El Salvador. Travel and vacation to far away El Salvador.

Going to El Salvador

Nika Savchak is a polyglot and foreign language teacher. She has lived in New York for five years, travels to hot countries and is preparing for a big trip to Asia. This winter she went on a long trip through Central America and at first planned to travel around El Salvador, but then she decided to go against the statistics and discovered another face of “the most dangerous country in the world” – with waterfalls, volcanoes and beautiful colonial towns.

The itinerary of most travelers in Central America is the same: Guatemala, Belize, Roatán Island in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It doesn’t matter whether it’s south to north or north to south. The countries of Central America are arranged in a convenient chain: just move from one to the other. But there’s almost always a gap in this universal list: the small Central American country of El Salvador. Most travelers, with their eyes squeezed shut with fear, try to skip it on the shuttle without even looking out the window. The reason for this is El Salvador’s dubious reputation and fame as one of the most dangerous countries in the world (in 2019, the country ranked first in homicides per capita according to UN statistics).

This winter I embarked on a long trip through Central America and, like everyone else, planned to drive around El Salvador the tenth way. However, when I met some people in Guatemala who had just returned from El Salvador and were praising it, I changed my mind. I wanted to take a risk, to go against the statistics and the negative news, to discover another face of “the most dangerous country in the world. And I was not mistaken: El Salvador became one of my favorite countries in the region. I spent three weeks there, traveling exclusively by local buses. El Salvador won me over with its orange sunsets, great surf beaches, coffee plantations, and the friendliest people in Central America.

El Salvador is one of the most comfortable and convenient countries in Central America to travel. It is very small in size; the local currency is dollars; and the unflattering reputation has the flip side of the coin: non-tourism. After Guatemala, where you have to move from one location to another with a crowd of other backpackers, El Salvador is easy to breathe. In addition, the locals are so appreciative of each visitor that treat them royally: sincerely give advice, protect and try to help in any way they can.

Itinerary: Coast of La Libertad – La Ruta de las Flores – Santa Ana Volcano – the capital city of San Salvador – the colonial town of Suchitoto

Visa, transportation and border with Guatemala

If you’re traveling to El Salvador from Guatemala, you have two options: local chikenbassa buses or a tourist shuttle. Most tour companies offer shuttles either to El Salvador’s capital or to its coast, the most popular town, El Tunco. I chose the latter option. The trip takes about 4-5 hours, the ticket price is about $ 15. Since the destination is not a popular one, I was alone on the bus and it was a breeze!

The Guatemala-El Salvador border is very easy to cross. Guatemalan border guards stamp your passport and give you a ticket to leave the country. Salvadoran border guards look at the passport and give it back without any stamp after 20 seconds (only Chinese citizens are checked the longest for some reason).

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“El Salvador won me over with its orange sunsets, great surf beaches, coffee plantations and the friendliest people in Central America.”

La Libertad Coast

The most popular destination on El Salvador’s coast is the town of El Tunco. But I decided not to stay there for several reasons. First, I wanted to take surf lessons, and El Tunco is good for those who can already do it, not for beginners, who are better off not getting into the water anywhere near El Tunco. It’s better to try the beaches of San Blas and Masanta. Secondly, El Tunco is a very touristy (and therefore not cheap) village, and I try to avoid such places if possible.

My choice fell on Sunzal, a village ten minutes walk from El Tunco. I stayed in the hostel El Balsamico (Calle a playa sunzal, 01101). The bed in the dorm was $8 (in El Tunco the prices are twice as high). Cold showers, fans instead of air conditioning, working internet, the ability to order a hearty breakfast for $2 and a pleasant staff – what more do you need for a traveler!

The coast of El Salvador is a typical party place for surfers. Many people go there to surf for 2-3 months. But even if you’re not an avid surfer, there’s still fun on the coast for a couple or three days. Forty minutes away by bus are Las Tamaniques waterfalls, which are worth a look (but go there only with locals – the way to the waterfalls is known for robbing tourists). A 10-minute drive in the other direction is the capital of the department, the port town of La Libertad. You should go there for a dinner of fresh seafood (the average price of a meal is $6). The local remote beaches of San Blasi Mesanta are good for beginner surfers, and the sunsets I saw there are still number one among all my Central American sunsets. I was lucky enough to be driven to all of these spots by a local couchsurfer in his car, but buses go to each of the spots I named. The ticket is about $1.

La Ruta de las Flores.

Early on the morning of the fourth day, I left the cozy Balsamico Hostel and went to the local bus stop. Tourism in El Salvador is much less developed than in Guatemala, so your only mode of transportation will be exclusively the local chikenbuses. Gather up the courage and dive in.

My destination was the west of the country. There, among the volcanic valleys, lurks a string of tiny, picturesque villages called La Ruta de las Flores (Spanish for “the flower path”). The 32-kilometer trail consists of many coffee plantations and five colonial towns: Nahuizalco, Salcoatitan, Apaneca, Ataco, and Juayua. You can get to any of these from the capital or La Libertad on bus 287. Get off at Sonsonate. Buses are scheduled and few in number, so find out the right departure time in advance.

From La Libertad to Sonsonate it takes no more than an hour. In Sonsonate, get off and take another bus at the same bus stop, which goes directly to La Ruta de las Flores. I decided to stay in the village of Huayua, where I found a great hostel through couchsurfing, although each of the villages has a cheap hostel for the night. In Juayúa, Hostal Casa Mazeta (2 Av Nte 22, Juayúa CP 2301) is very popular. A bed in a dormitory there will cost $10. Instead of driving from one neighborhood to another, stop at one of them and take a bus (# 249 and #53) to explore the neighboring neighborhoods. A few days will be enough for that. By the way, La Ruta de las Flores is one of the safest neighborhoods in El Salvador. Even late at night you can take a stroll there without fear.

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In addition to the picturesque blooms of a variety of native plants from November to February, the towns along the route, located in the volcano valleys in the vicinity of the coffee plantations, have a unique charm. Catch a chikenback and maneuver between colorful murals, colorful churches, and numerous enticing coffee shops.

On weekends, Huayua hosts a food festival, and on Thursday or Friday evenings (check with locals), Nahuizalco hosts an authentic fair where you can not only sample local viands but also buy distinctive Salvadorian souvenirs. There are several waterfalls on La Ruta de las Flores: Los Chorros de Callera, a small waterfall a half-hour walk from the center of Huayua, and the 7 Waterfalls Hike (I have not been there, but I heard that this hike takes about 6 hours). And if you want to take a tour to a coffee plantation – ask at the hostel reception or a local coffee shop. The price is $10-$25.

“Catch a chikenbass and maneuver between mottled murals, colorful churches and numerous tempting coffee shops.”

Santa Ana Volcano

The next point on my Salvadoran itinerary was the city of Santa Ana. It is where one of Central America’s most beautiful volcanoes, Santa Ana Volcano, is located! It took about forty minutes to get to the city center from Huayua. Again, I stayed with a couchsurfing host, but I heard great reviews from him and other travelers about Hostal Casa Verde (7ª Calle Poniente, Entre 8 y 10 av. sur. #25) .

Santa Ana is not the most remarkable city. In the center there is a very beautiful snow-white church (if the roof is not under restoration – you can go up and admire the panorama of the city), and… that’s it. The city is not known for safety – so keep your ears open. Outside the city, however, there is a lot to see. In addition to the volcano, there’s a picturesque lake called Coatepeque about a half-hour drive away. It is not as mesmerizing as Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, but also very beautiful. There are many restaurants near the lake, so you can sit and admire the view in the evening.

Local buses to the foot of the volcano leave from the bus station around eight in the morning. The ride is just over an hour. The ticket price is about $2.50. Once you get out at the foot, you must buy a ticket ($ 4) and wait about an hour to assemble a group for the ascent. We do not recommend climbing on your own for safety reasons. The way to the top takes about an hour and a half. The road is very scenic, with views of Lake Coatepeque and several other volcanoes nearby. It is easy to walk, only near the top you have to go uphill a little and exert yourself. The crater itself is a very unusual and fascinating sight. The azure lake looks like something from outer space!

On the way back, be prepared to wait a couple of hours for the bus back to town (most of the time everyone returns from the summit around 2pm, and the bus leaves at 4pm). And if you don’t want to wait, on the highway where you finish the hike, stop any car and drive to the town of El Congo. There you can ask the locals for a bus to downtown Santa Ana or Metrocentro, a big shopping mall in a safe part of town. You’ll be in the city for about four hours.

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After spending two days in Santa Ana, I went to the capital city of San Salvador.

The new host lived in a suburb of the capital, Santa Tecla. It is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, close to a big new park, supermarkets and a hangout street with lots of bars and restaurants. I was driven to the center and the nearest attractions, but then again – the city is teeming with public transportation and cabs. So you can get anywhere if you want to.

San Salvador is not the most picturesque or pleasant of all the cities in Central America. But there’s a lot to see there, too. Head downtown to admire the gorgeous cathedral and the square across from it. Try a few of the delicacies the locals sell in the square – many of which you won’t find in other parts of the country. Have a coffee! Coffee Tempo (Calle Delgado) is where I had the best coffee of the previous two months of travel. And be sure to go to one of the oldest billiard rooms in Central America – Club de billares mas antiguo de El Salvador (2a Calle Oriente) . Inside you will find yourself in another era – as if you were in Havana at the beginning of the twentieth century! It used to be not only a billiard room, but also the center of cultural life of Salvador, where local bohemia gathered: artists, actors, poets and writers. Literary evenings and shows were held there. Nowadays the premise is primarily used as a billiard room, but culturally advanced youths still gather here occasionally and hold a variety of evenings. The place is very picturesque.

After leaving the billiard room, take a walk on the small square across the street. There is an unusual church with a semi-oval roof made of multicolored glass.

In the evening, go to the viewpoint a few kilometers from the city, the Planes de Renderos. There you will not only admire the panorama of the city, but also enjoy the varied types of the most popular local Salvadoran food: pupus (tortillas with different fillings). On your way back, stop at the Parque El Principito (Little Prince Park) . Few people know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was very fond of Salvador and it inspired the writer to write his most famous work.

One of my must see’s in El Salvador was the open-air museum Joya de Cerén (Carr San Juan Opico – Agua Escondida Km 32). Admission is $3. This is a unique archaeological museum of Central America, where you can see the excavation of an ancient Mayan village. The museum is small because the excavations are still underway (much of the village is still underground), but I still highly recommend a visit.

El Salvador

Population 6,052,064 El Salvador 21,040 sq. km land area Located on the continent of Central America and the Caribbean San Salvador capital Salvador Money in El Salvador Dollar (USD) Domain area .sv Phone country code 503

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Resorts

El Salvador is a country of spectacular scenery and miles of coastline. However, due to years of civil war, tourism is underdeveloped and there are no resorts as such. El Salvador is attractive to fans of historical tourism, as it is little explored. It is possible to allocate the tourist areas popular among tourists. Not far from the capital of the state there is a small town of fishermen La Libertad. This place is one of the best in Central America among fans of surfing.

All coast of El Salvador disposes to outdoor activities and water sports. Among tourists are known and popular resort areas: Roca, Los Cobanos and Los Remedios. Playa El Espino is considered the best resort area.

Climate of El Salvador: Tropical. Rainy season (May to October). Dry season (November to April). Tropical on the coast and temperate in the highlands.

Attractions

El Salvador is a country rich in exotic vegetation and this is its main attraction. Although not many monuments of history have survived, due to the civil war and natural disasters, but those that have survived are worth seeing. The capital is notable for the National Theater, the Cathedral of Catedral Metropolitana, the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Chapel of Suchitto and Wayua, the Treasury Building, the Monument of the Savior and the Monument of the Revolution. Not far from San Salvador are the Hoya de Seren, the ruins of a Mayan settlement destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Thanks to the ash, the complex has retained its original appearance, including furnishings and everyday objects. Within the country, there are ruins of other Mayan settlement sites, the San Andrés Complex and Tasumal.

Salvadoran terrain:: mainly mountains with a narrow coastal strip and a central plateau.

Hotels

The tourism industry in the country is virtually undeveloped because of the turbulent situation in the country, but hotels are certainly available. If tourists have come to the country to see the historical monuments of architecture or monuments of ancient settlements of the Mayan civilization, you can stop in the capital city of the state in the city of San Salvador. Hotel “Alameda” in a quiet area of the city or “Alicante” near the airport, will be a good choice. The hotels are: “Clemen”, “Merliot”, “Mariscal” tourists will be welcomed, offering the best rooms for settlement. If tourists come to the country of Salvador for surfing, you can stay in hotels “Casa De Mar”, “Roca Sunzal”, “Tekuani Kal” on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, in the town of La Libertad.

El Salvador has resources like: : Hydropower, oil, arable land.

Leisure

The Republic of El Salvador is rich in lush exotic vegetation and has some interesting nature reserves and parks. They have ancient massifs with huge thirty-meter trees, the crowns of which block the sunlight. There are many species of ferns and orchids, as well as living protected species of animals: cougars, spider monkeys, toucans, striped owls, anteaters. It is worth visiting the Balboa Reserve, which is a tropical forest near the capital El Salvador, with a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. Cerro Verde is a park located on the eastern slope of Santa Anna. It is famous for the active volcano Isalco and the beautiful crater volcanic lake Lago de Coatepeque. It will also be interesting to visit the Bosque-Montecristo Reserve. In the towns there are entertainment centers, nightclubs, restaurants and cafes.

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Salvadoran Money: Salvadoran colones are still sometimes listed on Salvadoran price lists and pricelists, but goods are paid for in U.S. dollars. Foreign currency can be easily exchanged at any Salvadoran bank. Many businesses and supermarkets accept traveler’s checks, and there is no problem at all with common credit cards.

Museums

An important museum for Salvadorans is the Museum of the Revolution, which covers the course and significant moments of the twelve-year civil war. The museum’s collection includes military equipment and weapons, materials from key moments of the war, and biographical data on the heroes. The oldest is the capital’s National Museum of Anthropology, founded in the late nineteenth century. Its museum exhibits allow you to get acquainted with the life of the country and its inhabitants, with life and culture, there are also unique archaeological finds. In addition, in the capital there is the Museum of Word and Image, the Tatsumal Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Museum of folk culture and arts is famous for the exhibitions, which are regularly held within its walls and deal with the global problems of mankind.

Transportation

Among the airports of the country, the main air port of the country is the international airport of El Salvador, located at a distance of about fifty kilometers from the capital. The most popular transport of the country is motor transport. El Salvador differs with good roads on all territory of the country. Roads without pavement can occur only in remote villages. Intercity bus services are well established. Vehicles are on the route according to the schedule and often enough. Bus, as a rule, large buses, but in remote sparsely populated areas of the state can move and a minibus. The main urban transport are buses, with an interval of every 15 minutes. It is possible to move by cab.

Standard of living

El Salvador has a low standard of living. Among the population can distinguish only 2% of very rich people. The so-called middle class at the level of 8%, and the rest of the population, lives below the poverty line. The life expectancy of the inhabitants of the country does not pass the seventy-year barrier. The average salary in El Salvador is around $300 per month, and unemployment is about 40%. The country has a low literacy rate, although elementary school is compulsory, but not everyone attends. Among the country’s adult population, a quarter are illiterate. San Salvador is considered a dangerous place for tourists, and go outside the hotel is not recommended. The city is not a quiet criminal environment, ranging from pickpocketing to armed assaults.

Cities

The Republic of El Salvador is a densely populated state, washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, located in Central America. The state’s largest city, its capital, San Salvador, is half a million people. The city is located at the foot of the volcano of the same name. San Salvador is an ancient city, but its historical monuments have hardly survived due to numerous earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions, as well as a long civil war.

Other major cities in the Republic of El Salvador are: San Martin, La Libertad, Apopa, Santa Tecla, Ilopango, Santa Anna, Delgado, and La Union.

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