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Masaya Volcano National Park





This amazing National Park includes two incredible volcanoes, several extinct cones, a priceless crater lake, a breathtaking moon landscape and a formidable caldera. Masaya Volcano National Park comprises an area of 52 square kilometers (22 square miles). Its highest peak is 635 meters above sea level (2000 ft). Masaya is the only active volcano in the country where the visitors can drive up to the rim of the crater.

According to geological studies at the end of the Pliocene period there were two active neighboring volcanoes, which activity provoked the collapse of the area, resulting with the current caldera. Eventually underground water filtered to the surface filling up the tectonic depression with a big lake. At the beginning of the Pleistocene period the volcanic activity initiated again with the rising of the twin volcanoes of Masaya and Nindiri from the bottom of the water filled caldera. Huge amounts of magma flowed and spread at the flanks of these two new volcanoes filling most of the caldera with lava, restraining Lake Masaya to its actual size.

One of the volcanoes within the National Park, Nindiri, was a major ceremonial site where important human sacrifices were performed. The native dwellers at the base of the volcano, “Chorotegas” strongly believed in a god residing at the bottom of the active crater, who would accurately foretell their future. Spanish conquistadores thought of the volcano as the “mouth of hell” and priest Francisco de Bobadilla sent to place a cross on top of the volcano to exorcise the devil. Another priest, less religious, Blas del Castillo descended into the crater to explore for potential gold based on his idea that the bright orange-yellow molten magma was molted gold.

Masaya National Park’s caldera is filled with extensive petrified former lavas flows from 1670 and 1772. “Santiago” is the only active crater, formed in 1851, where today visitors can appreciate the intensive volcanic gas activity of its interior. Amazingly there are unique inhabitants that nest on the side of the crater; the “Aratinga Strenua” is a type of parakeet which has been able to adapt to the sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.

Masaya National Park also comprises an interesting system of lava tubes where thousands of insect and fruit bats live in harmony with the surrounding nature. Pre-Hispanic artifacts were also found in the caves where presumably native Nicaraguan settlers conducted important rituals. The National Park also shelters a well-designed visitor center with informative panels of the geology of the country as well as the different ecosystems.

Activities
Birdwatching • Hiking • Landscapes

Local Information

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