Our first stop was at the visitor center where there was a ton of information about the park, the history of the Masaya Volcano (which in itself was quite interesting, sacrifices and all!), as well as geological and geographic information about volcanoes all over Nicaragua. There was a patio and viewing platform off the back of the visitor center where we looked out over the lava bed and out to the Masaya Lagoon in the background off to the right in the photo below.
We then drove up a very steep road to the crater of the volcano. On the way up, we had a great view of the cross that was first placed on the volcano in 1529 by a priest who called it the mouth of hell. The original cross has been replaced several times.
When we got to the parking area near the top, we could look right into the crater of the volcano. The smoke and fumes were quite bad, so we had gas masks! The park rangers recommend only staying at the crater for 20 minutes or less because of the fumes. This photo shows a view of the crater edge and the smoke coming out.
We tried to be quick because Abby didn't like wearing the mask. Drew didn't particularly like it either, but given his current fascination with volcanoes, he tolerated it to fight the fumes.
Nick and Drew hiked up 177 steps to the cross. Abbey and I opted not to after a group coming down told us that the fumes were even worse on the steps than in the parking area. Just check out Drew's face in this picture to get an idea of how bad the gas was.
Nick got this neat picture of the cross from right below it. The design allows it to be seen as a cross from any direction around the volcano.
After the volcano, we went into the town of Masaya to visit the market there. It wasn't much different from the market in Managua as far as the artisan crafts available, but it was in this neat stone walled, open air plaza. We enjoyed walking around and taking in the sites of the market. Nick got a cool shirt (that I'll have to get a picture of him modeling later) and Drew got a small leather journal with a volcano (of course) painted on the front.