the term ‘El Salvador’ make you uneasy?
Some are overcome with a negative feeling when hearing
the words, associating it with the civil war that
occurred there in the 1980’s. Many are surprised
to learn that today’s El Salvador is actually
an alluring and rewarding place to visit. The country
is in peace. The only chilling feature it touts is
its volcanoes. Only three months ago, Santa Ana Volcano
erupted after 100 years in dormancy, only forty miles
from the city of San Salvador. The remainder of the
country is not threatening, but instead, quite thrilling
The history of El Salvador
reaches back centuries, nonetheless, its spirit remains
imbedded in the culture
of the country and its people today. This spirit
is demonstrated in structures such as the Olmec Boulder.
The rock sits in the form of a giant head. This figure
provides proof of the presence of the Olmec people
as far back as 2000 BC. The Maya society also had
presence in El Salvador, signified by the step-pyramid
ruins in Tazumla and San Andres. It is believed that
they were in the country for over 1000 years. There
is evidence that other cultures such as the Chorti,
Lenca, and Pokomam found home in El Salvador during
its early years also. The Pipil people, descendents
of the well-known Aztecs, arrived in the country
in the 11th century. The Pipil lived like that of
Aztecs, with a sophisticated agricultural system.
They were also experts in astronomy, mathematics,
writing. This developed community remained through
the 16th century, until the Spanish arrived. The
Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado arrived in
led the new community in the development of cotton
plantations, indigo and balsam. Like so many other
Spanish conquered countries, the indigenous people,
along with Africans, were made slaves on the fields.
After numerous rebellions against the Spanish in
the 1800’s, and Napoleon’s invasion of Spain,
El Salvador gained independence as an autonomous nation.
Then, as a result of
the invention of synthetic dyes in the late 1800’s, the indigo market crashed
and the coffee industry took over as El Salvador’s
main economic base. In the 1900’s only two percent
of the population controlled the substantial wealth
generated by the coffee industry, which equaled about
95 percent of the country’s income. Civil war
was jump-started by this imbalance in wealth, as early
as the 1920’s. Over the years the country struggled
with constant civil war and strife amongst its people.
It wasn’t until 1992 that a cease-fire was established,
supported by the United Nations and their mediated
negotiations with the opposition party, FMLN. Today,
El Salvador has a high unemployment rate, significant
poverty, and restless ex-combatants. Nevertheless,
just a peak at photographs of the country’s landscape
can stimulate waves of curiosity in the adventurous
traveler. Tourism in El Salvador is booming. Interesting
and active adventure packages can be found in abundance
on the Internet.
Where to Go and What to Do
The capitol city of El Salvador has an intriguing locale
at the base of the San Salvador Volcano, which last
erupted in 1917. It may sound picturesque, but the
outrageous pollution makes the city more of an assault
of the senses. There are shantytowns throughout the
city, and street merchants trying to sell an abundance
of items. Still, the city holds some intriguing historic
attractions. The Teatro Nacional is a cultural icon
in San Salvador. Built starting in 1917, the theatre
is popular for its lush mural covering the ceiling
and flowing into the adjacent Teatro Café, which,
quite sensuous itself, is adorned in red velvet. For
handicrafts, visit Mercado Ex-Cuartel. Its here travelers
can find ceramics and other handmade items.
was a religious center in its early stages of settlement.
structures built for worship
still stand proud and tell the story of the region’s
personality. Art enthusiasts revel in the classic and
baroque styles of the buildings, namely Candelaira
Church, Metapan Church, and San Vicente, among others.
Santa Ana has a fantastic sampling of these religious
icons, including a Cathedral decorated in colonial
European-like richness. The oldest church in the country,
The Church at Panchimalco, is located in its namesake
town, near San Salvador.
When you’re ready for a breath of fresh air,
head for the hills, where there is an abundance of
sites to see. Alegria is one of El Salvador’s
jewels. The town is a haven for growing flowers, with
over 230 different buds accenting yards and homes throughout
the area. The stunning aquamarine Alegria Lagoon waits
within the Tecapa Volcano crater. The Pipil descendants
come from Alegria. Find a local chieftain to tell the
stories of the town’s legends.
The El Salvadorian countryside
is diverse in ecology, and has a mysterious geology.
A high percentage of
the land is mountainous, with over 25 inactive volcanoes.
Exploring the dormant volcanoes, Santa Ana, Izalco,
or San Miguel, travelers will have the opportunity
to see large craters filled with petrified lava from
years past. Each volcano has a life story. Izalco’s
nickname is “Lighthouse of the Pacific”,
because it was used to guide ships into shore with
it’s glowing lava and steam. At 7,804 feet, Santa
Ana, also called Lamatepec, stands the tallest of the
volcanoes of El Salvador. A true adventure waits at
Cerro Verde Volcano National Park, located west of
San Salvador. Energetic souls can take a hike to the
top of the volcano. From high, there are outstanding
views of the Coatepeque Lake, Izalco Volcano and the
Rivers flow plentiful in
El Salvador. They originate in Guatemala and make their
way through different climates
in the country. There is the Rio Grande, Torola,
Paz, and Jiboa, just to name a few. The waters of these
rivers make their way through El Salvador and into
the Pacific Ocean. The Rio Paz offers stirring white
water rafting. There are level 2-3 rapids in the
Urracas section of the river. Clean waters, waterfalls,
river ponds, and unforgettable water jumps provide
memorable experiences for those that dare take on
The confident rivers of El
Salvador give life to the magnificent lakes of the
country. They are simply breathtaking.
Consider visits to Coatepeque, located in the Department
of Santa Ana and Guija, or Ilopango, just nine miles
from the city of San Salvador. Coatepeque may be
one of the most breathtaking lakes in the entire world.
The lake was made from two volcanic eruptions that
occurred more than 50,000 years ago.
The beaches of El Salvador
serve as the doorway to the country’s oceanic beauty, and its surfing
haven. The Litoral Highway was built connecting the
East and West Coast of El Salvador. The road makes
for easy access to the shorelines of El Salvador. To
the south, the Pacific Ocean lends warm water to the
water sports enthusiast. In fact, there are plenty
of coastlines to share, 184 miles to be exact. The
Pacific coastline of El Salvador is known for its beauty
and warmth, and is visited by tourists from all around
the world. Its characteristics are not like a typical
Caribbean beach. There are impressive rock figures
and cliffs dotting the shores. The scenery is made
even more unique by its lush tropical vegetation covering
the stones. Along the Pacific Coast, consider a stop
at La Barra de Santiago in the Department of Ahuachapan,
or El Tamarindo in the Department of La Union. If you
are searching for beaches that accommodate visitors,
Metalio, Playa Dorada, and Los Cobanos are fantastic
choices. They maintain upscale private beach clubs
and gorgeous recreational centers. Water sports central
is at San Diego and Costa del Sol, only 40 minutes
from San Salvador. If the East Coast beckons, visit
the reputable Gulf of Fonseca or the popular El Espino
For people interested in
flora and fauna, El Salvador will be alluring also.
The vegetation of the area differs
through the various ecological zones of the regions.
The land’s native vegetation has been diminished
due to human intervention. Today, many areas where
forests once stood are now agricultural in nature and
yield cotton, sugar cane, or coffee. Although El Salvador
does not have the typical Caribbean flora, due to its
distance from the Caribbean Sea, it still has vibrant
vegetation, including over 200 orchid species. Balsam
woods are also very prevalent around the swamplands.
Human consumption has also
threatened the animal of El Salvador. Some have even
been made extinct, including
the crested eagle and the jaguar. There are, however,
areas that have been established as environmental
reserves to help keep alive the undamaged flora and
there. These preserves have sincerely helped. Today,
there are 17 hummingbird species and possibly 400
bird species, as well as many small animals thriving,
to these reserves. Most protected areas have been
established as parks and can be explored. They include
Mountain Park, Walter Deininger Park, El Trifinio,
Jocotal Lagon, Montecristo, and El Imposible Forest.
Trek through rain forest in Montecristo and experience
a wide variety of flora and fauna. Cloud forest thrives
in Montecristo, boasting old, tall laurel and oak
trees. El Imposible is a forest reserve in the mountains
the largest protected area in the country. The park
is located in Ahuachapan, 70 miles west of San Salvador.
There is an interpretive trail in the park that helps
visitors understand the history and delicate eco-system
of the park. The park has an eco-lodge and restaurant.
Further into the park, there are many timeless treasures.
Ancient engravings adorn sealed rocks, while coves
with crystal clear waters await bathers.
Other opportunities for recreation
and adventure exist in any of the fourteen visitor
centers in the central
mountain range, Pacific Coastline, and other areas
throughout the country. If a more strenuous or challenging
adventure is what you are looking for, get to the
Morazan Mountains. There is tremendous hiking and rappelling
Average hotel room prices range from 5 US dollars
to over 35 US dollars for deluxe accommodations.
There are some interesting
hotels in El Salvador. Casa de Mar Resort is a 4-star
boutique resort located in
Playa Sunzal. The hotel is a fairly new building, opened
in September of 2004. There are eleven suites, each
one different than the other. All of the rooms have
hot water, air conditioning, a private deck, living
room, dining room, and private bathroom. The resort
itself has an irresistible seafood restaurant, Café Sunzal.
Other amenities include a swimming pool, Internet access,
and beach access. The resort also rents kayaks and
surfboards. Perhaps the best part about the resort
is that it is situated right on the point of Sunzal.
The Las Flores Surf Club
is an architectural treat. Located at Las Flores point
in El Cuco on a gorgeous
isolated beach, the hotel is a surfer’s dream.
The facility is managed by surfers, and is situated
on the coast where huge waves form, 200m and larger.
La Flores sets itself apart in many ways, but one of
their best attributes is their effort at creating sustainable
tourism. The resort only allows 16 guests at a time,
per week. They offer boat trips to access the best
breaks off the coast, carrying only eight surfers,
per trip. Fortunately, the resort welcomes non-surfers
For a place to retreat in
the city consider the Novo Hotel in the heart of San
Salvador. It’s near
restaurants, nightlife, and shopping malls. There are
fifty relaxed apartments with kitchenettes. On property,
the hotel has a swimming pool, a superb restaurant,
and a comfortable grassy courtyard. The room rate includes
a breakfast buffet each morning. This hotel is recommended
specifically for its service standards.
There are many options for
dining in El Salvador. Some of the best restaurants
are located at the resorts.
Seafood is, of course, a prime option in the country.
When budgeting, keep in mind that average meal prices
range from 3 US dollars up to 20 US dollars.
The climate of El Salvador is typical of Central
America. Temperatures soar between 87-89 degrees
throughout the year, and drop to the high teens during
the night. Precipitation varies around the country.
An annual average of 80 inches is normal where Guatemala,
Honduras and El Salvador meet. January and February
are the driest months.
Getting to El Salvador is a cinch for American, Canadian,
and Western European citizens. A visa is not required.
These visitors must only buy a tourist card upon
entering the country, which is valid for 90 days.
voyagers need to obtain a visa before entering.
Flights to and from major
US cities are plentiful. Major airlines stop in Atlanta,
Dallas, Houston, Los
Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. Taca is
El Salvador’s national airline, and Comalapa
International Airport is located just 27 miles south
of San Salvador. From the airport, catch a taxi or
van up to San Salvador. There is a highway between
the airport and the city that is in good condition.
In addition to the fairly
recent volcanic eruption, Hurricane Stan enveloped
El Salvador with heavy rain,
causing flooding and landslides throughout the country.
Any visitors to the country should find out the latest
conditions and if travel is advisable.
Blue Diver is a tour operator dedicated to making your
vacation in El Salvador unforgettable. The company
is highlighted on Tropical-Adventure.com. To locate
Blue Diver, first visit Tropical-Adventure.com. From
the home page, find the Central American/El Salvador
page via the ‘Quick Adventure Search’ tool.
This link will take you right to a link to Blue Diver,
and an opportunity to take a unique and invaluable
vacation in El Salvador.
Casa De Mar Hotel And Villas At Sunzal
Telephone: (503) 2389-6284
Playa Las Flores
Telephone: (503) 2619-9065
Telephone: (888) 703 5327
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