Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, Central America's youngest volcano, first appeared on April 1850 and it’s one of the region's most active volcanoes. It has been producing frequent strombolian eruptions, occasional lava fountains and lava flows, and powerful explosive eruptions every few decades that has covered its slopes with black volcanic sand, making it nearly impossible for vegetation to grow there.
If you choose to travel to the volcano independently, just head east from León on the highway that leads to Chinandega. After approximately two miles, head toward the town of Lechecuago. From the center of town, follow all signs marked "Cerro Negro." The roads become unpaved and pretty rough, so make sure to drive a SUV or similar high-clearance vehicle.
The Cerro Negro is a manageable climb that includes a primary trail that is initially graduated and travels through a series of volcanic rocks. The greatest effort is mostly at the end when the path becomes very steep and the intense heat from the sun and venting gases makes it sometimes unbearable. In other words, prepare to sweat.
But the 60-minute trek to the summit rewards you with amazing 360-degree views of the Maribios volcanic mountain chain, the city of León, and as far as the Pacific Ocean. This is unusual because many other volcanoes in the country are usually shrouded by cloud cover.
Be sure to bring enough water and sunscreen, but most embark on this trip as early as possible otherwise the heat could make your outing very uncomfortable. It is furthermore useful to bring good clothing: a pair of pants and solid hiking shoes or boots to provide protection against the sharp volcanic rocks.
The most popular way to descend the volcano is by either sandboarding or running down the steep western slope. Since the side is generally too difficult to climb due to the thick volcanic sand, it is used instead as an exhilarating descent where people "ski" down using everything from actual snowboards and flattened cardboard boxes to just the shoes on your feet. It has since become one of the top activities in the region.
Also, since 2015 it is offered a canopy activity. The Canopy Cerro Negro is an infrastructure of 829m which has 7 platforms providing panoramic view, an information and waiting house and a suspension bridge of 17m. The itinerary was designed so that tourists can climb up the volcano walking, go down volcano-boarding or running, and come back to the entrance of the site, to the Interpretative Center Los Maribios, on canopy.
Finally, unless you come independently with your own snowboard and equipment, the best way to experience Cerro Negro is by booking your adventure with a reputable tour Company. Servi Tours (www.servitourstravel.com) offers a one-day, sandboarding at Cerro Negro tour that includes a full day at the volcano, round-trip transportation, bilingual guide, the entrance fee, and sand-boarding equipment. Do not miss the opportunity to visit Cerro Negro and enjoy its adventurous plans.
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto
Latin American Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez