El Salvador is an incredible country that is often overlooked by travelers. This tiny Central American country has so much to offer, and its size makes it easy to see a lot in just a short amount of time. Whether you want to explore a culturally rich city, lounge on the beach, hike a volcano, or experience Ancient Mayan ruins, a trip to El Salvador will satisfy any traveler.
3 Reasons to go
- Budget Friendly. Like many of its neighboring countries, El Salvador is very budget friendly. You can easily live on less than $50 per day for food, accommodation, and transportation. In addition, El Salvador uses the United States Dollar as currency, so it is not difficult to exchange currencies while there.
- Variety. For such a small country, El Salvador really packs a ton of variety! Depending on where you are in the country, you can experience completely different atmospheres. From hot and humid coastal cities, large metropolises, cool, green mountains, and lovely lakes, you can never get bored with El Salvador.
- Authentic. There are fewer and fewer places in the world that have yet to be tainted by a worn down tourist trail. El Salvador is not a country that sees high tourist traffic, and this leads to a more authentic experience while traveling. If you’re wanting to really experience a place for what it is, El Salvador is the perfect place for you.
Destination 1: San Salvador | Destination 2: Santa Ana and Joya de Ceren Destination 3: Juayua and the Ruta de las Flores | Destination 4: Playa El Tunco
How to book your vacation?
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Day 1: Arrive in San Salvador
Take a taxi from the airport to your city-center hotel. Once you’re settled in, strap on those walking shoes and get to know the city. Check out San Salvador’s Cathedral, the National Palace, and the National Theater. If you’re itching to do some shopping, check out the San Salvador handicraft market. If there’s still time in your day, check out the Museum of Modern Art.
Day 2: Day Trip to Santa Ana and Joya de Ceren
Time to venture out of the capital city for a few hours. A one hour drive from San Salvador to El Salvador’s second-largest city, Santa Ana. Make your way to Parque Central, where you will be able to visit the National Theater and the Cathedral of Santa Ana. In the afternoon, make your way to Joya de Ceren, located just 40 minutes away. This Mayan village is known as El Salvador’s Pompeii because it has been preserved by a volcanic eruption. You must have a guide within the ruins area, but they are helpful in explaining the site. Once you’re done here, head back to San Salvador for the night.
Day 3: Day Trip to Volcanoes National Park
Today, you’ll spend some time in nature visiting geographic wonders like Santa Ana Volcano and Coatepeque Lake. This area will be a little cooler than San Salvador, so bring a light jacket just in case! Just an hour and a half from San Salvador, there is so much to do within this national park. You can choose to summit a volcano for some incredibly rewarding views. You could hike among coffee plantations and look for exotic birds. Or, you can relax and enjoy the sandy shores of Coatepeque Lake. Once you’ve had your fill, return once more to San Salvador for the night.
Day 4: Juayua and the Ruta de las Flores
It’s time to put that city scene behind you and head off into the mountains of El Salvador. An hour and a half drive from the capital, you’ll reach your base town of Juayua. Get to know your new town by hiking out to Los Chorros de la Calera waterfalls. Bring a swimsuit and a local guide! Afterwards, walk around Juayua’s Parque Central to see the Cathedral and the lovely park.
Day 5: Juayua and the Ruta de las Flores
Hop on one of the many buses that follow the Ruta de las Flores. This is an area of El Salvador populated with cute little mountain towns. If you happen to be traveling between the months of October and February, you will be rewarded with exquisite, colorful flowers from which the area gets its name. Each town has a little something charming about it, which makes the day’s explorations exciting. Be sure to visit the towns of Apaneca, Nahuizalco, Salcoatitan, and Conception de Ataco. Each town is about a 15-20 minute ride from the next. Return to Juayua for the night.
Day 6: Playa El Tunco
Now that you’ve gotten a good feel for the mountains of El Salvador, it’s time to hit up the coast. The small surfing town of Playa El Tunco sits right on the Pacific Ocean and is about a two-hour drive from Juayua. Now, it’s time to relax and soak up that warm El Salvador sun. Spend the day relaxing on the beach and playing in the ocean waves. Order pina coladas at one of the many beachside bars. If you’re feeling antsy try signing up for some surf lessons!
Day 7: Playa El Tunco
On your last full day of vacation, you’ll want to take it easy and continue enjoying the beach. Head out to the beach caves for a little exploring. There’s also a nearby fish market if you want a little more activity in your day. All in all, today’s the day to establish those vacation tan lines, finish up your souvenir shopping, and enjoy one last day abroad.
Day 8: San Salvador
Drive one hour to get to the San Salvador airport for your return flight home. If your flight isn’t until later in the evening, use your time back in San Salvador to pick up those last minute gifts for friends at home.
Tips & advice
- Brush up on your Spanish. Because it is not a widely-visited country, many people in El Salvador do not speak fluent English. To help with communication, make sure you’ve got a bit of Spanish in your back pocket!
- When traveling in Central America, flexibility is key. Not everything runs precisely according to schedule. Don’t stress yourself out, and just go with the flow.
- Public transportation is typically via Chicken Bus. These, while extremely cheap, are not always reliable and can make a trip take much longer. Consider renting a car in El Salvador if you want consistent, reliable transportation.
- Always be aware of your belongings. Like many other countries in the world, pickpocketing and petty thievery do occur in El Salvador. You can avoid being a victim by keeping track of your belongings and being aware of your surroundings.
- Overall, people in El Salvador are kind and welcoming. They realize that their country has a bad reputation for tourists and want, very much, to change that. Don’t let what you hear from the media deter you from visiting this beautiful country.
Brianna Rice is from Michigan, USA. She is a traveler, pastry lover, and owner of the blog, Archives of Adventure. Brianna loves discovering unusual places and fitting travel into her ordinary schedule. Through her writing, she strives to inspire others to love the world and to understand that “what is different, is not necessarily bad or wrong.” Follow her on:
Photo credit: Brianna Rice