When my sister and I were young, we played a game that I’m sure many of you enjoyed as children.
We would hop from the couch to the coffee table, to a random sweater one of us had discarded hastily on the floor, giggling and screaming as we attempted to balance on these various items without letting any bit of our tiny bodies touch the ground below.
The reason we had to delicately steady ourselves on these islands of inanimate objects was simple-
The floor of our house was densely coated with the fiery liquid from deep within the earth’s core.
Well… at least it was in our imaginations.
“The floor is lava!” One of us would scream, as she bounced from chair to chair.
In a giddy panic, the other would race to the nearest piece of furniture and climb aboard, seconds before the spot where she had just been standing was engulfed in magma.
Imagining lava on the floor of my childhood home was a delightful pastime, but I never thought I’d see the substance in real life.
Until I arrived in Nicaragua.
As a country in the dead centre of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Nicaragua is home to 19 active volcanos. One of these is Masaya.
Masaya is one of the most active volcanos in Nicaragua and therefore, a very popular spot!
Sitting approximately 35km outside of Granada and 23km from Managua, it’s fairly easy to get to Masaya from either city. We chose to check it out while we were staying in Granada.
I had read online that the best time to see lava is at night, so we decided to leave in the evening. There are numerous companies throughout the city offering trips to Masaya and we were quoted anywhere from USD $18-$30 per person for a return trip on a tourist shuttle, including the entrance fee to the national park. The lesson here is, don’t be afraid to shop around and bargain, even if the price is written on a sign.
By the time we hopped on the shuttle, it was nearly 5:30 pm and we learnt that we had managed to sneak on the last bus going up there for the day.
We spent the 40-minute drive chatting with our fellow travellers (mostly Canadians) before finally arriving in Masaya Volcano National Park. This is where the waiting began.
Only a certain number of people are allowed to visit the crater at a time. As a result, there is a lineup of cars and tourist buses waiting their turn to drive up to the top. We probably waited about 45 minutes to an hour, but the time passed quickly with a carload of Canadians to talk to. We mostly discussed how cold and boring Edmonton is.
Finally, it was our turn to drive up and see the volcano for ourselves. I had heard we wouldn’t have much time so as soon as our van’s door opened I grabbed my tripod and raced to the first viewpoint.
Unlike the volcanos we had seen around Leon where you could just go ahead a jump into the crater if you so desired, there was a concrete wall around Masaya. That was fairly comforting considering the massive lake of lava brewing below.
The amateur photographer in me was sweating as I attempted to create a pleasing composition, correctly set the exposure, and prevent my camera from slipping into the crater, all before our time was up.
In the end, I was pretty happy with the results!
Shortly after I snapped my shots (about 10-15 minutes after arriving at the top) a whistle began to blow. We were then gently encouraged by some official-looking people to head back to our vehicles so that we could begin the return journey to Granada.
Although you don’t get much time to view it, Masaya is an incredible spot and, in my opinion, a must see when visiting Nicaragua.
When else are you going to get the chance to see lava?