It’s true people. I can admit when I was utterly and completely wrong!! It’s not often that I am taken by surprise by any place. In fact, I’m usually the one crapping on other place by calling them “overrated”, as there are a lot of these places masquerading as magical destinations of wonderment. However, today I completely underestimated El Salvador as a destination and I’m here to say it out loud … you can come to El Salvador for a couple days and make it rock.
There are a number of prepackaged routes for the first time tourist in El Salvador. For instance, a very popular tour is the Flower Route. They’ll usually take you through several towns in the mountain and the name of the route comes from all the wildflowers growing in abundance. Typically it’s through Nahuizalco, an indigenous Pipil town -> Juayua, which has a great food fair over the weekends -> then the waterfalls in Chorros de Calera -> then on to Santa Leticia and then Ataco for textiles. As usual procedure, I had no interest in this route because it would have involved a couple things I did want …
– Sales pitches for souvenirs I don’t want
– Hiking on really hot days with no hydration
– Oh yeah … walking … 😛
So instead we designed our own little tour and with the help of a fabulous driver, we were treated to an epic day. The itinerary involved the following
1) Churches and graffiti in Santa Tecla
2) Underwhelming but culturally significant ruins in Tazumal and the town of Santa Ana
4) Visiting the Cerro Verde National park for the stunning view of the Volcano
Getting from San Salvador to Santa Tecla is matter of 20 minutes but it’s a very charming little town. There is a beautiful Gothic church, town square and old city hall in town. The old city hall ( Palacio Tecleño de la Cultura y las Artes) is now a converted museum and is quite the nice place for a little coffee break.
Once you there at the top, there is a viewing platform which you can see the ring of Volcanoes and peaks. It’s just stunning to imagine that El Salvador sits with this ring of volcanoes around – consequently you can imagine that there are a lot of earthquakes when you’re surrounded by volcanoes. In fact San Salvador is known as “The Valley of the Hammocks” because of all the earthquakes and tremors. When the city was founded, they actually moved the city of San Salvador to an area called “La Bermuda” after a couple years, but eventually they moved it back to the present location in 1532.
The panorama is stunning from the viewpoint and depending on the day, there is visibility right to the ocean. The Cerro Verde is actually an extinct volcano which last erupted approximately 2500 years ago. On the top of its crater there is one of the few cloud forests in the country, located at 2030 meters above sea level. The other two impressive volcanoes – Santa Ana and Izalco – can easily be observed from the look-out spots located within the park.