Masaya Volcano National Park, which is one of the most interesting and beautiful National Parks which Nicaragua has to offer, is a sight to behold, and should be on every backpacker’s “to do” list.
The Masaya Volcano National Park was established back in 1979 as the first national park in all of Nicaragua. It is made up of an area some 54 kilometers square and sports over 20 kilometers of breathtaking roads and trails to blaze, which lead to and around the two very spectacular volcanoes as well as five gargantuan craters.
The Masaya Volcano National Park is of course named so because it is the home to the Masaya Volcano. The Masaya Volcano is also known locally as “Popogatepe” which literally means the “mountain that burns” in the indigenous language of the Chorotega tribe. While the indigenous language has all but been forgotten in places such as the capital city of Nicaragua, Managua, Masaya Volcano National Park prides itself on keeping touch with the earliest roots of Nicaraguan society.
One of the craters of the Masaya Volcano, Santiago Crater, is one of the most breathtaking sights you can take in while visiting the Masaya Volcano National Park. This is because you can clearly see the gases emanating from the crater and at night, can even see the dim glow of the lava burning away far below.
Back in the days before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Masaya Volcano was an object of great respect amongst the people of the time. The indigenous people’s believed that the eruptions were a sign from the Gods which showed displeasure, and to help appease them they offered up sacrifices, which included small children and virgins.
During the time of the Conquest, the Spaniards christened the volcano “La boca del infierno” which means “the mouth of hell”. They then proceeded to plant a cross, “La crus de bobadilla” – named after the Father Francisco Bobadilla –, which can still be seen to this day, though it is not advised to walk up and peer over into the abyss. This cross was placed there back in the 16th century to help and exorcise the Devil.
The Volcano was then visited by quite a number of Spaniards who were looking for “The Gold of the Volcano”. To this date, it is not known if there is in fact any gold at all. We all know the Spanish and their “Gold Fever” had taken them all around the globe, and quite often they came up empty handed.
One of the most interesting points of interest you can find in the Masaya Volcano National Park is of course the “Piedra Quemada”, quite literally meaning “the burned rock”. This rock was thrown an astounding distance from the Masaya Volcano back in the 1800s, and was supposedly much larger than the huge size it is today.