Nicaragua is crossed by a long volcanic chain running from north to south, with volcanoes such as Telica, Masaya, Mombacho, Concepcion, Maderas… many of which still active. Close to Granada, a 6-kilometer-diameter and 100-meter deep crater is filled by fresh water: this is the stunning Laguna de Apoyo, and most likely one of the most enjoyable swims in the country!
A short ride from Granada, away from the touristy hostels with private beaches scattered along the north west shore, we hop off the bus in Catarina. Close to the ceramics village of San Juan de Oriente, Catarina offers a panoramic viewpoint on the spectacular deep blue crater lake of Apoyo. In the background, the surrounding Mombacho volcano, the city of Granada, and the coast of Lake Nicaragua can be seen.
The view is amazing, but the swim seems pretty far down! “Half an hour down to the water from here, if you are fast!”, shout a few teenagers. That doesn’t sound that bad: we start following them on a steep unmarked trail along the slopes of the crater now covered in a beautiful tropical dry forest. Majestic trees, such as pochote, black rosewood, mahogany, marmalade plum and guacuco, and many orchids that are unfortunately not blooming in this dry season compose a lush foreground. Some howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys play in the treetops.
After the fun hike down in steaming 37°C temperatures, drenched in sweat, we finally get to the volcanic pebble beach. Relieved to be able to cool down, we are puzzled when entering the water: it is warm!
Formed about 23,000 years ago after a strong volcanic explosion, the crater of Apoyo was filled by rain water until it reached a balance of water coming in versus out (evaporation and subsurface drainage). The dormant volcano still has some underwater thermal vents warming up its water. Had it been active, most likely its water would have been acidic, saturated with volcanic gases, and cloudy with a strong greenish color.
We are lucky! The crystal-clear water feels heavy, with a slight smell of sulphur and its temperature of 27 to 28•C with the warm breeze is the perfect combination to relax us!
Beyond being a natural wonder, the Laguna de Apoyo is a fantastic swim and a great place to relax, especially after hiking up the Mombacho volcano (article to come soon, make sure to follow) and kayaking the islets of Granada!
Marcella & Claire
- You can go to the hostel side, but there are beaches all around the lake. Just follow a trail down and enjoy (bring water and food, as these beaches are hardly built).
- We recommend the trail down from Catarina: you can download the GPS track on our interactive map.
- San Juan de Oriente is an interesting place to visit on your way to the lake.