Nicaragua is known for its volcanoes, so there are many volcano related tours you can do. One of them: Volcano Boarding. If you want to do something unique in Nicaragua, this should definitely be on your list. It’s one of the top things to do in León and one of the reasons many travelers add this town to their Central America itinerary. Volcano boarding is even the runner up in CNN’s 50 most thrilling things to do on vacation. Definitely a must-do!
So what is Volcano Boarding exactly? Well, first you hike up a volcano with a volcano board on your back, and then you sled down. It can go very fast, up to 60 miles/hr (100 km/hr). It’s not uncommon for people to fly off the board and take a tumble. Chances are you’ll meet a few backpackers along the way with some road rash (volcano rash ;)), cuts and bruises. But you’ll want to do it anyway: León is one of the very few places in the world where it’s possible!
How does it work?
There are many tour companies with which you can book a volcano boarding tour. I did mine with Volcano Day. It’s cool: you get a free t-shirt and if you book more tours (Telica is great, I did that one too!) you also get a discount. But to be honest: I think this is the case with practically every tour company in León.
Anyway, back to the volcano boarding.
The tour starts in the city centre of León, at the tour company. They’ll take you to the Cerro Negro volcano with a 4wd pickup truck. It’s a beautiful ride:
Once you’re there, you’ll be given some essentials: a pair of overalls, gloves and safety goggles in a bag. And of course a volcano board. Time for the hike!
If you don’t want to carry the board yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you. Don’t feel shitty about it: for those people it’s a way to make a living. I did carry it myself though, but two of my travel buddies decided to invest a few bucks for someone else to carry it for them.
You’ll hike up the Cerro Negro volcano in about 45 minutes. It’s not a difficult hike and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Ahh… the views.
Take a moment when you’re up there. The view is amazing. If you look around, you can see other famous Nicaragua volcanoes like San Cristóbal and Telica.
Time to change clothes! Going fully Breaking Bad with those yellow overalls and safety goggles. The goggles are shitty quality by the way. They are extremely damaged so you can hardly see through them.
After some last minute tips, tricks, do’s and don’ts, it’s time to go!
The trick is to steer and brake with your feet. Before you ask: yes, I did end up with half a volcano in my pants.
I almost fell off my board too by the way. I was barely still on it when I arrived at the bottom of the volcano, but I’m proud to say I was the second fastest of the group. Everything for a thrill.
In the end it was a truly unique experience.
Some Volcano Boarding advice
- Don’t take your expensive camera. Even if you put it in the bag on your way down: the bags are dirty with volcanic sand which will damage your electronics for sure.
- If you want to take a camera, take an action cam (like a GoPro).
- Do not wear sandals or flip flops. You have to break and steer with your feet, which is practically impossible with bare feet or sandals.