Ways to Experience a VolcanoHannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Our Real Latin America Expert
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
From kayaking in a crater to bathing in a mud volcano take a look at our top 5 ways to experience a volcano.
Yes, you read that right! Not far from idyllic Cartagena Colombia’s Caribbean coast lies the utterly unique attraction that is Volcán de Lodo El Totumo – a long-extinct volcano where instead of lava you’ll find a seemingly bottomless pool of mineral-rich mud. Enterprising locals have turned this into a natural spa, offering the chance to hop into the crater and let your skin soak up the nourishment while you bob up and down in the curiously buoyant mud. Afterwards, sunbathe on the rim of the crater to dry out and get that must-have photo!
While other activities may score higher for novelty value, a classic hike to the summit of a volcano is an experience that’s hard to top, and in our opinion there is none better to scale than Villarrica in Chile’s lake district. The most active in Chile, this ice-encased volcano spouts smoke and lava almost constantly. It is a tough five- or six- hour trek from the highest ski lift station to the top and you should be in good physical condition to attempt it, however once at the top the spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and valleys make all the effort worthwhile and you may even see bubbling lava inside the crater.You can read about one client’s experience of climbing the volcano here.
Cerro Negro is one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, a fact which can’t fail to add to the adrenaline rush you’ll get while whooshing down the side of it on an ash board! Rising out of the trees, the black walls of Cerro Negro contrast vividly with the lush green surroundings: the whole surface of the volcano is covered in a thick coating of ash, making for a smooth ride. It takes around 45 minutes to ascend to the top – and a mere matter of seconds to surf the ash straight back down to the bottom again, though luckily your board is equipped with brakes should you prefer a more leisurely descent.
It is a two-hour drive from the Ecuadorian capital Quito to the extinct volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha. Set beneath Cotacachi Volcano at an altitude of 3,000m, this sapphire lake has an amazingly picturesque setting, and what better way to enjoy it than at close range: a couple of leisurely hours on the open water offer the perfect vantage point. At the centre of the lake, two islets provide a sanctuary for much of the lake’s wildlife as well as the ideal spot for a picnic lunch.
Even before you take to two wheels, you’ll get a thrill from journeying south from Quito along the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ to Cotopaxi National Park, presided over by one of the highest volcanoes in the world: your adventure playground for the next few hours. After a short debrief and safety check at base camp (it’s also possible to climb the volcano), you’ll have a chance to acclimatise legs and lungs to riding at high altitude – a giddying 4,000m no less. Dirt tracks marked by boulders take you across a treeless expanse of wilderness to Laguna Limpiopungo, a gathering point for several species of hummingbird, deer and the reclusive Andean wolf. From here, you hurtle towards the foothills of Rumiñahui following fast-flowing rivers, before plunging down through pine forest towards the small town of Lasso and the Panamerican Highway, where the transport team will be waiting to take you back to Quito and finally out of the imposing shadow of Cotopaxi.