You’ve heard about, you’ve seen pictures of it and now your finally going to do it. One of the most popular activities you can do whist traveling the backpacker trail through Central America is hurl yourself down the side of Cerro Nergo Volcano in Nicaragua on a makeshift “toboggan” with a group of fellow travelers. Yes it’s what “everyone does” and no it’s not an “off-the-beaten-path” sort of activity. But lets face it; it’s a rite of passage and there’s a reason everyone does it: It’s a ton of fun!
Volcano Cerro Negro is located just outside the incredible city of Leon, and is the newest volcano to form along the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range. This volcano last erupted in 1999 and you can still see smokes rising from the central cauldron.
Most every tour company and hostel offers the chance to volcano board down its side and some even give you a t-shirt for conquering this activity! I recommend signing up for a morning session as it can get quit hot and there is no cover or shade.
Your group will be shuttled out to a small parking lot at the base of the volcano and you’ll be handed your toboggan and a bag to carry up, containing your coveralls, knee pads, goggles (like the ones you wore in grade 8 science class), and gardening gloves. From there you’ll set off to hike to the peak of this small dome of ash and rocks.
The beginning is a bit steep but short until you reach a switch back. This is a great spot to take in the view and you’ll get a great look at the inner volcano itself.
From there you follow the ridge line all the way around to the front side of the volcano. Since the entire volcano is devoid of plant life, you’ll have amazing 360° views of the surrounding country side, and the volcanoes in the distance.
Once at the top, you can visit the actual crater’s edge where the sand will be steaming and is quite hot to touch.
After taking in the view, it’ll be time to go volcano boarding! First things first. You WILL get dirty and covered in volcanic sand and rocks, regardless of whatever coveralls your tour company hands you to wear (plan on heading back to your hostel/hotel for a shower afterwards). I wore a buff over my face along with my goggles and still ended up with rocks and sand all over my face, in my eyes and my mouth. I even found sand and rocks in my sports bra! But its a small price to pay for a bit of fun so just accept this as part of the experience.
One by one you and your fellow adventurers will take a seat on your “toboggan” and slide down to the bottom of the volcano. You can control your spend and direction by using your feet, though this kicks up a lot of sand and rocks (and meant that I couldn’t’ see much most of the time). Some tour companies will even stand at the bottom and clock your speed!
All in all this is an awesome half day activity to do while visiting Leon. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience and a must while your traveling through Central America. Happy sliding!
Have you ever tried volcano boarding? If not, would you?