Antigua to Panama V

Days 14-15, 2nd & 3rd November

In the stunning volcanic landscapes between León and Granada lies the incredible sight of the Masaya caldera. Formed by an eruption around 2,500 years ago and growing larger ever since, the caldera is a massive crater with a glowing red lava fire at the bottom, with pungent sulphurous fumes being almost continuously pumped out. It is a ‘sub vent’ into the colossal Las Sierras shield volcano that covers a wider area, and volcanic rocks and ashes still cover the area surrounding the caldera giving the place a very haunting atmosphere!

The Masaya volcano is incredibly accessible for visitors.  You simply pay for your visitors permit at the park entrance and then proceed to drive the 5km road that crosses huge lava fields via an extremely informative visitors centre.  Duncan parked the bus we all jumped off like excited children eager to peer into the enormous smoking crater.

En-route to Granada we stop at the Masaya village craft market housed in an impressive gothic building.  Day of the Dead is still in full swing and the market is energetically decorated.

The bus takes us to Granada our base for the next 2 nights.  It is the oldest European-built city in the Americas, having been founded in 1524 – it was named after its counterpart in Spain, in honour of the recapture of the city from the Islamic Moors by the Catholic monarchy in 1492, which marked the end of the Moorish occupation of Spain. Being an important economic centre, the city saw many battles from English, French, Dutch and American pirates looking for supremacy over the area. Following Nicaragua’s independence, the city entered into a bitterly-fought rivalry with León over which city should be the capital of the new country – in the end a compromise was agreed and the new city of Managua was constructed mid-way between the two!

Granada is considerably larger than Leon and has wider quantity of equally impressive colonial buildings.  It also has one long pedestrianised street jam packed with bars and restaurants which make for a great alfresco drinking and dining experience.  We also had the best Caiprihinas there which may have clouded our judgement ever so slightly.  Yet again, we are surrounded by volcanoes!!

We are so enamoured by the Masaya volcano, that we decide to return for a sunset visit, in the hope that we could get the opportunity to view its infamous lava lake, sulphur emissions permitting.  It is one of the few places in the world that is accessible for visitors to do this and it was quite frankly an unforgetable sight.

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