Also known as Lago de Cocibolca, or "the sweet sea," Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America—about 100 mi/60 km long and 50 mi/30 km wide—and the 21th largest freshwater lake in the world. The city of Granada is located on the lake's northwestern shore, and on the southeast it can be accessed via San Carlos.
During the late 1800s, there were plans to dig a trans-Nicaragua shipping channel connecting the Caribbean and the Pacific, with Lake Nicaragua as the centerpiece. Lobbying for construction almost succeeded until a volcanic eruption in Nicaragua. Proponents of a canal in Panama used the eruption to push their site.
Though it's a freshwater lake, Lake Nicaragua is home to large numbers of species usually found in salt water—sharks, tarpon, swordfish and sawfish. Scientific investigations have shown that the fish actually migrate between the lake and the Caribbean via the Rio San Juan. Unfortunately, their numbers have been greatly reduced—the sharks, in particular, have been hunted to near extinction. Winged creatures have fared better. A large bird population nests on the 365 islands in the lake.
The primary attractions at Lake Nicaragua are Granada (boat tours that can be taken from there), Ometepe Island and, to a lesser extent, the remote and difficult to access Solentiname Archipelago at the far southern end of the lake.
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