Ometepe Island is fascinating. You will feel like on a treasure island, surrounded by two volcanoes, lush green nature, sand beaches and archeological sites. The island is floating in the Lake of Nicaragua (Cocibolca Lake) and is composed of the two volcanoes which are joined by a thin, flat isthmus. The word Ometepe derives from the Mayan language Nahuatl and is composed of the two words ‘ome’ (two) and ‘tepetl’ (mountain), which relates to the two volcanoes. As a matter of fact, it is the biggest volcanic island situated in a fresh water lake. Since 2010 Ometepe is declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Nowadays, Ometepe becomes more and more popular as a tourist destination and is one of the top destinations in Nicaragua. It is known as the ‘Oasis of peace’ by many, as it is an island with attractions and sights for everyone. The clientele varies from the usual backpacker over more nature and culture interested visitors to sport lovers as well as eco- and ethno tourists. Activities vary from lazy beach days, volcano hikes, excursions to museums and visits to the stone petroglyphs.
The two bigger towns on the island are the island capital Altagracia and Moyogalpa, where most ferries reach. The towns itself have not much on offer, but are a good starting points for day trips and excursions to the surroundings. In Altagracia you can visit the museum about the history of the island. Close to Moyogalpa you can find the museum El Ceibo, which has one exposition about ancient Mayan artefacts found on the island and another one about Nicaraguan history and the development of its means of payment.
Nevertheless, if you really want to immerse into the island spirit, you should choose one of the many hotels outside the towns. Various idyllic and quiet hotels and lodges are situated in the nature on the foots of one of the two volcanoes. Many of them follow a more eco-tourist path and serve their own, home-grown organic fruit and vegetables and are concerned about sustainability. They are also perfect starting points to explore the volcanoes and the nearby areas. In the north you can see the perfect cone shaped and still very active Concepción volcano, in the south is the extinct Maderas volcano with a blue lagoon in its crater. You can hike both volcanoes with the help of an experienced tour guide, which will take you one whole day.
Close to the Maderas volcano you will also find the San Ramon waterfalls, which is a small hike up the volcano. Also many pre-Columbian artefacts are scattered around the island. However, most of the petroglyphs and stone carvings are found close to the Maderas volcano. Ometepe is considered as one of the greatest rock art areas around the world and many of them can be seen on Finca Magdalena or Finca El Porvenir. Other sites of interest are the white sand beach in Santo Domingo and the close by natural water pool Ojo del Agua. Also the lake at Charco Verde is worth a visit.
Ferries leave daily from San Jorge, close to the town Rivas. Ferries leave approximately every half an hour and reach the town Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island. Ferries from Granda leave every Monday (14:00 h) and Thursday (17:00 h). From San Carlos the ferries leave Tuesday and Friday (14:00 h).