Almost everyone who travels through Nicaragua comes to ISLA DE OMETEPE, Lago de Nicaragua’s largest island, to experience its lush scenery and tranquil atmosphere. Ometepe’s name comes from the Nahuatl language of the Chorotegans, the original inhabitants of Nicaragua, who called it Ome Tepetl – “the place of two hills” – for its two volcanoes. The island has probably been inhabited since the first migration of indigenous groups from Mexico arrived in this area, and a few stone sculptures and petroglyphs attest to their presence on the island. Even from the mainland, taking in the sight of its two cones, you can tell it’s a special place.
The higher and more symmetrical of the two is Volcán Concepción (1610m), Nicaragua’s second-highest volcano. Much of the island’s 40,000-strong population live around the foot of Volcán Concepción, where you’ll find the main towns of Moyogalpa and Altagracia. Smaller, extinct Volcán Maderas (1394m) is less perfectly conical in shape, but clothed with precious cloudforest, where you’re likely to spot such wildlife as white-faced (carablanca) and howler (mono congo) monkeys, green parrots (loro verde) and blue-tailed birds called urracas. Almost all activities on the island are based in the outdoors: walking, hiking, volcano-viewing, volunteering and horseriding are among the most popular.
Most people are here to visit Ometepe’s iconic twin volcanoes, but there’s plenty to do elsewhere, from chilling at lodges and stretching out on beaches – notably Playa Santo Domingo – to exploring waterfalls and pre-Columbian remains.