If you go to Leon, Nicaragua you should add hiking Telica Volcano to your list of to-dos. As well as the gorgeous colonial architecture and adrenaline filled volcano boarding tours, Leon is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Many of the tour companies offer excursions and tours to the surrounding volcanoes, however, they can be upwards of $30 USD per person, and if you have already forked out about that much to volcano board and you’re on a budget, chances are you aren’t too willing to do it again. However, you can hike Telica Volcano unguided so long as you are relatively fit and able, for a very small cost. Situated just outside of Leon, Telica Volcano is one of many active volcanoes in Nicaragua. You can hike right to the very edge of the volcano and even camp right next to it.
Ensure that, you are fit enough, to hike for a sustained period of time of about 8 hours or more. Make sure you have a large breakfast. Make a packed lunch, bring snacks, plenty of water (we took 2 1 ½ litres each and it was barely enough in the heat) and I’d recommend some sort of energy drink for an extra boost at the base of the volcano (we took a litre of Raptor, Stuart was basically addicted to the stuff). Wear appropriate clothing and footwear (hiking boots are definitely a huge plus I wouldn’t do it in trainers), a hat is also a good idea. A small amount of cash in Cordobas to pay for park entry, parking if you have a car, the ‘Chicken’ bus there and back and snacks (there is a little bar at the beginning/end). Maps.me downloaded for Nicaragua (extremely useful as there are no signposts, and it doesn’t require internet). Also take fully charged portable chargers for your phones, just in case.
Admittedly, the benefit of a tour, is door to door transport. However, compared to Nicaragua’s ridiculously cheap ‘Chicken’ bus transport system, the costs outweigh the ease. You get a ‘Chicken’ Bus from the bus station in Leon to San Jacinto, the small town that Telica is closest to, and where the hike actually begins it costs about 12 Cordobas per person (however sometimes we found that ‘Chicken’ Bus drivers in Nicaragua would tell us a slightly higher price than what we had heard it was because we were tourists but nothing significant). Also, keep your valuables near you whilst on the bus as we had heard of numerous cases of theft on board the buses. If you have issues figuring out which bus to get, or where the station is, or on the other end, or where the trail starts just ask people. As long as you have a small amount of Spanish you should get help, we found Nica people very helpful, just politely decline if offered a guide or told it is too dangerous (or take the guide, sometimes guides actually at the attraction are significantly cheaper if you are uncomfortable with the prospect of hiking alone).
Most of the actual hike is flat as you have to walk quite a way from the park entrance to where the actual volcano is. It is a very pleasant walk, beginning in a hot spring network, through fields, and past mountains.
It was very pleasant although we got slightly bored at times. We passed lots of super friendly traditional Nica cowboys, people were very nice and friendly if we asked for help. The actual hike up, isn’t very hard, as it’s uphill, and then plateaus and then uphill again. That bit actually does not take very long, and you start to have signs and markings to help you find your way at this point. We stopped near the top to have lunch overlooking a gorgeous range of mountains, that had either once been or would become volcanoes.
It was all surprisingly lush and green despite the dry season just coming to an end (early May). From there we continued a small way to the very top of the volcano and walked along a rocky path to the very mouth.
I would not spend too long at the mouth of the volcano as occasional Sulphur blows making it hard to breathe and can irritate your eyes. We then walked around the area surrounding the volcano, to take in the gorgeous views, and see the local horses grazing.
We walked back out to the trail via the camping grounds, which were nicely set up with a place to sit, and a fire pit. If we had our own camping gear we would have stayed the night. It was beautiful and it would have been amazing to see the magma glow at night, it also would have been easier on our legs spreading the walking over two days. But we didn’t, so we headed down the volcano.
This took a lot longer (it seemed to take forever) in part due to fatigue, less excitement, and also due to a knee problem I have, that means downhill is the more painful part for me. Although assuming you have perfectly healthy knees it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
About 12 Cordobas each ($0.50 USD) each way (take extra in case you have a cheeky bus driver) or prices change. Or 60 Cordobas for parking ($2USD).
Entrance to the park costs 60 Cordobas each about $2 USD (take a bit extra to account for any changes in price since then)
Food cost us about $2 USD each as we were bulk buying sandwich fillers, bread and snack anyway, the largest cost was probably the fact that we couldn’t live without Oreos. We also took deconstructed sandwiches, so we took little ziplock bags with separated sandwich ingredients so that the sandwiches didn’t get soggy.
Water in Nicaragua was costing about $1 USD for 1 ½ litre bottles. But we were buying 5-litre bottles and reusing old 1 ½ litre bottles which ran out slightly cheaper. We froze one bottle before going so that the food and drinks would stay cold.
Approximate Total Cost: $7 USD per person
Definitely worth it, and so much money was saved, we could take our own time and we weren’t forced to be a part of a group (yes maybe we are slightly anti-social but there is nothing more annoying than someone slowing a hike down or getting trapped hiking for 8 hours with someone driving you up the wall).