The port of entry for arrivals from San Jorge, it is the closest thing to a bustling town of commerce on the island. Moyogalpa has many sleeping options and cars can also be rented here for exploring the island. Buses wait for the boats and run to the principle town on the eastern side of the island, Altagracia, 24 km over a paved road. From Altagracia the visitor can continue to Santo Domingo on the isthmus and Balgues and San Ramón on the Maderas side. The patron saint festival is for Santa Ana. Processions begin on July 23 in the La Paloma barrio and continue for several days. On the 25th there is a beautiful dance with girls dressed in indigenous costume and on the 26th a giant party with bloodless bullfights.
A small and quiet village, with a relaxed and friendly populace, this historic village predates the arrival of the Spanish. The Spanish renamed the village upon arrival, but as with the most he population remains predominately indigenous. The big attraction for the visitor is the sculpture-park under shade trees next to Altagracia’s church. The park houses some of the most beautiful pre-Columbian statues in Nicaragua. These thousand year old sculptures represent human forms, morphing with animal heads. West of the plaza is the little Museo de Ometepe, which has more pre-Columbian treasures. Altagracia has inexpensive lodging and good access to the preferred ascent of Concepción that starts south of the town entrance. Altagracia’s sleepy port is in San Antonio, located 2 km north of the village; rustic transportation meet the arrival of the red-eye ferryboat that runs twice weekly between Granada and San Carlos.
This sandy stretch is one of the finest fresh water beaches in Nicaragua. Located in the shadow of both the forest covered Volcán Maderas and mighty Volcán Concepción, it is truly an exotic lake beach. The lake’s water is warm, its waves gentle and the shelf gradual, making it an ideal swimming beach for all ages. Santo Domingo is located on the trade wind side of the island and since it is between the two cones, winds blow nearly year-round, keeping the heat down and somewhat mitigating the island insect population. The beach’s width depends on the time of year, with the end of the dry season revealing a broad swath of sand, and inversely at the end of the rainy season a much more narrow strip of sand between the forest and water lines.
Though it boasts 3,000 inhabitants, the village is best known for the modern summer homes built by wealthy Managua businessmen and foreigners who take advantage of calm lake waters to land their private yachts. The easiest trail to reach the cascade of the same name is also located here. San Ramón is also home to a Tilapia farming operation just off its shore.
A tiny village built where the Eastern slope of the Maderas Volcano reaches the lake shore, Balgües has a distinctly hippie feel that has grown from its place on the international backpacking route. This distinction is thanks to the Finca Magdalena, an organic coffee cooperative and youth hostel set above Balgües and right at the base of the mountains most popular hiking trail to the summit.
A picturesque village spread out beneath towering palms and mango trees, this village affords access to the Río Istián, great for kayaking during the wet season and an excellent birding site. There is a basic lodge just south of the village built behind the old Somoza dock (where coffee used to be shipped to the mainland in the 1970’s) that offers kayaks and mountain bikes for visitors.
Urbaite and Las Pilas
These two towns are the heart of the island’s seven-village Comunidad indígena, and its ancient political structure that has survived a half-millennium of occupation. The indigenous community offers lodging in family homes to visitors and hikes through their forest reserve and lookout points. Though indigenous dress and language are no longer used, these communities hold regular elections for indigenous leaders and the community is the last bastion of and oral history that dates to more than 3,000 years. Community members also have an intimate understanding of the active Concepción Volcano, its mud and lava flow routes, efficiently compiled in the collective memory of the community via centuries of verbal records.