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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi