Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island

Janet Grischy

Lake Nicaragua is one of the wonders of the Western Hemisphere. One hundred miles long and as much as 46 miles wide, it is the largest freshwater lake in Central America, but it may millennia ago have been part of the sea. Freshwater sharks and tuna, and the extremely rare sawfish swim in these waters.

Out in the lake, accessible only by ferry, lies the magical island of Ometepe. The island is composed of two volcanoes and an isthmus that connects them, and is the largest freshwater island in the world. Trails up the volcanoes Conception and Madera lead the explorer through fields of plantains, sugar cane and coffee to lush rain forest. Pre-Columbian petroglyphs and sculptures dot the island, reminders of the ancient people who worshipped here. There is a cloud forest, one of the rarest ecosystems on earth, on Volcan Madera, and down in its caldera, a cold crater lake where the cries of howler monkeys echo out of the mists. It's best to go with a guide, but it's an experience not to be missed. Afterwards spend some time on a beautiful island beach, undisturbed except by the breeze in the palms.