El Salvador Travel Guide
Another Central American country that suffers from a past that has served to scare off visitors over the years, El Salvador is a country that is perfectly safe to visit, so long as you follow common sense safety rules.
From ruins on the former Eastern edge of the Mayan empire, to deserted volcanic sand beaches that are perfect for surfers, there is plenty for the intrepid traveller to discover here.
Currency: U.S. Dollar
What To Do
In the western part of El Salvador, check out the ancient city of Tazumal, which was a centre that was located on the eastern edge of the Mayan empire during its heyday. Uncovered in the 1940’s and 1950’s by archaeologist Stanley Boggs, this site was inhabited as late as the 8th century AD.
Consisting of the usual assortment of tombs, temples, and pyramids, this site is a great place to go if you’re looking to explore the outer limits of an empire that once stretched as far west as the Yucatan Peninsula.
When you arrived in the capital city of San Salvador, get a handle on the history of this country by heading to Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen. The primary theme of this place deals with the Civil War that once raged throughout the country, and the human rights abuses that occurred during its duration.
While the nation is mostly at peace these days, the public has embraced this museum, as it stands as a constant reminder of the chaos that once reigned in their daily lives.
While the city of San Salvador and other parts of the country does grapple with the problem of gang violence in the present day, it is far removed from the daily violence that once tore the social fabric of this tiny nation apart.
The natural phenomena that defines El Salvador (with special attention paid to its volcanoes), as well as the general history of the nation, from its origins to the present.
With regards to the volcanoes, begin your exploration of them by exploring some of the crater lakes that inhabit the former calderas that formed in the wake of some of the world’s most violent eruptions.
The one that formed Lake Ilopango is now theorized to have been the cause of the Dark Ages when the supervolcano that once existed there blew up in 536 AD, which was a period of history throughout the world where disease, crop failures, and general human misery reigned.
A visit here today is far more pleasant, as a beach, boat tours, and a series of lakeside restaurants will make for an excellent day trip, as it is within a short drive of downtown San Salvador.
Another crater lake well worth visiting is none other than the Coatepeque Caldera. Formed much further in the past (as far back as 72,000 years ago), It has integrated itself much more thoroughly with its surroundings, though the ridge that surrounds gives it away readily as a volcano ready to erupt again in the future.
For now though, it is a great place to visit for the scenery alone, but there are also boat tours, restaurants, and hot springs located around the periphery of this body of water.
Being a very poor Central American country, El Salvador is highly reliant on agriculture, and given its small geographic area, much of the land in the countryside is dedicated towards farmland.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in much of the country’s virgin woodlands being cut down. Only two percent of its original forest remains, much of which is located within the bounds of Bosque El Imposible National Park.
Named for the perilous trail that confronted farmers trying to get their coffee crops to port, this essential natural reserve is an island of wilderness in the middle of development, and as such, it is home to many species of animal and plants that have been disappeared elsewhere in the country.
With an elevation difference that ranges from 800 feet over 6,000 feet, there are a lot of climatic zones as well, so be sure to bring a warm sweater or jacket when visiting this National Park.
Like surfing, or like hanging out with surfers? If so, heading to the beach resort area of La Libertad is a great way to end your time in El Salvador. Even if you have trouble staying stable on a surfboard for more than three seconds, the chill atmosphere of this town make a stay here well worth it. The nightlife is legendary, and after spending days or weeks inland, getting a chance to relax on a black sand beach under swaying palm trees is just the rest that you’ve been looking for.
What To Eat
Need a quick snack during your explorations in El Salvador? Head in to a local comedor and order some Pupusas. A thick tortilla made of corn meal, this hand-sized treat is often stuffed with cheese, refried beans, and various kinds of meat. Served on the side with spicy tomato sauce, it is a treat that you should not leave this country without trying at least once.
If you are looking for something more filling at lunch time, try and track down some Panes Rellenos. A submarine sandwich that is made from pulled chicken or turkey that has been marinated in pibil spice, it is a hearty meal that will have you coming back for more after trying it for the first time.
Got caught in a torrential downpour? If so, then having some Carne Guisada is exactly what you’ll want to have for dinner. Made from beef chuck roast, It is simmered with onions and tomato sauce together with spices for 2 to 3 hours, producing a result that will have its flesh melting in your mouth as you chew it.