Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua

A diverse and adventure filled island located in the center of Lago Nicaragua. It can be accessed by ferry or lancha (small boat) from Granada or Rivas. We would recommend taking a FERRY from RIVAS unless you have an iron stomach and think a boat pitching violently for four hours on lake Nicaragua sounds like a fun time. It’s a choppy four hour ferry ride from Granada, but only about an hour from Rivas. Make sure you are buying a ticket for the ferry- look up ferry schedules online or at your hostel so you come into the harbor at the right time. You will be charged a $1 tourist tax before entering the harbor, and the ticket will be between 1 and 4 dollars (It varies, not sure why…). You will enter the ferry on the lower deck, don’t sit here unless you have to. The adventurous usually head to the top deck for an often times music filled experience, while the more luxury inclined will head to mid deck for comfortable reclining chairs and shelter from any rogue waves that might challenge the boat. A man will come around part way through and ask for your tickets. You can also just pay on the boat if you didn’t get tickets- but we saw a gringo get ripped off that way so be aware of that- it was only a few bucks but we hate falling victim to “gringo tax” because we like to think we are more savvy travelers than that 🙂 Once your ticket is checked you are home free, enjoy the ride! There is beer and *maybe* some cheap snacks for purchase on board.

Slowly you will approach two volcanoes dramatically jutting from the lake- Volcan Concepción and Volcan Maderas. If you came in from Rivas the ferry docks in a port town called Moyogalpa. The town is not so bad, but it’s a lot like most other port towns: relatively dirty and touristy. We decided to break up the trip and stay in the port one night and head over to the organic farms located on the fertile strip of land that connects the two volcanoes the next day. We walked past the first row of hostels, took a right at the gas station, and followed our noses to Doña Childo’s asadas and hostel. On asada nights Doña Childo spends all day prepping for a busy busy dinner hour where seemingly the whole town comes by to grab dinner to-go. Fried plantains are piled in a plastic bag and topped with marinated and grilled chicken or pork and shredded cabbage with citrus sauce. The smell was incredible! And the room was cheap and really nice. Fifteen dollars got us a private, quiet room in the back, two plush beds with new mattresses, TWO fans (yay!), and an ensuite bathroom with shower (and warm water). We would highly recommend this hostel.

The next morning we caught the bus around 8:30 am. The bus schedule changes and the bus leaves PROMPTLY so ask a few people when it leaves (not taxi drivers- they will typically lie to try and get you to pay for private transport).  To get to Zopilote you will need to take the bus to Balgue and tell the driver you need to stop in Madroñal, at Zopilote (they will know where this is). Once you reach the Zopilote road sign head past the “bus shop” and up the hill. Up, up, up! After about a ¼ mile you’ll see signs for reception. There are options for hammocks, dorms, and cabinas- the cabinas were only 20$ and we loved the privacy. If they are booked Las Brisas is another hostel/finca on the same hillside. To get there you just take a left when the trail splits at the gate for Zopilote. Las Brisas is a similar deal with cabinas and hammocks, and they have an awesome free breakfast! Las Brisas is smaller and more tranquil, but Zopilote has more to offer such as farm made wine and chocolate, free yoga classes, bike rentals, bread and clay classes, horseback riding on the beach for $5 an hour, the cheapest volcano tours on the island and much more! Visit their website @ http://www.ometepezopilote.com/elzopilote-en.html for more info. We love Zopilote. It has great practices and REALLY cheap, delicious, gourmet, organic food. You can volunteer there for free lodging and food if you can commit to a month- We would love to do this someday!

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