La Isla de Ometepe or Ometepe Island is formed from two joined volcanoes that rise out of the center of Lake Nicaragua (Lake Cocibolca). One of these volcanoes, Conception Volcano, is active and the other volcano Maderas lies dormant.
Isla Ometepe has been inhabited since pre-Columbian times by the Nahuatl people and was considered a sacred place, steeped in legend and mystery. Today, its rich volcanic sands and virgin forest present ideal organic conditions for agriculture where you will find avocados, mangoes, banana and coffee plantations. About 35,000 people live on the Island mostly around either the towns of Moyogalpa or Altagracia.
Budget tourism is developing on Isla de Ometepe, but at a slow pace. Investors believe that Isla de Ometepe is a great investment opportunity, but this hasn’t happened yet. Small rustic hotels can be found on Ometepe Island but you won’t find a slew of services and tourist attractions here. It is isolated and peaceful and you will feel this is the place to get away from it all and get back to nature. Ometepe Island should not be missed on your Nicaragua travel itinerary.
How to get to Isla de Ometepe? The best way is to catch the ferries from San Jorge which will take you to Moyogalpa. The ferries run almost hourly and less frequently on Sundays and cost about $2.00 US each way. The ferries have three levels with amenities with a viewing deck offering wonderful views of the Lake and Islands. You can also take a car on the ferry which will cost you $20 each way. However, in bad weather, the ferries do not travel to the island, so it is easy to get stuck in this peaceful place.
Things to do on Ometepe Island include hiking up the volcano, but you must do this with a local guide because the trails are dangerous because of the ravines which have been known to claim the lives of a few climbers.
At Moyogalpa, there is a small museum, internet cafe and artisan shop where you can buy local artisan souvenirs such as art, jewelery and pottery. There is also a museum at the town of Atagracia.
The tropical flora, fauna, wildlife (howler monkeys) and birds (parrots and trogons) are plenty. Ometepe Island is an amazing place for birdwatching and nature enthusiasts. There are many places to hike to on this fascinating island, including up the Maderas Volcano where you can swim in the crater lake at the top.
Isla Ometepe will give you endless opportunities to gaze at the most beautiful sunsets, lay back in a hammock, relax and swim at the beach Playa Santo Domingo or any other of the beautiful fresh water beaches on Lake Nicaragua. It is also possible to go kayaking and rent boats. You can also go fishing in the fresh water of Lake Nicaragua where you will find a wide assortment of fish.
There is a tourist center called Ometepe Expeditions at the port in Moyogalpa where you will find the best tour guides and plenty of information. Tours of the island are available and it is best to always use an experienced guide if you decide to go hiking. Best to ask your hotel to recommend an experienced guide. Another way to explore the island is by bicycle or motorbike. Transportation around the island is with buses, taxis, horses, walking, bicycling and motorbike riding.
There are a variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts and hostels on Isla Ometepe but accommodations on the Island are, for the most part, basic and “rustic.” I won’t write about the accommodations here in this posting, but I promise I’ll write something later.