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Momotombo Volcano Hike: The Ultimate Guide

Momotombo Volcano Hike: The Ultimate Guide

Doing the Momotombo Volcano Hike in Nicaragua is one of the best travel experiences you can have in Central America. Actually, when it comes to hiking in Nicaragua specifically, it’s hard to beat the Momotombo Volcano Hike. Sure, there are more well known volcanoes to hike in Nicaragua. But, the views of Lake Managua from this active volcano are tremendous. Better yet, this iconic Nicaragua volcano hike can be easily visited from Leon. Plus, when you learn about some Momotombo Volcano facts, you’ll be uber keen to go and hike it!

In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the Momotombo Volcano Hike. Firstly, we’ll provide a Momotombo Volcano map and trail description. Then, we’ll detail how to visit independently. But, we’ll also recommend a Momotombo Volcano hiking tour. After that, we’ll talk about the town of Momotombo in Nicaragua and finish with some fascinating Momotombo Volcano facts.

Momotombo Volcano, Nicaragua

Also known as Volcan Momotombo, Momotombo Volcano is the southernmost volcano in a Nicaraguan volcanic chain called the Marrabios (Marabios) Chain. Located in northwest Nicaragua, the Marrabios Chain consists of a group of volcanoes. The main volcanoes include the Momotombo, San Cristobal, Pilas, Telica, Cerro Negro, El Hoyo, El Chonco, Casita, Santa Clara and Rota volcanoes. Momotombo Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes forming this volcanic range. This is one of the reasons why the Momotombo hike is so epic!

At 1,258 metres above sea level, Momotombo Volcano isn’t the highest volcano in Nicaragua. That honour goes to San Cristobal Volcano (1,745m). But, that doesn’t take away from the amazingness of the Momotombo Volcano Hike.

Check out our Cerro Negro, Telica Volcano, Asososca Crater Lake and Mombacho Volcano hike guides

Dan stands on a sand bank looking at Momotombo Volcano in Nicaragua

Momotombo Volcano Hike Preview

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 5.5 km
  • Time: 4–5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 630m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Momotombo

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The Momotombo Volcano Hike is one of the most challenging trails in Nicaragua. Most people think it’s the hardest volcano hike in Nicaragua. But, the Asososca Lagoon hike is actually more difficult! But, for sure, the Momotombo Volcano Hike will test even the most experienced hikers.

It’s the terrain, trail orientation and steepness which make this hike challenging. Hiking on loose volcanic rocks and dense volcanic ash is difficult enough. But, the trail partly traverses the side of the volcano. The awkward tilted angle of the trail will definitely challenge your balance. Throw in the steep incline and you’ve got a difficult hike on your hands.

But, don’t let the difficulty deter you from doing this hike. Thankfully, there are different trails running all over the volcano. Some are slightly easier than others. So, if you’re not an experienced hiker, you can combine some of the easier trails throughout. Plus, you can complete just some of the hike and avoid the really difficult sections. You’ll still get to hike on the volcano and enjoy fantastic views.

FYI – in early 2022, Momotombo Volcano was very active. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t hike to the summit. Even without being able to reach the peak, we still highly recommend this hike. You’ll reach the base of the volcano, which provides extraordinary views of it and the surrounding lagoons and volcanoes.

Dan hikes on the side of the volcano
Traversing the side of Momotombo Volcano

Momotombo Volcano Map

Here’s a GPS-guided Momotombo Volcano Hike map. Admittedly, it’s mandatory to do this hike with a guide (more on this below). So, you won’t really need a Momotombo Volcano map anyway. But, this map will give you a rough idea of what you’re getting yourself into!

As mentioned, because of the volcanic activity, you can see we couldn’t access the crater summit. But, when this volcano isn’t so active, the hike basically continues up the southern flank to reach the crater.

Momotombo Volcano Hike

Initially, you’ll follow a defined trail through a forested area. Soon, your forest surrounds disappear as you reach the Momotombo lava fields. The flat trail then begins to ascend. You’ll be battling the volcanic ash, hiking with all of your might to prevent yourself from slipping backwards.

You’ll then reach a flatter area, which is the location of a previously used campsite. There are multi-coloured rocks and a few trees scattered around. After passing through this flat section, you’ll reach the southern side of the volcano. This is where the trail becomes a lot more challenging!

Hiking along the slippery side of the volcano is a slow and steady process. Personally, I managed just one fall and a bit of a scraped knee. Beck, notorious for a few tumbles, definitely showed me up, as she managed to stay on her own two feet the entire time!

Despite the difficulty, hiking Momotombo in Nicaragua is a thrilling and exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, with the volcanic activity, there was quite a lot of sulphur smog early on. This obstructed our views during the ascent. Luckily, the smog started to clear as we neared the base of the volcano.

Reaching the Base of the Volcano

After a difficult climb around the side of the volcano, you’ll reach a sturdier section underfoot. This trail is initially steep. But, the rocks aren’t as loose. So, it’s much easier to climb. Very soon, the trail flattens as you reach a fantastic vantage point. You’ll be right at the base of Momotombo Volcano – one of the best volcanoes to explore in Nicaragua.

As mentioned, we couldn’t continue to the summit. So, we admired the steaming volcano crater from afar and took in the gorgeous views of Lagoon Managua and Momotombito. With the sun shining brightly, you’ll see the raw red colour of the crater summit.

At this vantage point, it’s time for a few photos and snacks. Then, you’ll begin the return journey. Considering the steep descent, the hike down is much quicker. You’ll even be able to slide down sections that don’t have too many large rocks.

Thankfully, for us, the sulphur smog began to clear. So, we enjoyed better views during the descent part of this hike. You’ll get to see many of the surrounding volcanoes, including Cerro Negro, El Hoyo, Asososca and San Cristobal. Enjoying awesome views of other Nicaragua volcanoes was a great way to end the Momotombo Volcano Hike.

Hike Recap

The Momotombo Volcano Hike is easily one of the best trekking experiences you can have in Nicaragua. Expect a challenging, but exciting and adventurous hike at Momotombo! For all the juicy details on getting there and fun Momotombo Volcano facts, continue below.

Dan and Beck at the base of Momotombo Volcano

Getting to Momotombo Volcano Independently

You can reach the town of Momotombo in Nicaragua independently by using chicken buses. From Leon, catch a chicken bus to La Paz Centro. The journey takes around 45 minutes and costs around $1USD. From La Paz Centro, jump on a chicken bus to Momotombo. The drive is around 30 minutes. Again, the price is around $1USD. These buses generally depart every 20–30 minutes when full. To return, simply do the same journey in reverse. But, be mindful that the final bus departing La Paz Centro to Leon usually leaves around 4:30pm.

Although you can reach Momotombo independently, you can’t hike Momotombo Volcano without a permit. This needs to be organised in advance. We’ve heard the day before will suffice, as long as you do so during standard office hours. But, to be on the safe side, we’d recommend organising a permit two days before you visit. You can organise a permit directly with the Momotombo Nature Reserve Tourist Organisation. The price is $3USD per person. Their number is +505 2310 4081.

Also, it’s mandatory to have a guide for the Momotombo Volcano Hike. That’s because the volcano is active and potentially dangerous. Plus, the hike is difficult. Again, you can organise a local guide directly with the Momotombo Nature Reserve for $40USD per group.

Unless you’re keen on a long hike from town (extra 3 hours each way via the nature reserve checkpoint for a permit check), you should get the pick-up truck to the trailhead. It’s $30USD per group for roundtrip transportation from Momotombo to the trailhead. FYI, it’s an eight-person maximum.

Momotombo Volcano Hiking Tour

Doing a Momotombo Volcano hiking tour is by far the easiest and most convenient way to visit. By organising through a tour company, they will sort out everything. This includes the permit, roundtrip transportation from Leon to Momotombo, pick-up truck transportation from Momotombo to the trailhead and a guide. To save time and effort, Beck and I opted for a Momotombo Volcano hiking tour.

We had a great experience hiking with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels. Based out of Leon, Fun ‘N’ Sun goes above and beyond to ensure you have a comfortable and safe hike. They can provide trekking poles for an easier trek, and, a gas mask and helmet, just in case Momotombo Volcano doesn’t play nice. Unlike other tour companies in Leon, Fun ‘N’ Sun keep its group sizes small, and offers very affordable private tours. So, you can enjoy a fantastic hike without the crowds.

The Momotombo Volcano hiking tour offered by Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels costs $45USD/person, with a minimum of three people required. If you’re a couple, you’ll just need to cover the costs of the third person. To book this tour, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+505 8993 3714) or on their office landline (+505 2311 0748). Otherwise, you could always drop into their office in Leon to find out more information. Feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

FYI – pickup is at 4am from your accommodation in Leon. The early start helps you beat the heat!

Momotombo Volcano Hiking Tour Alternative

If you’re not keen on the difficult hike, you can still experience the volcano and some of its best lookouts. An alternate tour offered by Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels is a Momotombo Volcano Lookout and Asososca Lagoon Swimming tour. The tour involves hiking an easier trail, which still provides extraordinary views of the surrounding volcanoes and lagoons. Plus, you’ll also visit the beautiful Asososca Lagoon! It’s $55USD per person, and includes a packed lunch!

Momotombo, Nicaragua

Based in the charming town of Momotombo in Nicaragua, the volcano looms large. Set on the shores of the beautiful Lagoon Managua, Momotombo is a small village, famous for its awesome volcano. But, it’s also well known for an archaeological site called León Viejo, which has been nicknamed the ‘Pompeii of America’. These historical ruins are definitely worth checking out if you have spare time in Momotombo in Nicaragua. After all, León Viejo is a UNESCO world heritage listed site.

After hiking Momotombo Volcano, we highly recommend sticking around for lunch and a beer. Bar Momotombo is a rustic beach-vibe establishment excellently perched on the lagoon. Sit back, and enjoy the views of Momotombo Volcano and Lagoon Managua.

Momotombo Volcano Facts

Momotombo Volcano has an interesting history, so it’s really fun facts galore. Have a look at our Momotombo Volcano facts below for a greater appreciation during your hike. Although, a decent local guide should hopefully spill the beans on most of these Momotombo Volcano facts when you’re there.

  • Momotombo Volcano Eruptions: the most famous eruption was in 1610. This eruption led to the formation of the ruins of this city preserved at León Viejo. There have also been noteworthy eruptions in 1885, 1905 and 2015.
  • Momotombo Volcano Deaths: the death rates of historical volcano eruptions is uncertain. But, there were no deaths recorded during the most recent 2015 eruption. Although, sadly, a tourist did pass away from an accident when hiking the volcano early in 2022.
  • Volcano Type: Momotombo is a miraculously cone-shaped stratovolcano.
One of the best volcanoes in Nicaragua

Hiking Essentials

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Make sure to also pack 3L of water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. Also, the trail is quite dusty. Expect a tonne of dust in the air, especially when you’re sliding back down the volcano. So, you should think about wearing a neck gaiter to keep the dust out of your lungs.

Bonus Tips

  • Be prepared to get dirty: it’s a difficult trail! Expect a fall or two. So, don’t wear a white T-shirt!
  • Choose online guides rather than books: we found lots of information about Nicaragua Volcano hikes in travel books that were quite outdated. For the latest information, use online guides with updated information.
  • Best volcano to visit in Nicaragua: other than Momotombo, we think the best volcanoes to visit are Cerro Negro, San Cristobal and El Hoyo.
Momotombo Volcano hike pinterest

Check out The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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