The Somoto Canyon, one of oldest rock formations in Central America, has become one of the main attractions of Northern Nicaragua due to its recently "discovered" tourist potential. It is an impressive site with a unique scenario. Between its walls, visitors can undertake various activities.
Fifteen minutes West from the city of Somoto, capitol of the department of [visit/madriz], tourists will find this amazing geological structure that inhabitants of the area call "the structure" or "Namancambre".
The vertical walls extend for approximately five miles, on a sinuous path whose width varies between 10 and 15 meters. The waters from the Comali River (from Honduras) and Tapacali join to form the extense Coco River. In its bottom, the calmness of the water is interrupted by rocky formations that have created seven or eight small ponds with an environment filled with life, plants and fish.
The cliffs have a hight of 120 and 150 meters. In the narrowest area, they are located five meters away from each other. According to the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER), these interesting columns are the result of a geological formation, combined with the erosive action of the water. It is said that it took between 5 to 15 million years to form, a period that belongs to the the Quaternary and Tertiary Miocene.
Even though the place was discovered by Check and Nicaraguan geologists a few years ago (December 2004), the Somoto Canyon was declared a protected area, under the category of National Monument . The interest to visit the area has increased as time passes.
The canyon offers a unique environment in the country. When entering the place by the Solis Valley, which is frequently used, one can observe the panoramas of dry forest with small trees, as well as flora and fauna. Deers, parakeets, rabbits and iguanas are some of the species that inhabit the area.
As you get closer to the riverbeds of the Coco River, the path becomes sandy and one can see the streams that usually limit the access to low clearance vehicles. The topography starts changing until a single, huge wall that announces the beginning of the canyon. Between the small holes of the rock one can see orchids, bromeliads and cactus.
In addition to observing the scenic beauty, the place allows visitors to do various activities. It is possible to walk for a while on the polished rock and between the huge walls. Also, tourists can go through 300 meters of the canyon on small boats that the inhabitants of the area have built to ease the access of the place (C$20 per person both ways). And, if people are looking for a more entertained way to see the canyon, another possibility is doing it on floating tires (CS$40 per person).
Besides its utility to move through the canyon, the fresh waters of the place are one of the reasons why generations of Northern families know and visit the area during the summer.
In recent years, tourism promotion and the help of INETER, have helped defined some trails that can be used by visitors. These ones are safer and lead to viewpoints where one can appreciate the scenic beauty of the surroundings.
Some guides also offer horseback rides and lunch in the houses of the Sonis community, which inhabitants are in charge of managing the tourism activities at the canyon. They sell drinks and, when notifying in advance, organize lodging options for visitors.
For those who like adventures, it is worth mentioning that visitors can practice rappel on one of the walls (up to 60 meters high).
When traveling from Managua, it is necessary to take a bus to Somoto at the Mayoreo Market. Once in the city, tourists must go to the bus station known as "terminal de la frontera" (border station) in order to take a bus that will take them to El Espino (border with Honduras). This can also be found in front of the Red Cross building. The rate is less than C$10 until the entrance of the community of Sonis, 8 kilometers away from the city. From there, visitors will have to walk.
From the city of Somoto, continue on the Panamerican highway that takes you to Honduras. Then, turn right on the Km 320 1/2. If you are driving a 4X4 vehicle, you will be able to go 2 kilometers on an unpaved path until reaching the river. Otherwise, you will have to walk or ride a horse until getting to the entrance of the canyon.
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