About 20km south of Granada, scattered about Lago de Nicaragua, are more than three hundred and fifty islands all believed to have been formed from the exploded top of Volcán Mombacho. Many of the pre-Columbian artefacts and treasures you find in museums throughout the country came from this group, which must have been of religious significance for the Chorotega-descended people who flourished here before the Conquest. The smaller islands, Las Isletas, make for a varied boat tour. Some are home to monkeys, one has a small fortress built by the Spanish conquistadors; one or two have private mansions, and on others you will see women washing their clothes in the lake in front of their ramshackle houses.
At 52 square kilometres, Isla Zapatera is the largest of the islands, skirted by attractive bays and topped by a much-eroded extinct volcano. Guides should be able to show you El Muerto (The Dead), a site full of the remains of tombs, several petroglyphs and the scant remains – a few grassy mounds and stones – of Sozafe, a site sacred to the Chorotegas. These apart, there’s really very little to see, bar lovely views of the lake.