Ever been volcano boarding? Consider adding it to your bucket list – especially if you're in Nicaragua.
Volcan Cerro Negro is 25 kilometers from the colonial city of León, Nicaragua. The country is populated with volcanoes, and Cerro Negro is one of the younger formations (less than 200 years old). Due to a 1999 eruption, this volcano has no vegetation and is almost entirely covered with black volcanic ash.
The smooth volcanic ash and rock make for an incredibly smooth ride. At the base of the volcano there are snowboards for rent, or you can slide down the volcano in your shoes. The volcano is only 400 meters high, but since there is no paved path to the rim the 60-minute hike up can be challenging.
As you hike up to the rim (left), you pass small craters billowing out gas and sometimes-unbearable sulfuric fumes.
But once you make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views, including of nearby volcanoes El Hoyo, Momotombo, San Cristobal and Telica.
We strapped in, and immediately I realized this wasn’t sandboarding – volcano boarding involves a mix of smooth volcanic gravel and some sand. You quickly realize that stand-up boarding will bog you down, while sitting down can result in some serious speed. One of the hostels told me they’ve clocked clients at over 80 kilometers per hour.
Experienced snowboards will discover that making turns is not easy and will need to perform kick turns instead. Carving is impossible; you will definitely bite the dust. Some people in our group descended the volcano by skiing with only their shoes dug into the smooth rock.
There are a number of tour companies operating out of the once-Sandinista town of León that provide a tour to Cerro Negro. I used Quetzaltrekkers, as 100% of profits from the trips go to an organization that cares for León street children.
Plan on a 60-minute climb and a 45-second descent in a hot, rugged landscape resembling the surface of the moon. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, long pants and long sleeves, and bring sunscreen as the sun beating on the black lava rock intensifies the heat. The trip is $30 per person.
Afterwards, I picked ash and rocks out of my ears for several days.