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Parque Nacional Archipiéago Zapatera - National Park - Nicaragua

Established as a National Park in 1983, the Zapatera Archipelago consists of a series of islands in Lake Nicaragua. The park gets its name from the largest island, Zapatera, which makes up over half the total landmass of the park. The island is also home to Zapatera volcano. The park has a little bit of everything, including interesting geology, birds, animals and plants, as well as pre-Columbian archaeological sites.

Despite its proximity to Granada, Zapatera Island and the rest of the park are surprisingly tourist-free. There are a couple of small communities on Zapatera Island who make a living fishing, tending cattle, farming and guiding visitors, but on the whole the islands that make up the park are pristine.

Just because tourists haven't found the park yet doesn't mean that there is nothing to do there. Zapatrera Island has a number of good hiking trails, some of which go up the dormant volcano. There is excellent fishing in the waters near the island and the lake is good for swimming. Although the archaeological sites have been plundered many times, there are still some relics and ruins to be seen.

There are basically two options for those who wish to stay in the park. First is Santa Maria, a converted hacienda popular with the all-inclusive tour group set. Prices are high, but for those who demand comfort, it's the only game in town. Those on a budget can stay in a bare-bones rural lodge in the Sonsapote community. Both lodges can arrange transportation to the island: at this time there is no public transportation to get there. Hikes and fishing can be arranged from either location.

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