Volcan Masaya National Park (2 hours)

Nicaragua’s first national park is the only volcano on this side of the planet where you can drive right up to the very edge of an active, smoldering crater. Spanish settlers were compelled to erect a cross to ward off bad tidings at what they considered the gateway to hell. Nowadays, another wooden cross bears testimony on a majestic promontory where the original stood, but the devil is long gone, replaced with earthly visitors eager to experience the dynamic geology of raw nature. Along with another 3 extinct craters, the park encompasses a picturesque lake and underground lava tubes that can be traversed with guides for a dose of adventure. Take a peek inside and observe the glowing red lava in the crater’s mouth. Green parakeets that nest on the walls of the active caldera to avoid predators have developed a curious immunity to the sulfuric smoke rising constantly from the fumaroles below. The crimson earth skirting the volcano sprouts flowering dry scrub forest home to deer, coatimundi, iguanas, and armadillos. The awesome spectacle of swarms of millions of bats departing their tunnel colonies is a daily ritual of dusk on Volcan Masaya that shouldn’t be missed.