• Claire

Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua!?

Updated: Jun 16

As far as I know, there's only one place in the world where you can try the extreme sport of volcano boarding - Leon, Nicaragua. Forget snowboarding, sandboarding and bodyboarding - why not gear up in an attractive yellow jumpsuit and hurtle down the side of an active volcano at speeds up to 90km per hour and give volcano boarding a try?

I was only in Nicaragua for three nights as due to the recent political instability, the country has been marked by the Australian Government as a 'high risk' country for travellers. As a result, I had to pay a daily rate extra on top of my regular travel insurance to be covered in Nicaragua - which made it quite expensive! I would have loved to stay longer as there's a great load to see in Nicaragua. Despite the travel warnings, I felt extremely safe the entire time - the violent protests have long ended and locals seem to be really grateful to tourists for visiting.

Despite my short stay, I had one must-do on my list during my time in Leon - volcano boarding. I'd heard about this extreme sport rumoured to have been started by Australian thrill-seeker, Daryn Webb. I didn't actually realise how extreme it was going to be until I got to the edge of the 700m+ high Cerro Negro Volcano... Thankfully, I survived... and volcano boarding has since become one of the coolest things I've done on my trip!

I booked the tour through my hostel in Leon with the company Volcano Day. They picked our group of 5 up from the hostel and drove us to the base of the Cerro Negro volcano in the back of a jeep. Cerro Negro (Black Hill in Spanish) is Central America's newest volcano, located just outside Leon, Nicaragua. As one side of the volcano is made up of small, almost sand-like grains of volcanic rock, it is possible to ride down the steep slope on a wooden sled.

Cerro Negro Volcano in the distance

We packed our gear into a backpack and grabbed our boards to head up to the top of the volcano. While the climb up to the 700m summit would normally be fairly easy, carrying our boards made it quite difficult. The strong winds caught our boards like a sail and I swear I nearly got blown off the side of the volcano at one point!

Our group

Climbing up the volcano

45 minutes later we were at the top. We left our boards and went for a walk around to see the crater. The views were seriously epic.

Cerro Negro Volcano

Cerro Negro Volcano

Cerro Negro Volcano

Cerro Negro Volcano

After our scenic walk we got dressed into our funky yellow jumpsuits and put on our protective gear: gloves, eye goggles and a bandana (for our mouth and nose). We arrived at our starting point and the 728m slope of black volcanic that lay before us was so steep we couldn't actually see the bottom. Peering over the edge, it almost looked like we would plunge over the side of the volcano! It was at this point that I realised this experience was going to be more intense than your average tobogganing/sandboarding ride. I was actually quite scared.

Our starting point on the side of the volcano

Our guide told us that it's possible to reach speed of up to 90km/hr down the slop which reaches an angle of 45 degrees in places. I was glad when he explained that you could dig your feet into the rocks to slow yourself. So when it was my turn, I hesitantly grabbed the handles, got into position and took a deep breath and went for it.

Volcano boarding

It was fast. Really fast. I dug my feet into the rocks all the way to slow myself, but it was still super fast. The ride felt like it went on forever and was super exhilarating - although I spent half the time concentrating on steering straight! I definitely would say I was relieved when I made it to the bottom in one piece!

Volcano boarding

Despite wearing all the protective gear, I still got absolutely covered in black volcanic dust. I was still finding tiny black rocks in my hair days later. Luckily though, I got away unscathed. One of the girls in my group fell off her board and cut her leg pretty badly on the rocks.

Volcano boarding certainly is an extreme activity and honestly, is pretty dangerous. I found out later that no travel insurance actually covers this activity - oops! It definitely isn't for the faint-hearted - but I had a ball!

The aftermath

We made our way back to Leon, after 4WD-ing over the volcanic sand dunes with our crazy dreadlocked-driver. Safe to say, although slightly dodgy, volcano boarding in Nicaragua is was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had. Definitely check it out if you're ever in the country.

While in Leon I stayed at Poco a Poco Hostel, I would highly recommend it - one of the friendliest hostels I've ever stayed in!

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