.
The San Jorge ferry pier
On other travel blogs I saw pictures of ferries filled to the last seat and a lively ferry pier in San Jorge. In spring 2019, the situation is different: the port is rather deserted and only a few of the many small ticket offices have opened this morning. The restaurant is closed or empty and we are only ten passengers on the boat.
After paying my dollar harbor fee at the entrance gate, I land at Héctor, who sells me both the ferry ticket and the transfer to the accommodation. The tickets for boat or ferry cost 80 Cordobas. I pay $ 20 one way for the transfer. I talk to Héctor until the boat leaves and learn interesting details about the country and the island.
The crossing to Moyogalpa on Ometepe
Car ferries and the smaller boats run between San Jorge and Moyogalpa. Based on other reports, I don’t necessarily expect the ferries to leave on time. But that is not the case, the timetable is right to the minute.
It’s windy. I read in advance that there will be quite a few waves and that it can be quite gnarly. This is not an exaggeration. Fortunately I am seaworthy and can still enjoy the crossing. Depending on the nature of the ship and the weather conditions, it takes one to one and a half hours.
Continuation and accommodation on Ometepe
One of the first things you see when you arrive is the airport runway, which seems to start right in the lake. Later I will drive over this slope. If an airplane only lands once every few days, the road can also cross the runway. Moyogalpa itself is a small, colorful place where you can find the most important things. For me, however, it is only about half an hour further to the beach of Santo Domingo on the other side of the island.
We stop at the lookout point Punta Jesus Maria. From the small headland you have the perfect view over the island and especially both volcanoes. The atmosphere at sunset would certainly be perfect.
My accommodation is the Hotel Villa Paraiso. The small complex is located directly on the lake and offers many amenities such as a pool, garden, restaurant and bar as well as the organization of tours. The origin of the Austrian owner is reflected in the Kärtner Kasnocken on the menu. I don’t test them, but I probably eat the best Nica breakfast of my entire trip here. I also try the fish typical of Lake Nicaragua, the leopard cichlid. It looks pretty dangerous on the plate, but tastes excellent.
Beach life on Isla Ometepe
The long journey from Switzerland via San José in Costa Rica is still in my bones, one thing is most fashionable for me this afternoon: sweet doing nothing and relaxing. First I fortify myself with a delicious salad. (Edelweiss Business Class left me hungry with tiny portions in doll kitchenware.) Afterwards I take a long walk on the beach, always with the Concepcion and the Maderas in view. A wonderful scene is when several horses come to the beach in the afternoon to drink and take a bath.
Then I throw myself into the cooling waters of the lake. Lake Nicaragua, also called Cocibolca or Mar Dulce, is a lake of superlatives. With the wind and the waves as well as the vast expanse, you really think you are at the sea on Omepete.
By the way, the largest lake in Central America with 8000 km2 is only slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca. It is also the only lake in the world where sharks live or have lived. Bull sharks have the ability to adapt to different salt levels. And so the sharks came from the Caribbean via the Rio San Juan to Lake Nicaragua. However, the last sighting was many years ago.
The Nicaragua Canal, a crazy plan
Ortega’s plans to build a channel from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Nicaragua, following the example of Panama, are more dangerous than the sharks. In 2012, the Chinese contractor Wang Jing was granted the concession for this construction project. The fatal thing about it: A law gives the company the right to expropriate land for 100 years if this is necessary for the project. Ortega had the relevant law confirmed by the parliament he controlled, but the people had no say.
Canal 2020 should actually be completed. In the meantime, however, it has become quiet and there is not even an appointment for the start of construction. Nothing better can happen to the environment than if this Gran Canal continues to be a tale of lies in the Ortegas campaign promises. The residents of Ometepe would also be happy.
I rent a bike and first ride the almost seven kilometers to Altagracia, next to Moyogalpa the second big place from Ometepe. There is not much to see except the petroglyphs. After all, I can stock up on some provisions in the supermarket. Because now it goes uphill and downhill thirteen kilometers to Charco Verde. The roads on the island are surprisingly good, by the way. You have to be especially careful with the four-legged road users. From cows to horses and dogs to a pig, I encounter pretty much everything.
The Charco Verde organic reserve is located in the south of the twin island, on the part with the Concepcion volcano. In the middle of the reserve is the emerald green lake Charco Verde. It owes its color to the algae that grow in it. The lagoon is surrounded by dry forest, which mainly offers protection to Vöglen. A small butterfly garden also belongs to the park (admission five dollars). I hike or rather walk around the lagoon. I discover some howler monkeys, herons, termites, a snake and an eagle. At the Hotel and Restaurant Charco Verde there is a beautiful beach with a perfect view of the Maderas.
Ojo de Agua
My last stop is the Ojo de Agua. This is not the wine of Dieter Meier (Yellow), but a natural swimming pool near Santo Domingo. Five dollar admission is a proud price for Nicaragua, but the facility itself and its location is beautiful. Although this place is usually the most popular destination on the island, I only share it with a few other guests this afternoon. Great, I can enjoy swimming in the crystal clear water to the fullest. The different shades of green, blue and turquoise are unique. To celebrate the day, I treat myself to a Coco Loco. These are fresh coconuts that are given a dash of rum.
Other destinations and activities on Ometepe
On the isthmus between the two islands is the Rio Isitan, which can be perfectly explored by kayaking. There are whole carpets of floating aquatic plants, mangroves and a diverse wildlife. Since I have planned my kayak tour for the Isletas in Granada, I will not do so.
I also save myself the way to the San Ramon waterfall. Now in the dry season, it carries little water and surely more impressive waterfalls await me in Costa Rica.
Another option would be to climb the Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes. However, both hikes are extremely strenuous (many vertical meters in rough terrain on steep, unpaved paths) and are not entirely safe. If you stay two nights, that’s not possible.
In the air
There is even a zipline on Isla Ometepe. However, I will experience this adventure in Costa Rica, on the Sky Trek in Arenal La Fortuna.
For me, the island of Ometepe is the perfect start for the further journey through Nicaragua. After a day and a half of relaxation, we continue to Nicaragua’s colonial cities of Granada and Leon and to the island paradise of Little Corn Island.