Ometepe Island

According to Niquirano legend, once upon a time there was a dry and fertile valley where Lake Nicaragua is now. The two volcanoes of Ometepe Island were formed from the breasts of Ometeptl, a maiden of the Niquirano tribe who fell in love with Nagrando from the rival Nagrandando tribe. The lovers came to realize that the only way they could be together was to die together, so they slit their wrists. As Ometepl died she arched her back in pain and despair, her breasts swelling to form the twin peaks, and the valley flooded with her tears, forming Lake Nicaragua. Besides being the inspiration for numerous local legends, Ometepe Island was once used as an Indian burial ground.

In reality, Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. Its name derives from the Nahuatl words ‘ome’, meaning two, and ‘tepetl’, meaning mountain, two mountains. Ometepe is the largest of 365 islands and islets in Lake Nicaragua.

Ometepe IslandThe two volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, are joined by a low isthmus to form one island in the shape of a peanut. Ometepe is 31 km long and 5 to 10 km wide, and has an area of 276 km2.

Volcán Concepción, in English is Conception Volcano, and it is on the northwest half of the island. Concepcion has a symmetrical cone and is considered an active volcano. It was formed in the early Holocene period. Through continuous eruptions it now reaches an altitude of 1 610 meters. This makes Ometepe the world’s highest lake island. Concepcion is considered the most perfectly formed volcano cone in Central America. The volcano went through a long dormant period but on December 8, 1880, Concepcion roared back to life. This eruption was intense and the volcano remained active for a year. More eruptions followed in 1883, 1889, 1902, 1907, and 1924. In 2005, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale occurred as a result of increasing pressure within the volcano. Cracks appeared on roads throughout the island and an advisory to leave the island was issued. This was the first minor eruption since 1999. The most recent eruption was in 2010 and although it was violent, few of the inhabitants heeded the order from the government in Managua to evacuate the island.

The southeast half of the island consists of Maderas Volcano. Maderas has a crater lake and supports a diverse rain forest environment. Maderas also arose in the Holocene epoch and rises 1 394 m above sea level. It is considered extinct or possibly dormant. The large lagoon in its crater was discovered on April 15, 1930, by the farmer Casimiro Murillo. The sides of the volcano are mainly covered with coffee and tobacco plantations while the remainder is rain forest. Much of this part of the island is now a nature reserve.

book now button smallThe volcanic ash has made the soil of this island extremely fertile, allowing continuous planting. The volcanoes are visible from everywhere on the island, and life on Ometepe revolves closely around them.

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