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Reserva Natural Volcán Mombacho

Towering over the city of Granada, the jagged crater of Volcan Mombacho is an unmistakable sight and a popular spot to visit. Rather than smoke and lava, this volcano offers a rich diversity of plant and animal life, as well as pleasant trekking opportunities. The park is home to 50 species of mammals, including monkeys and big cats, and 174 species of birds. If you're lucky you can also find the rare (and unique) Mombacho salamandar, as well as the red-eyed tree frog that features so prominently on Central American postcards.

Mombacho is located about 10 km from Granada inside the Reserva Natural Volcán Mombacho. Most operators in Granada offer organized, half-day tours for around $30 per person. If you're making your own way there, the bus will drop you at the volcano's base. From there you have a 2 km uphill walk to park entrance. Inside the entrance there's a reception area, where you can wait for a ride up to the cloud forest. The park has a truck which makes the trip at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. You can try to walk the way yourself, but it's a long, exhausting hike. If you're interested in seeing an organic coffee farm, the truck can make a stop at Hacienda el Progreso. Otherwise it will continue on to the research station. The whole trip should take about an hour and a half. The cloud forest itself starts when you reach an altitude of 850 m, which is also where the protected zone begins.

Once you reach the top you can decide whether or not you want to have a guide accompany you on your hike. It's strongly recommended that you take one, since they'll be able to point out interesting flora and fauna you probably won't notice by yourself. They're full of interesting information, and have received rave reviews.

Your hike will probably start along the 1.5 km Crater Path. This takes you around one of the smaller, secondary craters of Mombacho. There are several excellent lookout points, and you'll see a range of beautiful butterflies and bird-life. The Crater Path hike should take about an hour and a half, and is relatively easy.

About two thirds of the way around the Crater Path you'll see that the trail branches to the left. Follow it to see the fumaroles, where steam and sulfuric gases come out of the ground. On your way back down, you'll see the path branches again to the left. This will take you to the Puma Path, which leads you around the edge of Mombacho's main crater. This trail is much more difficult, and much longer (about 4 km, 4 hours). This is where you can expect to see monkeys, and if you're lucky sloths. Guides are strongly recommended if you're planning on hiking the Puma Path. If you're only interested in hiking the Puma Path, you can skip the bulk of the Crater Path by heading to the right, rather than to the left, when you leave the research station.

Entrance to the park costs $10 per person. It's recommended that you go during the dry season, as rain can impede the spectacular views. It's also recommended you go during the afternoon: the 1 p.m. truck is the best to catch. Guides charge $5 flat to take you around the Crater Path, $15 to take you around the Puma Path, and $20 for both. If you feel like spending a night in the cloud forest, there is a hostel and restaurant in the research station, or a spot where you can pitch your own tent. As of June 2008 they were offering a $35 special which included entrance to the park, a night's accommodation, a guided night-walk, and breakfast.

Other neighborhoods in Granada and Around: Calle Corrales, Las Isletas, Calle Cuiscoma, Calle Atravesada, La Calzada, Calle Atravesada, Historical Center and Lakeside.

By Mike Karanicolas

Michael Karanicolas is awesome.

22 Jan 2009

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