Founded in 1979, the Parque Nacional VolcĂˇn Masaya is Nicaraguaâ€™s oldest national park. Its 54 sq km (34 sq mi) contain the famous Masaya Volcano with the Masaya and Nidiri cones (the latter also has pit craters called Santiago, Masaya, Nidiri and San Pedro).
VolcĂˇn Masaya is still active and, through the Santiago crater in particular, spews a near continuous stream of sulfur dioxide gas into the park. Because of the emissions, the volcano has been dubbed one of the largest natural polluters in the world.
Despite occasional eruptions and frequent activity, visitors can still drive up the side of the volcano to peer into the craters. If you plan to visit the park in your car, make sure to keep a close eye on your valuables. Thieves have been known to ransack vehicles while their owners were exploring the volcano craters.
The best hiking trail is through the Santiago crater between Masaya and Nidiri. Lake Masaya features ancient petroglyphs and some unique flora and fauna. Camping is also possible in the park and you can arrange to visit some local caves where bats nest. As with all such expeditions, it's best if you arrange to have a guide take you around.
Just outside of the Parque Nacional VolcĂˇn Masaya is the town of Masaya, Nicaraguaâ€™s crafts and folklore capital. The main market features embroidery, tapestries, jewelry, ceramics, instruments and much more. You can find some of Central Americaâ€™s best bargains here. With more artisan citizens than any other place in Nicaragua, this is also the capital for religious festivals including Central Americaâ€™s longest, the San JerĂłnimo festival, which lasts from September 30 until the end of December.