The two volcanoes of Concepción and Maderas are joined by a low isthmus to form one island in the shape of an hourglass. Ometepe has an area of 276 km². It is 31 km long and 5 to 10 km wide. The island has an economy based on livestock, agriculture, and tourism. Plantains are the major crop.
The island first became inhabited during the Dinarte phase (ca. 2000 B.C. – 500 B.C.), although evidence is questionable. The first known inhabitants were Nahua Indians from Mexico. In their footsteps came the Niquirano Indians who established an important settlement on the island. Traces of this past can still be found in petroglyphs and stone idols on the northern slopes of Maderas volcano. The oldest date from 300 BC.
After the Spaniards conquered the Central American region in the 16th century, pirates began prowling Lake Nicaragua. They came in from the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River. The inhabitants of Ometepe were hard hit. The pirates stole the inhabitants' women, animals, possessions and harvest; and erected settlements on the shore, making it their refuge. This made the local population, seeking shelter, move to higher grounds on the volcanoes. The island was finally settled by the Spanish conquistadors at the end of the 16th century.
I have been in San Juan for almost a week and I have met many interesting tourists and fellow travelers. This a very relaxing town to visit. Although San Juan is one of the most expensive places in Nicaragua it is not prohibitively so.
The best place to meet fellow travelers is along the beach restaurants at sunset.
This is "Team Costa Rica". From left to right it is Scott from Florida, Max from New York City, Melisa from Columbia (living in California), Rebecca from Cyprus (living in California), and Dennis from Ontario. Yesterday the six of us took the coast road south from San Juan to the Costa Rican border. It is approximately 25 miles to the border, we took nine hours and had a blast!
The hills that can be seen in the background are in Costa Rica.
On the return trip we stoped and watched this troupe of female howler monkeys with young feeding.