Unlike neighboring countries like Guatemala and Costa Rica, El Salvador is not known to host millions of tourists each year.

This may change soon.

Sandwiched between Guatemala in the north and Honduras in the south and east, El Salvador is Central America’s smallest country and boasts of hiking trails in the untouched cloud forests, surfing spots and scenic routes along the La Ruta del las Flores (Route of the Flowers).

Getting there

The country’s biggest airport, El Salvador International Airport (SAL) is served by over 10 airlines, and direct flights are available from Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta.

Comfortable and air-conditioned buses are available from Guatemala and Honduras for those who prefer to go on an overland excursion to El Salvador.

Besides visiting San Salvador, the capital city’s Centro Historico (historical district), Costa del Sol, The Balsamo Coast, Los Volcanoes National Park, Montecristo National Park, Joya de Ceren Mayan archaeological site, and Tazumel Mayan ruin, we recommend Ruta de las Flores, especially if you’re traveling from Guatemala.

La Ruta de las Flores

Located near the Guatemalan border and west of San Salvador, is La Ruta de las Flores, highway CA-8. It’s a 22-mile long scenic road along a stretch of volcanoes, coffee plantations, colonial towns and quaint mountain villages. Visitors can experience the laid-back lifestyle, local culture, and street food market when traveling through this region.

Here are several recommended stops along la Ruta de las Flores:

Nahuizalco

Stop at Nahuizalco’s Mercado de Las Velas, a fresh market, to see locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Nahuizalco is also famous for its handmade furniture, woven crafts, and baskets. At the center of the village is the 17th century San Juan Bautista Church.

Juayua

Featuring cobblestone streets, a variety of restaurants, and a beautiful square, Juayua is most vibrant during weekends. That’s when you get to try typical Salvadorian foods and mingle with the locals.

Juayua’s Iglesia Santa Lucia is best known for Cristo Negro, the black Christ statue carved in the late 16th century. We recommend having lunch at Restaurante San Jose, a restaurant with views of the square and church.

Iglesia Santa Lucia in Juayua

For further exploration, go to Los Chorros de la Calera, an attraction with waterfalls and swimming holes about a 45-minute walk from Juayua town center. It’s best to go with a guide to Los Chorros de la Calera.

Apaneca

At an elevation of 4,500 feet, Apaneca is the town to stop for a coffee tour. You can spend a night at El Carmen Estate‘s La Casona, the original plantation house on the farm.

El Carmen Estate offers traditional coffee tours and Integral coffee tours. The traditional tour includes visiting the premises to see the coffee processes, watch a video and to taste a cup of gourmet coffee. The Integral tour has all the activities given in the Traditional tour plus a visit to the original farmhouse and lunch.

Coffee plantation

Ziplining and hiking are available in Apaneca for those who like adventure and nature. It’s the best town to buy local Salvadorian coffee, and souvenirs.

Concepcion de Ataco

Almost all the adobe walls of houses and buildings in Concepción de Ataco or Ataco are painted with colorful murals. The town has a Bohemian vibe, a juxtaposition of modern and indigenous styles. It has a variety of bars, restaurants, and cafes.

For dinner, choose one of the few restaurants facing Parque Fray Rafael Fernandez. We enjoyed a meal at Restaurante Cafe Carburo, a restaurant housed in an old coffee mill.

The town has a selection of hotels. We recommend El Pueblito de Don Luis, for the comfortable rooms, tranquil garden, and hearty breakfast.

Breakfast in El Salvador

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Photos and article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. San Salvador
    City in El Salvador

    San Salvador El Salvador
  2. Ruta de las Flores
    Ahuachapan El Salvador

    Ruta de las Flores
    Ahuachapan El Salvador
  3. Nahuizalco
    City in El Salvador

    Nahuizalco El Salvador
  4. Juayua
    City in El Salvador

    Juayua El Salvador
  5. Apaneca
    City in El Salvador

    Apaneca El Salvador
  6. Apaneca
    City in El Salvador

    Apaneca El Salvador
  7. Concepción de Ataco
    City in El Salvador

    Concepción de Ataco El Salvador