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El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, may not be a vacation destination for most tourists. But, it is a favorite place for mission trips. I hope the organizations have good intentions and want to improve lives. My problem with those mission trips is that the aid comes with an exchange of salvation (converting to Christianity).
My interest runs more in-depth than a vacation but to see how the country changed, since the political chaos in the 80’s. First of all, El Salvador has lots to offer for vacations: surfing, hiking, beautiful beaches. Yes, you do find the same things in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica. El Salvador has a much deeper history of Indigenous and European Spanish influences. On top of that, it has charming colonial towns, steaming volcanoes and black-sand beaches.
About El Salvador
The capital city, San Salvador, can be overwhelming and daunting. Because of the overcrowding and the sidewalks full of vendors, it is difficult to avoid knocking a vendor’s pannier of goods. The buildings’ architecture reminds me of the same architecture in Guatemala. It has the identical layout, a plaza, government buildings, churches.
Things to Do in El Salvador
Explore the Joya de Ceren
Nearby the city, Joya de Ceren, a newly discovered archaeological and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gave insights of the daily life of the pre-Colombian Maya farming village, which was excavated from several layers of volcanic ash. The site is in excellent condition and remarkably impressive.
From San Salvador, a two-hour bus ride to Santa Ana, where some of the volcanoes are still active, and also, a very quiet town. Fairly a small town, it is too crowded for its size.
Hike the Volcan Ilamatepec
Close to Santa Ana, the Volcan Ilamatepec, where I spend six hours hiking, my first and longest unexpected hiking trip. Treacherous and exhausting, I am overjoyed when I reach the top of the Volcan Ilamatepec, but fail to notice I have another two to three hours to hike back down, hungry and thirsty. Another great place for hiking is the Volcan Acatenago
From Santa Ana, a two-hour bus ride to Suchitoto, which resembles Granada and Antigua: quaint, colorful, and charming. Lake Suchitlan, fishing and bird watching are the main attractions.
The local bus rides are always longer than expected. It is not only in El Salvador but throughout Central America. The frequent stops for vendors to get on the bus to sell food and drinks to passengers are the main reason the trip takes that long. To get there faster, take a private car or a taxi.
Hotel Stay in El Salvador
You have plenty of options in El Salvador. The Courtyard San Salvador, in La Gran Via shopping plaza, is my favorite. It is in a great location, and also in a very safe area, with security guards on every corner. Everything you need is there, shops and restaurants.
In Santa Ana, Casa Verde is centrally located. The ambiance and comraderies in Casa Verde are no comparisons to any other hostels that I have stayed. At night, you can “chill” on the terrace other backpackers.
El Salvador faces challenges, natural disasters, drugs-related violence, same as its neighbors. I always root for countries that strive to create jobs for their citizens to stop their brain drain.
Surfing in La Libertad, El Salvador is another great way to experience the country’s beautiful beaches.
Let’s support the tourism industry in Central America, especially in El Salvador. Tourism creates thousands of jobs, contributing to the economy. El Salvador is not Costa Rica, Belize, or Mexico. The hospitality and tenacity of the people are the reasons it is my favorite destination. Go visit these countries because they need the tourism dollars.
Let us know what you think about El Salvador. Post comments below!