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El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and receives few tourists, but it is actually a beautiful destination
full of surprises. A travel itinerary in El Salvador allows you to visit, in a few days,
spectacular active volcanoes, colonial cities, coffee plantations, Mayan ruins,
waterfalls in the jungle, and then relax on the long black beaches of the Pacific coast. The water of the ocean here
is warm, very pleasant, and there are numerous spots for surfing enthusiasts.
A holiday in El Salvador could be discouraged by the fact that this country has the highest rate of
homicides in the world (after Iraq). Actually, this sad statistic is due to gang fights,
which are very unlikely to involve tourists. Of course you must use common sense and,
along your travel itinerary in El Salvador and in particular in the cities, get info from the locals about the areas to be avoided.
We were lucky enough to find an energetic character who, for a little money, drove us around in his car, giving us a lot of information,
listening to loud rock music, smoking weed and offering us beers. He was a guide, the most original one of all time, but he treated us like friends,
and he made us appreciate the beauties of El Salvador while making us feel safe.
The Pacific coast: El Tunco and El Zonte
The coast of El Salvador is spectacular. The beaches are black, often interspersed with cliffs, and the palms and vegetation rush to the Ocean.
The Pacific here is perfect for surfing, while not great for swimming, with a few exceptions.
El Tunco and El Zonte are the best-known surfing locations. El Tunco is a small village on the ocean with several bars frequented by Canadian and American tourists.
El Zonte has a wonderful long beach and is a lot quieter. If you want to have a social life, it's not the right place, although in 15 minutes by taxi you can
reach El Tunco.
The problem is that the rhythms of El Zonte will capture you, as they captured us during our vacation: we woke up at 6 AM to admire the beach at dawn
and take a dip or surf in the warm Pacific Ocean. Then, we followed a travel itinerary through the country of El Salvador to admire its wonders.
Then we returned to El Zonte at sunset.
Then, a quick dip in the Ocean, a beer,
a good dinner, a chat with the few other tourists around and, at 9:30 PM, we went to the hammocks, and lulled by the sound of the waves and the chirping
of tropical birds... we felt asleep! In the face of our previous desires of parties and social life!
Sometimes you do not know what you really want. Ah, what a wonderful peace.
Lake Coatepeque and Santa Ana volcano
The Santa Ana volcano, or Llamatepec in the Maya language, is about a 2 hour drive from El Tunco and an hour from San Salvador.
It is one of the three volcanoes in the Cerro Verde reserve (the others are Cerro Verde and Izalco) and is also one of the most
spectacular of the country: it has to be included in a travel itinerary in El Salvador.
To climb the Santa Ana volcano, you need to use the guides of the visitors' center: we left in a large group around 12.
Also a member of the "tourist police", well armed, accompanies travelers, to make them feel safe(!?).
The climb lasts about an hour and a half and the views are awesome.
At the top, the view sweeps over the volcanoes Cerro Verde and Izalco as well as the Salvadoran countryside
and Lake Coatepeque. The beauty of the panorama rivals that of the circular crater with red, yellow and black shades, on the bottom of which there is a light blue lake
steaming (you can not walk down to the lake and, anyway, it is not advisable to swim there, as water temperature is almost 100 degrees Celsius).
Lake Coatepeque is often visited in the day together with the Santa Ana volcano, and so we did. This lake is
lies in an old crater that is few kilometer wide. No rivers get in or out of the lake. Around Coatepeque there are many villas of the richest
salvadorians. To get access to the water, you need to go through one of the restaurant, which also rent kayaks and jetskis.
Definetely add the Lake Coatepeque to your travel itinerary in El Salvador. The views are beautiful, you can swim and if you do not have
never tried the jetski, this is the right place, because they are fast and cost much less than in Europe or in the US.
The capital, San Salvador
The capital of El Salvador is the most dangerous city in the world, but even in this case the statistics do not say everything and, in my opinion,
San Salvador has to be included in your travel itinerary.
In general, the population is nice and friendly and walking through the streets of the center and the huge market is a rich experience
for the colors, sounds, smells and tastes.
The city is poor, made of low-rise houses that aren't attractive at all, the traffic is chaotic. The
cemetery, in the center, offers an oasis of peace with its white tombs.
I would not spend more than half a day's vacation in San Salvador, but that half-day will leave you with intense memories.
or a nice view of the city, go to El Boqueron, the volcano that rises over the city.
While driving back from San Salvador to the coast, we admired the view from the Puerta del Diablo, but, I must say, there are better views in this part of El Salvador,
like the one above we saw along the road. However, at Puerta del Diablo a television crew interviewed us for a Salvadorian Youtube channel.
Since then, we are the idols of all the girls in El Salvador (it's not true, but it was fun!).
Not far from El Tunco, this waterfall is highly scenic both for the waterfall itself and for the surrounding lush environment.
You can dive into the natural pools and swim under the main waterfall, which adds an excellent reason to
add the Tamanique waterfall to your travel itinerary in El Salvador.
Ruta de las Flores, Mayan ruins and waterfalls
La Ruta de las Flores is a winding road that runs through the mountains of the western part of El Salvador.
It offers amazing views and allows you to see the beautiful colonial villages of Juayua and Ataco.
From Juayua you can walk to the Chorro de la Calera, a pleasant waterfall where you can dive.
Not far from the Ruta de las Flores there are the Mayan ruins of Tazumal, with an imposing temple which, in my opinion, is not really memorable.
It is very interesting that the area is full of Mayan remains: there are many crocks on the ground and walls of Mayan ruins covered with
vegetation in the private fields of the people living in the Tazumal area.
Not far from Tazumal there is another awesome waterfall, with naturally warm waters, in a lush environment. Here swimming is a real pleasure!
El Salvador is small, but there are several worthy destinations, in addition to those listed above, which we have not visited directly.
On your trip you can include other places on the coast such as El Cuco beach or Barra de Santiago reserve.
The volcanoes are not lacking, starting from the active volcano San Miguel (the eruption should not be seen from up too close!).
The town of Suchitoto should be included in a travel itinerary in El Salvador and it was a pity not to have time to visit it.
For trekking, the park "El Imposible", in addition to having a beautiful name, also has beautiful views.
How, when and other information
The best months to visit El Salvador are November, December and January; there isn't too much tourism on Christmas holidays, at least for
the moment, so do not worry about the high season.
To travel around, a rental car is an excellent solution that requires quick reactions and a certain courage.
It is easier to hire a car with driver or even better a driver / guide as we did. (He also made us a "friendly" price
that was much cheaper than renting a car alone... but it is difficult to have this luck!). The
buses are not very recommended for the risk of thefts, but many tourists use them without any harms. The "shuttles", i.e. the minibuses
for tourists, are often quite shabby despite the high-sounding name, but they allow you to move faster at low prices. They also reach
locations in Guatemala (Antigua), Nicaragua and Honduras.
The costs are low, even if, as always, it depends on what you want: the luxurious resorts are expensive also in
To sum it up: if you are planning a trip to Centramerica, do not miss out on El Salvador!
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