Hidden yet in plain sight is the poor but plentiful country of El Salvador in Central America. Bound on one side by the brilliant blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean, cornered by Honduras and Guatemala it is a country of many different facets each one shining light upon its varied attractions. Mountains, tropical rain forests, sugar plantations and the ever present pounding of surf on sandy beaches, add up to a traveller’s dream but underneath an abject poverty can be seen in many places.
With over 21 volcanoes some of which you can climb and look down at the voracious maw far below, others still smoking as if in warning. The Boqueron crater or volcano of San Salvador is an aspiring climb but well worth it to reach the top and gaze down over the verdant vegetation and see how far the remains of lava seeped down into the valley below as it does from the Izalco Volcano. There is also a history of earthquakes as the land lies along The Pacific Ring of Fire.
San Salvador is a city teeming with people. Many churches there are and at the other end of the scale are the street markets where everything imaginable can be purchased. Poverty and riches walk hand in hand and the enormous difference between these is easily noticeable. The corrugated roofs of peasant shacks and the large estates behind tall walls. The richness of the interior of the churches and the bareness of the shanties but the Salvadorean people are mostly a happy folk Singing, dancing, playing eating and drinking. Typical foods are pupusas filled with quesilla cheese, mashed red beans and pork, refried beans done in a variety of ways and rice, staples that fill the belly.
A great place to sample the best of authentic Salvadorean cuisine is the Pupuseria Olguita. Yes only pupusas are served but of such variety and quality you will want to return again and again.
Of course there are western style eateries as the monetary system is the US dollar so a number of American food chains have opened their doors feeding those who can afford king sized platters of Americanized Salvadorean food.
Modern highways have been built making it possible to journey across the country from the capital city San Salvador to other main points like Santa Ana, San Miguel and the beautiful Flower Route named for its abundance of colour; flowers and foliage and markets where gaily gowned peasants sell their wares. Delicious papayas, melons, pupusas, herbs, vegetables and exotic drinks like the Horchata. Passing through small cities where the houses are painted in whimsical turquoise, orange, blue and green. Palms, ferns and bougainvilla and the ever present painted graffiti in all colours of the rainbow.
Sugar cane and coffee are two of the major crops grown in El Salvador and fields of these stretch along the roadside. Maize, corn, beans pinuela, medicinal plants and spices, guava, cacao are foods that have been grown for centuries
The Mayan Route is a must to travel in order to visit the archeological site of Joya de Ceren where can be seen representations of how the ancestors of El Salvador lived from 1800BÇ to 1524 AD and the ruins of San Andreas once being an important ceremonial and political center will introduce you to the artistry and building abilities of former Salvadoreans.
Lake Coatepeque surrounded by homes and small inlets is a grand place to have lunch and enjoy local fish and the ubiquitous beans. Many local folk come here on the weekend to boat ride and meet with families to eat, drink and make merry.
One of the most splendid resorts fronting the sparkling waters of the South Pacific Ocean is the totally sustainable Ecolodge La Cocotera located at La Barra de Santiago Covering a large expanse of land between the sea and estuary there only 6 enormous bedrooms two in three different bungalows with indoor and outdoor showers, outside patios with chaise lounge, all the comforts of home and facing either the pounding ocean or quiet estuary. Walkways connect these and in the middle of the property is a large building built from natural woods and covered in native palms. Here tables and chairs are set for guests to dine and lunch on delicious organic foods and local caught fish prepared with love by Gendry and Cruz, two erstwhile Salvadorean ladies trained as are all the staff at this fabulous resort by the general manager Ricardo. The swimming pool is free of chemicals and only salt is used to keep fresh and sparkling.
Many outdoor activities are available, boating, surfing, special side trips to the Mangroves, fishing and during the Turtle season it is a joy to be able to take the baby turtles down to the beach, place them gently on the sand and watch them scamper into the water to be gathered up by the shallow waters and taken into the great ocean. Those who make it will return after ten years to where they made their first contact with the sea and lay their eggs again.
A trip to El Salvador is a most enlightening one covering culture, cuisine, history, environment and most important many people of diverse natures who add their charm to this quite fascinating country.
Just Do It…you will be well pleased.
Tour Operator: Salvadorean Tours and EcoExperiencias
Hotel to stay for business:
Hotel Mirador Plaza in San Salvador is well equipped for the business traveller and has a great swimming pool to: www.miradorplaza.com
For authentic Hacienda charm: Hotel El Casco
For Total enjoyment and relaxation:
La Cocotera Resort & Ecolodge
La Barra de Santiago