Isla de Ometepe and a Priceless Photo-op

We recently heard rumblings about a must-ride ‘extra’ to the typical southward bound pan-american cycling route: an eighty-some-odd mile figure-eight around the double-volcano island of Ometepe in the southern freshwater sea of Lago de Nicaragua.

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The island was formed by Volcan de Conception and Volcan Madera which are a part of the Cordillera Los Marrabios volcano range jutting straight out of the massive freshwater lake. We met back up with Lee (a cycling cohort we met in El Salvador) in Granada and from there caught the four hour ferry to the island ready for a dirt-road adventure. Over the next three days on Ometepe we got a taste of some fantastic riding that sometimes devolving to technical flowy single-track, a wealth of natural beauty and vintage island charm. Here is the story in photos and captions:

View Ometepe, Nicaragua in a larger map

Bike touring Nicaragua

Lee working his Spanish to figure out the bike situation on the ferry.

Surly Troll bike touring Nicaragua

Our bikes being overseen by deck-hands.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

The evening light on the ferry made for some fun shooting.

Travel photo Nicaragua

A nice sunset as we said goodbye to Granada and Volcan Mombacha.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Gin practicing her Spanish with some young Nicaraguans as Conception emerged into view.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Conception at dusk from the ferry.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Met Mykal and Nico re-assembling in prep for our 4km night-ride caravan to the nearest town on Ometepe.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

This dog with one white eye was giving me a stare the next morning.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Lee getting ready to throw some stones at mangoes after our introduction to Ometepe’s rocky roads.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Taking a rest-stop and fueling our Coca-Cola addiction.

Volcan de Conception

Making our way around the slopes of the mesmerizing Volcan de Conception.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

A cemetery on the island.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Not sure how we’d get off this island if she was to blow.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Heading back up to the loop road from a break at a finca.

Bike touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Cooking up the morning fry.

Ometepe Nicaragua

Curious daughter of the folks who owned the beachfront backyard where we camped for the night.

Surly Troll Bike Touring Nicaragua

Gin negotiating some piedras.

Bicycle touring in Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Meeting back up for a break with Mykal and Nico.

Bike touring Surly Troll

Picking lines in some technical bits. Photo by Lee.

Ometepe Nicaragua

Lots of horses on the island… and lots of new ones as well.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua Surly Troll

Gin checking out some howler monkeys.

Surly Longhaul Trucker and Surly Troll

A pair of Surlys on a volcanic boulder.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

The island’s work-truck infrastructure is made up of vintage clunkers.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Gin summoning creatures from the forest.

Bicycle touring Surly Troll - Tubus, Rohloff, Carradice

Lots of red and black painting everywhere.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua Surly Troll

Gin working some technical chops.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Sad to be leaving, but we had a date with the Rivas fire station.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Watching Conception fade from view.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Lee chowing a papaya with an onlooker.

Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Some of the deck-hands playing a game of checkers.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Last good sight of Conception.

Bicycle touring Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua Surly Troll

Catching Gin’s beautiful eyes through the window.

Rivas , Nicaragua Fire station

Ah yes, the Rivas fire station. This too is becoming a popular camping option for Pan-Am cyclists. We couldn’t resist at the promise of a nice morning photo.

Rivas , Nicaragua Fire station

Pretty sweet engine.

Rivas , Nicaragua Fire station

And a station dalmation to boot.

Rivas Fire Station

We’d heard of this photo-op and slept with the station crew to wake up to a very large man sleeping on the pool-table. Priceless.

For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.


  • That island is really awesome….probably should have stuck around for that.

  • Yeah, it is pretty incredible… the riding is great as well.

  • peterbees

    Thanks for the great pics. I’m looking forward to a visit in Feb 2014.
    peter mcfadden, North Wales, UK

  • Thanks Peter. Are you heading to Nicaragua then, or doing a longer trip trough?

  • Derek

    Great Pics, I will be there in two weeks…wish I was taking my bike.

  • Chet Suabo

    I loved the photos. I am off to Nicaragua in a month. I’ll be with my kids (aged 12, 14). I know it is possible to rent bikes on Ometepe. We’ll be staying in Santa Cruz. Can you recommend any bicycle rides in that vicinity that would be family friendly?

  • Thanks Chet! Hmm, family friendly is a a hard term to pin down. The places to ride are the loop. The east part of the island (where Santa Cruz is) has less traffic. The absolute east side get’s a little rough, but not too bad. I would think kids that age could handle it, but I am not sure. If you like dirt/gravel, I would start out going counter clockwise on that side. Once you get past San Ramon, if it get’s too rough/steep for the kids, you could easily head back. I would definitely ask the rental company though, I am sure they know of some other interior trails… we just did the big figure 8. Have fun!

  • Pari Kemmick

    We are headed to ometepe in two days, thanks to your posts about it! It’s been a beautiful ride so far, looking forward to my birthday on the island!

  • Scott Pauker

    Glad to see people have posted about Ometepe. I’m curious if people have explored any other single track off of the main figure 8. I’ll be there in 2 days to climb the volcanos and do some volunteer work. I’ll ride the loop too, but hoping there might be some weird cattle trails to dig around on…

    And while in the area… Anyone know of trail riding near San Juan del Sur?

  • LMor

    I love your pictures! Beautiful! My family is traveling to Nicaragua on the 23rd. We are excited for this backpacking adventure with our two young boys. We plan on spending most of our time on Ometepe.

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