Top 5 Hikes: (2) Telica Volcano, León, Nicaragua

Volcanoes are always a tough hike, no matter where. Consider: the lava and ashes come rolling down the hillsides and cover them evenly, before they solidify. That’s why volcanoes have a constantly ascending slope on either side. You will rarely find winding pathways, changing landscapes and relaxing footwalks. You’re basically walking all the time up, up, up – and then down, down, down again (which is not less exhausting, considering the usually sandy and thus slippery ground).

This volcano I picked is only one example (and a rather small one as well). But it is still very intriguing for two reasons:

(1) It is not (yet) overcrowded with tourists. If you’re lucky, you might even have your private guide and have an overnight stay on top of a volcano for yourself (and your guide).

(2) The Telica is an active volcano. The overnight camping gives you the opportunity to see the magma glow inside the crater. Everyone who’s been on top of a volcano before knows: You can’t imagine what it is like unless you’ve experienced it. It smells like hell’s kitchen and it sounds like an airplane starting right next to your tent.


If you’ve been on volcanic grounds before, you’ll know that it looks just like you would imagine the landscape on the moon – sparse, with few plants and dark soil – somehow surreal. Think of the dark sand beaches in Bali or on the Canary islands. Nevertheless, volcanic soil is immensely fertile. That’s why you’ll probably see horses or cows grazing, almost right next to the crater. Be careful at night, when the horses can come really near your tent – leave nothing edible or inedible outside your tent! The horses will even chew on shoes…

A horse on the Telica at night

A horse on the Telica at night

The hike up the volcano takes about 4-5 hours. Not all of the time is walking uphill; at first, you need to get to the base of the volcano from the nearest street where you can be dropped off. You’ll walk through lots and lots of corn fields before you even get to the volcano. It might be getting dark when you get to the top, so you will need a headlamp, to make the rest of your way safely and to set up the camp for the night. Bring your alarm clock to make sure you get up just before sunrise – so you can watch the sun rise over the volcano crater the next morning!


View from top of Telica

View from top of Telica

From the top of Telica, you can see Nicaraguas highest volcano: San Cristobal. It is so active that you can almost always see a smoke cloud coming out of its crater.

San Cristibal seen from top of Telica

San Cristibal seen from top of Telica

Central America has a stunning lot of volcanoes – they form the Central America Volcanic Arc. Volcanos are very interesting, compelling and exciting – but be careful. Many volcanoes are so active, they are not completely predictable. And they are a constant danger for the towns and people living near them.

PS: There are other more famous volcanoes in the world, but if you’d like to hike them, consider: They are all different, and offer you different ways to reach the top. The Kilimanjaro in Kenya for example must be hiked with an experienced guide in a physically very, very challenging 3-day-tour. On Mt. Fuji in Japan on the other hand, you can easily be dropped off halfway to the top by a bus and have a good view of the snow-capped top (if you’re lucky and there is no fog around it for a couple of minutes). From there, it takes you about 5 hours all the way up – many people do it overnight in order to view the sunrise from atop.

Top of Mt. Fuji, Japan

Top of Mt. Fuji, Japan


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