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15 things to do on Isla de Ometepe

By rights, Nicaragua's Isla de Ometepe should be the setting for hundreds of films. Its remarkable appearance would be the perfect backdrop to fantasies, folkloric romances and horrors. Luckily the film directors have yet to catch on so the island and its myriad of attractions are yours to enjoy, undisturbed by diva actors and their flapping entourages.

Kayaking to River Istian, Isla de Ometepe © Craig FastAbout Isla de Ometepe

Isla de Ometepe is made of twin volcanoes that rise dramatically from Lake Nicaragua. Lava flows created a base that joins them. Local legend would have you believe that the volcanoes were formed from the breasts of Ometeptl, a daughter of the Niquirano tribe who fell in love with Nagrando from the rival tribe, Nagrandando. In that time, the area was a dry and fertile valley. When the lovers decided the only way they could live in peace together was to die together, 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, forming Lake Nicaragua.

Whistle ducks, Isla de Ometepe © Craig FastThe northern-most volcano, Concepción, is a near-perfect cone rising to an altitude of 1,610m above the lake. It is still active and emergency evacuation routes are signposted around the island, although the last major eruption was in 1957. To the south, less-impressive Maderas reaches a height of 1,394m. Its slopes are covered in cloud forest and there is a popular hiking route to the top for the view of Concepción.

The volcanoes are ringed by a rough road that is only paved in parts and plied by slow buses or expensive taxis, horses, bicycles, mopeds and cattle. Small villages are dotted around the island. The affable locals make a living from farming, fishing and tourism. Chickens scratch in the dirt and fish dry in the sun. It’s a simple, highly infectious way of life, but if you can drag yourself out of island time for an hour or two, there’s plenty to keep you busy…

15 things to do on Isla de Ometepe

1. Laze away an afternoon in a kayak on the River Istian. Contact Caballito's Mar Hotel (tel: (505) 8451 2093) for expert local guides.

2. Go horse riding to San Ramon waterfalls, canter along one of the island’s beaches or trot the ring around Maderas Volcano.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010