We often view volcanoes from a distance and for good reasons. They are powerful, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time. I always wanted to get up close to one and have been on the crater edge of a couple here in Central America however this was a new experience for me. Walking along the dry mud field as steam rises from the vents in the ground, hissing as it does and boiling hot mud bubbling from the volcanic action below makes you realize on a whole new level the power underneath you.
This interesting spot is located on the edge of the small town of San Jacinto about 20 kms. from north east of Leon. The geothermal activity that feeds these mud pits and steam vents is connected to nearby Telica Volcano. It isn't really pretty to look at but has an appeal as you walk down the path crossing the now dried up river (it does flow in the rainy season) and see various sized holes in the ground, hot sulfur smelling steam rising from them. As you get closer the sound is amazing!! Bubbling and gurgling of the mud and water and hissing from the steam.
It has become a tourist attraction and a source of income for the small town. Many travel books give a negative slant to the local children wanting to guide you through the pits but this was not our experience. It was interesting to have them with us, they were polite and very knowledgeable about the area. Never once did they ask for money even when they retrieved hot fresh mud for us or made us a candle holder from the clay in the fields. All was by voluntary donations except for the entrance fee.
Geothermal power plants are also located in this area about 1 km away according to our guide. This is also the starting point for hikes up Telica Volcano.
These young locals, are Karina and Javier. Karina was our guide and gave us some details about the mud pits and kept us safe. Javier is molding a candle holder from the freshly harvested clay, as we talk.
Using a stick Karina gathers mud to give to us. It is very good for the skin she says and at a C$10 donation a lot cheaper than going to a spa. Notice the bubbling mud in the foreground, it can be up to 200 degrees in temperature.
The vents where all shapes and sizes, some large like this one pictured, others mere holes in the ground.This is where the guides came in handy as you never knew where the ground below you was getting soft. It had a very distinct smell to it. Volcan Santa Clara in the background (left side), is one that is passed when hiking the path up to the the summit of Volcan Telica (part of the ridge on the right side).
I wanted to see how hot the water was so knelt down to rinse my hands. It was hot hot hot, not burning my skin but you sure wouldn't bath in it!
Where Javier gets the clay for his creations. Notice the small vines with flowers growing near the pits. It is amazing how something so pretty can grow under such harsh conditions.
GETTING THERE & COSTS:
The park is open daily between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Entrance fee is $2 US for foreigners, less for locals. The town of San Jacinto is easy to get to by public bus. From Leon take the San Isidro bus and get off at San Jacinto. The town is just off the highway and the park entrance is straight down the road where you exit the bus. Cost for the bus is C$12.