It is Nicaragua’s third National Park and the second largest island, located on the west side of Great Lake Nicaragua. Zapatera is an extinct eroded volcano with small neighboring islands. This 40 square kilometer (15 square miles) island has a rectangular shape with interesting irregular topography. The highest peak of the island is 629 meter (2000 ft); its southwest corner is separate from the mainland with a narrow strait of 400 meters (1200 ft).
Zapatera was the important scenery of one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the middle of the XIX century. The island was used as a major ceremonial site by “Chorotegas” groups, a Meso-American group which extended their dominions over the Pacific basin, from northwest Costa Rica to Southwest Honduras.
The United States government in the pursuit of building a water canal in Nicaragua, sent the American diplomat Ephraim George Squire to explore the possible route. He discovered among the lush jungle, while on expedition, several pre-Columbian basaltic totems in Zapatera island in 1849. These human-animal statues were skillfully carved in 800 to 1200 A.D; according to numerous studies they represent gods, warriors, priests and principals. In 1883 another important discovery was performed by the Swedish naturalist Carl Bovallius in Zapatera. At present more than twenty of these statues can be observed at the local museum of former San Francisco monastery in Granada. Still this unique island preserves evidence of the rich cultural pre-Hispanic past through several petro glyph and human and animal carved totem figures.
Besides the archaeological interest of the island, it is a wonderful place to get in contact with the natural surroundings. Several little islands, a volcanic crater lake, view to Mombacho volcano, lush vegetation, many different species of birds, tropical and sub-tropical humid forests are just part of these fascinating landscapes. There are 50 different species of plants, 11 species of mammals, 38 species of birds and 11 species of reptiles.