1.Sun and Beach Route
El Salvador is filled with spectacular landscapes ranging from stunning golden, white or black beaches that are bathed by the Pacific Ocean to the blue-green lagoons that are scattered throughout the country.
The Pacific Ocean’s waves from La Libertad and La Union are ideal for surfing and attract a great deal of surfers year round. For something more relaxing you can opt for hotels and resorts located just minutes away from the city capital along the entire Pacific coast.
For those who prefer the wonders of the underwater life, El Salvador has the largest northern pacific rocky reef In Central America. A natural protected area “Complejo Los Cóbanos”, is the sanctuary of hundreds of marine species and is a biological corridor between Mexico and South America. This beach is bathed with white and golden sand due to its reefs and is protected by cliffs that serve as breakwaters.
2.Lakes and Lagoons Route
Nature and volcanoes have given a gift to El Salvador with its wonderful volcanic lakes. Ilopango Lake has several islands hosting endemic and migratory birds; visitors interested in watching them can take a boat ride to tour the islands.
Coatepeque Lake is the most popular lake in the country. It has inspired painters, writers and poets for its splendor, beauty and tranquility. It represents an oasis that is being protected by public and private entities. Villagers say the lake changes color from its dark green to a spectacular turquoise, an inexplicable phenomenon that occurs from time to time.
The Alegría Lagoon also called “The Emerald of America” is located in the Tecapa crater in Chinameca (Usulután), the lagoon owes its color to the sulfur and minerals found in the crater. Legend has it that a mermaid appears at night to enchant young virgin men who come to bathe in its waters.
La Puerta del Diablo, (Devil´s Gate) owes its name to the many legends and mythical stories about the place. The legend say that in settlers times, the daughter of landowner Renderos, was courted by the prince of darkness, she was very beautiful and desired by all men. Her father, Pedro Renderos, determined to save her daughter from Lucifer, one night at dawn went to haunt him down. When Lucifer felt besieged by all the tenants, escaped across the mountains knocking down part of it. That’s why its name “La Puerta del Diablo”, for the curious formation of two large protruding rocks coming out of the “abyss” cutting the mountain simulating a giant gate on the edge of a beautiful scenery. With an elevation of approximately 1,070 meters above sea level, this place has many areas for mountain climbing, canopying and outdoors activities. There is a peculiar cave shaped like a shell perfect for recreation, relaxation and meditation.
Montecristo National Park is part of El Salvador’s National System of Protected Areas for its biodiversity and habitat, is a haven for flora and fauna. Cloud forests, evergreen and oak forests, and cypress plantations will be your backdrop as you explore along the trails, enjoying the cool temperatures and beautiful views. This park is said to be perhaps El Salvador’s most outstanding wildlife sanctuary and home to a fantastic diversity of flora. It serves as a sanctuary for species such as ocelots and quetzal birds. It has trails for hiking, areas for camping and bird watching. You will also be able to learn about iron mining, indigo fields, sugar cane and coffee production. Visit the beautiful historic hacienda that dates back over 220 years, and make sure you ask for the 100 Year Garden (Jardin de 100 Años), where hundreds of exotic orquid species are carefully tended to and on display.
El Imposible National Park is also part of El Salvador’s National System of Protected Areas because is one of the last tropical dry forests in the country. More than 500 species of birds live there (migratory and endemic) including the great curassow, king vulture and turquoise-browed motmot. Also more than 500 species of butterflies live in its surroundings, 100 species of mammals including the ocelot, 53 species of amphibious and reptiles, and the forests vegetation are worth visiting. El Imposible is considered a relic since it is home to so many species of plants and animals in danger of extinction in El Salvador. In its 3,794 hectares with 400 species of flora is considered the richest biological diversity forest in the country. The weather and topography of the park divides it into three areas: High, middle and low lands. Walking, hiking, camping, swimming in the river, and bird watching are only some of the activities you can enjoy while at the park.
Allow us to show you first hand one of the most advanced cultures of humanity: the Mayan culture. In El Salvador you can visit “Joya de Cerén”, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO because is the only place of the Mayan world where you can appreciate the daily living customs of their average inhabitants. Joya de Ceren was buried under layers of ash from an eruption around 600 A.D. This event preserved the village revealing numerous artifacts that fleeing residents left behind. There are municipal structures, communal baths, furniture, utensils, food, textiles, and ceramics on display.
The archeological site of San Andrés in the valley of Zapotitan, represents a Mayan ceremonial site with pyramidal structures, was the capital of the Maya polity with supremacy over the other establishment nearby and a place for astronomical observations. The site was buried due to the eruption of the Playón volcano in 1658 AD, preserving the Colonial indigo production almost intact. In 1996, the Government of El Salvador inaugurated the Archaeological Park of San Andrés, where the visitor can climb the pyramids, see the indigo production area, and visit the site museum. It is currently undergoing an archaeological investigation.
Casa Blanca is an archaeological park buried with a thick layer of well-compacted sand that covers six pyramids that have been hidden for almost more than 3000 years. The park features a museum exhibition, with numerous items found during excavations, including four stones carved more than a meter high, which were found at the foot of the hills. It also has an interesting indigo dyeing workshop and trained guides that can help you on your visit to the park. Indigo along with the legendary Maya sacred corn and cocoa are one of the legacies of our high indigenous cultures to world civilization. El Salvador is known as the leading producer of indigo dye, title won by the quantity and quality of the crop recognized as the “blue gold”. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, production spread throughout the country, increasing its fame as the indigo dye country of excellence.
Tazumal is the most important and impressive archeological site in El Salvador that highlights the traces of the indigenous civilization that occupied El Salvador before the colonial era. In the K’iche’ language Tazumal means, “the place where the victims were burned”. It has the highest pyramid discovered in El Salvador with 80 ft height. Tazumal includes a series structures, including ceremonial architecture, an intricate water drainage system, a few tombs, adjacent minor pyramids, and palaces as well as some excavated ritual objects. Tazumal had a long and uninterrupted occupational history, from AD 100 until AD 1200.
5.The Flower Route
The Flowers Route is one of the most popular tourist destinations and named for its flowers abundance on the picturesque 23 miles long winding trip through brightly colored colonial towns famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking to hidden waterfalls scattered throughout the glorious Cordillera Apaneca. Home to the country’s first coffee plantations, some of its finest indigenous artisans and a world-famous weekly food festival, the ‘Flower Route’ consists of five villages: Nahuizalco, Juayua, Apaneca, Ataco y Salcoatitan.
Nahuizalco sits at the foot of the Sierra Apaneca-Ilamatepec and is home of the most longstanding native communities and arts and craft production sites in the country. Its Mayan name in Nahuatl language means “place of four Izalcos”. Some say the name was given because four families from the neighboring town of Izalco founded the town. Nahuizalco is famous for its wicker and reed handcrafts, its world famous furniture and its must seen night market where as night falls the streets begin to glow by the soft light of candles and lanterns that illuminate stand after stand of products, arts and crafts, and an assortment of interesting local cuisine. People take great pride in building excellent furniture in a large variety of designs, using caña de la India (Indian shot), cedar, bay and tule wood.
Salcoatitán is a village founded by the Pipils in the pre-Columbian era when they emigrated from their coastal lands. This quiet village later became home to the country’s first coffee plantations in the 1860s. In fact, the village’s primary economic income is still based on the regional coffee harvest. Salcoatitán, whose name means “God of Wind and Star of the Dawn” in the Mayan language Nahuatl, is a picturesque little town where you can enjoy a great lunch outdoors while delighting in the mountain breezes and beautiful views. Many people enjoy walking the narrow streets to see the town’s colorfully painted homes. Don’t forget to check out the art galleries that feature regional artists where you can find plenty of souvenirs and local artwork, including baskets and other crafts made from woven reeds, embroidered dresses sewn from naturally dyed fabrics, eco-art and original paintings and sculptures.
Juayua, a beautiful colonial city surrounded by volcanoes and intensely green coffee fields known for their excellent quality. This city, whose name comes from the Nahautl word for “River of the Purple Orchids”, is a prime tourist destination where you can take in both cultural and natural wonders in a cool mountain climate. Its most celebrated attraction is their international food festival. Since 1997, thousands of national and international tourists are drawn to Juayua’s central park every weekend to sample the colorful variety international cuisine and exotic local specialties such as wild hen soup, tacos, riguas, paella, seafood cocktails and yucca with pork rinds and dance to live music on the plaza. Juayua cultural attraction accounts for the Patron Saint Festival held the first two weeks of January in honor of the Black Christ (Cristo Negro). The Black Christ Church (La Iglesia del Cristo Negro) dates back over 500 years, is located in front of Juayua’s central park, this church is the architectural pride and joy of the locals even though it has been rebuilt on three different occasions in different styles. According to tradition, in place of the altar there used to be a hundred-year-old Ceiba or Kapok tree called “the Pregnant Kapok” or “Ceiba Preñada”. At one point, the massive tree was split in two by a bolt of lightning, and when the tree fell apart, an image of the crucified Black Christ appeared and was surrounded by San Sebastian orchids. There is also an impressive church “La Iglesia del Calvario” (The Stations of the Cross Church) that dates back to the 19th century and is the home to many priceless works of art. You can visit the Coffee Museum at “San Jose La Majada” where you can learn all about the history of coffee farming and its production, take a guided tour through an operational coffee mill, buy souvenirs and have a snack under the shade trees on the quaint outdoor patio.
Last but not least is the a must seen landscape of true natural beauty with its breathtaking waterfalls “Los Chorros de la Calera” where the waterfalls emerge out of rocks and streams of fresh water coming from up the mountain.
Apaneca is the summit of the Flower Route. Is the highest village in El Salvador, at 1,455 meters above sea level (4,773 ft), means “Windy River”, is a charming low-key mountain village nestled between a large mountain Chichicastepeque, extinct volcanoes and the Ahuachapán and Green Lagoons. From November to February the wind blows with extraordinary strength making a panoramic vistas of neighboring mountains and volcanoes exceptionally clear. On the way to Apaneca, make sure to look at the mountain slopes. You’ll notice some different types of trees, which almost seem to be framing the coffee fields; they serve as wind breaks to protect the fertile land of coffee bushes that produce the most award-winning coffee in the country. In the village the houses are still adorned with orange clay shingles, tiled roof houses, cobblestone streets that stretch in every direction, and the market is loaded with fresh products and flowers. One of its most popular attractions is an extensive zip-line tour through the treetops of the mountainside canopy, a ride full of adrenaline through the cloud forests and across the deep valleys, getting an exhilarating birds-eye tour of the region. Santa Leticia Archaeological Site was a hidden archeological treasure covered by nature until its rediscovery in 1968 by the farm’s owner. You’ll find three unique monoliths with human characteristics carved into them, each weighing between 6,350-10,890 kg (14,000-24,000 pounds). This site is over 2,600 years old and is surrounded by waterfalls and a variety of beautiful flora and fauna. It is the country’s first private archaeological park that offers lodging and other outdoor activities for your enjoyment.
Ataco, the final stop on the Flower Route, is a quaint, colonial village that is known for its natural beauty, as well as, its brightly painted homes, cobblestone streets, colorful murals and unique arts and crafts. It means “Place of the Elevated Springs”. Five rivers flow through the many surrounding mountains and from here you can see Guatemala’s southern mountains, El Chingo Volcano, the Espino Valley, Ataco Valley and Quezalapa Hill, among others.
Here you’ll find many little stores and workshops bursting with handmade treasures, such as embroidered dresses, sculptures, coffee candles and hand woven textiles. In the pre-Hispanic era, women used to weave using looms that they fastened around their waists. Pedal looms replaced the waist looms during the colonial times and are still used to this day to weave colorful bedspreads, hammocks and other garments.
place where the night of the lanterns is held, an activity that involves placing and decorating with lights of different colors houses, trees, streets, etc. with the reason to remember the birth of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. It is a village of pre-Columbian origin, its name means “Place of high springs” aptly named for a settled population between mountains at an altitude of 1,275 meters above sea level, allowing enjoy a cool climate in hot weather. It has fascinating landscapes, cultural value, and cobbled streets. It’s known to be very picturesque villages since many of the walls are decorated with murals alluding to the Salvadoran culture. The Day of the Lanterns (Dia de los Farolitos) is one of the most elegant traditional festivals held each September 7th that identifies the village as a tourist destination for excellence where hundreds of tourist and locals from all over the country come to celebrate and commemorate the eve of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, according to the Catholic Christian calendar. Its citizens prepare in advance peculiar wooden structures where hundreds of lanterns covered with cellophane paper of different colors and lit candles.
6.Route of Peace
Learn about a tragic and sad piece of history that should not be overlooked or forgotten, the civil war in El Salvador and the Peace Accords signed in 1992. This route takes you up into the far northeastern reaches of the country, the towns of Perquin and El Mozote in the Morazán area only 9 kilometers from the Honduran border, where the FMLN guerrilla revolutionary stronghold was, and where some of the most brutal events of the war took place. Visit the War Museum where you will be guided by local ex guerillas through the museum and to learn about the daily life of the people in this area during the civil war. Then visit the guerillas dug out tunnels used as hospitals, hideouts and kitchens, with had additional tunnels to send the smoke plumes further away from the camp. El Mozote is a very small town a few miles from Perquin, where one of the most brutal massacres of the war took place. There is a memorial to remind us what happened and to hopefully help prevent these kinds of atrocities from happening ever again. Finalize your journey visiting the caves outside the towns of Cacaopera and Corinto where intriguing paintings by Paleo-Indian people as early as 10,000 years ago, can still be seen and marveled at, one of the most impressive rock art sites in Central America designated as a National Monument.
Come and Enjoy El Salvador “Land of Bourbon”! Just get on the plane and get involved with El Salvador’s unique atmosphere, coffee forests with exuberant biodiversity, traditions, folklore, culture and coffee history. Coffee growing has been a tradition since the late 1700’s in El Salvador. We will be visiting coffee farms and mills, and learning about the coffee processes from seedling to export by walking through the plantations, experiencing first hand the lifestyle and work traditions of picking coffee, and participating in coffee cupping’s. Enjoy a special day at the Cooperativa San Jose de la Majada learning how this co-op benefits its local community through social, economic and educational programs. Taste the best Bourbon coffees in the world, enjoy the beautiful scenery and most of all, meet the people who work on the farms, and enjoy their famous hospitality. There are several destinations to visit with a variety of activities to enjoy while getting to know the history of the coffee culture. There is also a wide range of adventure tourism like rappelling, hiking, biking and canopying. One of the attractions that combine coffee plantation and adrenaline adventures is Portezuelo Park at the municipality of Juayúa. Portezuelo Park is a coffee farm with a guesthouse, restaurant and hiking trails. Visitors can enjoy 600 acres of coffee forest while practicing extreme sports including high ropes, rappelling, motocross, paragliding and hang gliding.
El Carmen coffee mill located in Ataco, has maintained a traditional method for processing gourmet quality coffee for four generations. Visitors are welcomed at La Casona, the original farm house since 1930, to taste a cup of Ataco Gourmet coffee prepared in a “chorreador” (dripper) and to taste some local typical pastries. Afterward a guided tour takes place in the coffee mill premises with a full explanation of the coffee process and transformation from the cherries to the green beans for exporting. They also participate in a cup-tasting table and learn the basics of coffee sampling. Another place of interest along the route is Finca Nuevos Horizontes, located at Complejo Los Volcanes (Volcanoes Complex) near Izalco town. This farm has a 12-year history in bird watching and research but they offer other activities like hiking with spectacular views, cloud forests as well as a hostel and cafeteria with panoramic views of the Volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. Near the town of El Congo, Los Pinos Cooperative offers walks to the stunning Coatepeque Lake, with breathtaking views of the landscape surrounding the lake, which is candidate to the title of world’s natural wonder. You may also enjoy a cup tasting of gourmet coffee, camp and take a boat ride on the lake. There are many other places around the country where you can learn and appreciate the magic behind the process of a cup of coffee, don’t miss the opportunity to taste it the way it should be in one of the countries that produces one of the best coffees in the world.
8.Route Nahuatl Pipil
Is a route between four villages, San Julian, Cuisnahuat, Caluco and Izalco in the department of Sonsonate, in the western part of El Salvador, located 37 miles from the capital city. It’s an area of latent traits from ancient ethnic groups using handmade pre-Columbian industries like Balm, Coffee and Cocoa, as part of their everyday lives. This route covers progenitor communities of myths and legends, cradle of heroes, and events that shaped the entire country during the colonial period in the fifteenth century and historical events of the twentieth century in the early thirties. One of its strengths is an extensive natural area the served as refuge to the different ethnicities that settle there over the years, the Izalco volcano, better known as “The Lighthouse of the Pacific”, and current settlement of Nahuatl-Pipil indigenous, which still preserve their culture and traditions.