Nicaragua is turning into the not-so-undiscovered gem of Latin America. The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua is the adventure traveller/hiker/explorer’s dream. Hiking the Telica volcano is just the beginning. From exploding volcanoes to sandy beaches, to lush, tropical rainforests, Nicaragua has a bit of everything.
It is home to the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua, which is unique in that it has 430 volcanic islands and certain species of fish which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Tourism has really exploded here in the last decade or so and it’s rapidly becoming the go-to place in Central America. The stunning diversity on offer aside, Nicaragua is also considered a safer budget destination than some of its other Central American counterparts.
I didn’t necessarily feel this way about safety in Nicaragua but I suppose that this consideration is based on crime statistics. This is Central America’s most impoverished nation so petty crime is a common problem. Some basic common sense, however, should ensure that you have a trouble-free visit!
I recommend you get there as soon as possible and enjoy this delightful country before it really does get overrun with tourism.
With a total of 19 volcanoes in Nicaragua (9 being active), it’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of hiking opportunities in the country.
The Telica volcano is generally considered as being one of the most epic hikes Nicaragua has to offer and, after seeing some magma and an incredible sunset, I definitely wouldn’t argue with that statement.
Telica is a fascinating volcanic complex which actually consists of various cones and craters overlapping one another. The tours from Leon will take you to the active crater which is a constant source of gassy emissions with a bubbling pool of magma in the depths below.
The volcano itself has not had any massive eruptions in recent years, the last one taking place in 1529. In 1999 the volcano became active again with some ash eruptions which lasted for several months. Since then there was another ash eruption in 2007.
At 1061 metres (3481 feet), the Telica volcano is actually considerably smaller than several volcanoes in Nicaragua and its neighbouring countries. Check out the Acatenango volcano hike or the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala for some seriously strenuous hikes. I have also heard that Concepcion in Nicaragua is the toughest that the country has to offer but, unfortunately, I only had time for the 1 hike during my stay.
I decided to go for Telica after local recommendations and hearing what other tourists had to say about it.
Hiking The Volcano
The closest city to the volcano is Leon which is most likely where you’ll be organising your hike from. It’s a big tourist hotspot with several popular attractions in the vicinity.
Most of the tour guides will tell you that it’s mandatory to have a tour guide on the Telica hike and, once you get up there, it’s easy to understand why.
There are several tour operators in Leon so it’s worth looking around for the best price. Some may even price match if there’s a better offer elsewhere.
For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the tour group I went with. It was one of the main groups in Leon and it cost me 40 dollars in June 2016. They all charged about the same and this is the one that my hostel recommended. They turned out to be helpful and very informative.
What I didn’t like about the tour companies in Nicaragua was how much they exploited tourism. It felt like they were charging far more than necessary when compared to the country’s general prices.
The journey from Leon is about a 2-hour land rover ride over some of the bumpiest terrain imaginable. There may be a couple of photo stops along the way to break the ride up a little. Once leaving the city you will pass through some local farms before taking the winding road up to your starting point.
The starting point is reasonably high which, coupled with Telica’s relatively small size, means that the hike is not too difficult.
The hardest parts are a couple of the rocky sections on the path but they shouldn’t provide any real difficulties.
When you get to the crater itself it’s amazing how close you can get. There are literally no limits and lying belly down looking into earth’s jaws is common practice up here.
IF you’re going without a guide then just BE CAREFUL. There were certain parts on the crater’s edge which our guide recommended that we stay away from due to it being unstable.
By the crater itself, an elderly gentleman from the neighbouring village of San Jacinto came up with his cool box full of beer, water and soft drinks. It was a no-brainer at this stage with temperatures well in excess of 30C (86F).
After umming and ahhing at the jaw-dropping size of the crater, the guide took the group to a viewpoint further along the ridge. This was another great place for some photos. There were some rocks larger than houses which had been spat out in ancient eruptions. These really do illustrate the true power of mother nature.
There were even some brave campers in the open expanses just below the crater. The friendly gentleman with the cool box getting a small donation from everyone staying on ‘his land’ (he was apparently the owner of the volcano….).
A good little business he’s got going there if you ask me!
The guide should time the descent back to the land rover with the sunset. This offers another chance for some spectacular photos and, once the sun has gone down enough, you can even see the magma deep in the crater.
I only got the chance to see the occasional red magma glow but, if you’re lucky, you may get to see magma getting spurted out of the pool.
On our way back to the tour office we stopped off at a traditional comedor to try Nicaragua’s most popular meal: gallo pinto.
When To Go
The dry season is the best time to go. In Nicaragua, this ranges from December until May. The wet season runs from June until October.
But, with global warming and all that, these months are loose and the weather is becoming more unpredictable.
I did the hike in the middle of June and didn’t get a spot of rain. Some guys in my hostel, however, almost got washed away when they did it a few days later so it really does depend.
Where To Stay
Leon is the closest populated area and loads of tours run from here.
In terms of a hostel or hotel – take your pick. Leon is jam-packed with budget hostels so it’s really a case of choosing one that you like the look of.
I stayed in La Tortuga Booluda which I would highly recommend, it had a laid-back atmosphere, super friendly staff who were unbelievably helpful, and even some small parrots which guarded the common area. They even include breakfast in the price so it really was great value for money, like most places in Central America.
What To Take
Lots of water.
As I’ve already mentioned, temperatures will be soaring so you will need to take a gallon MINIMUM per person. Nicaragua was the hottest country I visited in Central America so you’ll also want to take suncream. I also recommend that you take snacks and, of course, your camera.
Hiking boots aren’t necessary but they will help. I did it in running shoes with no problems whatsoever.
Although the price paid for the tour may seem relatively steep when you compare it to the country itself, I do think that it was 100% worth it.
The money paid also meant that it was a no-hassle, fully organised tour to and from Leon. If you decide on hiking the Telica volcano without a guide then it’ll take a lot longer. I doubt the buses/transport to the foot of the volcano are very reliable and you’ll have to be careful to not get lost. That said, it’s not uncommon, you’ll just need to make sure that you are adequately prepared!
As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you have any questions or would like to add any experiences of your own then please write below. I reply to everything. 🙂