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Signature El Salvador: Revolutionary road trip

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 This holiday includes some remote rural areas where the friendly guides and general tranquillity will soon set you at ease. It's a broad-based trip, including gentle outdoor activities as well as visits to highlights by car and boat, delivering an authentic experience of the cultural as well as the natural richness and variety of the republic. 

Owing to its complicated recent history El Salvador has yet to establish itself as a sought-after tourist destination, but this is one of its attractions: you will find truly unspoilt landscapes and a genuine welcome from the local population. It’s a small country, easy to get around by land and you’ll be distracted from some uneven road surfaces by the captivating scenery through which you will pass. Outstanding, both literally at metaphorically, are the dominant volcanoes which stud the countryside – you’ll get to view the cones of el Boquerón, Santa Ana and Izalco as you visit national parks established between areas of , richly fertile, intensively farmed farming country peppered with coffee plantations. Also in the rugged interior you’ll drive along the famed “route of the flowers”, drop in on preserved colonial artisan towns such as Suchitoto and little-visited Mayan archaeological sites. The coast is not neglected, with a boat trip on the Gulf of Fonseca and a short time to view the surfing on a Pacific beach.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart arriving San Salvador, El Salvador the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to hotel in the capital, San Salvador

Day 2

El Boquerón volcano; Mayan ruins of El Tazumal; colonial Ataco

Day 3

Artisan villages along the ‘Route of the Flowers’; visit coffee plantation.

Day 4

Santa Ana volcano and Cerro Verde National Park; drive to Jiquilisco Bay.

Day 5

Chocolate plantation tour and optional kayaking; on to La Union.

Day 6

Boat trip on the Gulf of Fonseca; drive to Perquin.

Day 7

Walks in Perquin. Discover El Mozote & Perkin's Peace Museum.

Day 8

Drive to El Salvador’s ‘Pompeii’ Joya de Cerén; continue to colonial Suchitoto.

Day 9

At leisure in Suchitoto

Day 10

Visit San Salvador’s historic centre. Overnight on Pacific coast.

Day 11

Transfer to airport for international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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What our experts say

Marked by a turbulent history, this underrated country is one for adventurers and explorers, those with an inquisitive and open mind. What makes this place special is that it’s not really on the well-trodden tourist route yet; the very unspoilt, rugged nature of El Salvador is what we showcase on this trip. Hike through previous guerrilla territory, that is now a peaceful conservation area; learn to cook traditional pupusa – a thick corn flour tortilla, filled with cheese, pork or beans, El Salvador’s national dish; and travel the Ruta de las Flores discovering quaint, colourful villages along the way; a holiday of adventure and discovery awaits in El Salvador.

Sophie Barber

Sophie Barber

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Signature El Salvador: Revolutionary road trip

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Suchitoto

The enchanting colonial town of Suchitoto (‘place of birds and flowers’) just a short drive north from the capital, is one of the country’s most popular attractions. It has emerged from its pivotal role in the civil war to blossom as a centre for arts and culture. Visitors flock to explore the cobbled lanes flanked by squat, red-roofed adobe houses, its exquisite chalk-white baroque church and viewpoints over the surrounding countryside. But it is not just a tourist destination; much of its appeal lies in the fact that it is still a working town, with boutique hotels sitting alongside thriving markets.

When to go

Suchitoto has a tropical climate all year round with temperatures hovering around 30°C. The dry season is Nov-Apr. The rainy season, May-Oct, is characterised by mostly evening and nocturnal showers. Weekends in the town are lively, with artistic performances taking place on many Saturdays. The February arts festival is a big attraction and well attended.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

US dollar. The former local currency( colon) was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash or exchange travellers cheques locally in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) and may be able to obtain cash advances from a couple of ATMs in Suchitoto among other large towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs

Combines with

A visit to the lovely colonial town of Antigua in Guatemala, similarly a centre for the arts (6-7hrs by road crossing the land border at La Hechadura); the Ruta del las Flores (112km by road to Juayúa, 1hr 45mins).

Getting there

The town is a 1.5hr drive from San Salvador via the Panamerican Highway.

Key events
Festival Permanente de Arte y Cultura, Suchitoto, Feb annually. An important festival with many events attracting international performers: opera, concerts, theatre and film are all represented.  
Semana Santa, Easter.  Among other religious celebrations, a victorious figure of Christ parades through town on an ass on Palm Sunday. There are also street mosaics blanketing a selection of roads.
Día de la Cruz, Suchitoto, 3 May. Processions with fruit and flowers and sweets offered to Santa Cruz. 
Fiesta del Aniversario el 15 de Julio, Suchitoto, 15 Jul. Colourful folklore presentations throughout the town. 
Fiestas Patronales Virgen de Santa Lucia, Suchitoto, 12-13 Dec. Many cultural activities including masked performances and processions in honour of the town’s patron saint.

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Ruta de las Flores
Ataco

This extremely scenic 36km route in the hilly western zone, near the Guatemalan border, passes through the principal coffee-growing region. It links several highland towns, including Ataco, Nahuizalco, Juayúa and Apaneca. The route starts in Sonsonate in a lowland area devoted to cattle-raising and plantation agriculture, climbing to the Pipil indigenous village of Nahuizalco, where some older inhabitants wear native costume and where traditional crafts are practised. At the northern end of the route, Apaneca is a peaceful town of cobbled lanes. The region is also famous for its traditional dancing – over 30 have been identified.

When to go
The best time to take this route is in the dry, season Oct-Feb when plants are in flower (preferably at the weekend when there is a gastronomic festival in the town of Juayúa and the towns are generally livelier than during the week). In May, the coffee plants are in bloom over the hillsides, a glorious sight. It is cooler in the mountains than on the coast.
Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

US dollar. The former local currency( colon) was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash or exchange travellers cheques locally in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) and may be able to obtain cash advances via the few ATMs in larger towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited.  Stock up with dollars before setting out on the route.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to the lovely colonial town of Suchitoto, now a centre for culture and the arts; surf and surf lessons on the beaches at El Tunco, El Zonte, El Zunsal and La Libertad, easily accessed from Sonsonate.

Getting there

A visit to the lovely colonial town of Suchitoto, now a centre for culture and the arts; surf and surf lessons on the beaches at El Tunco, El Zonte, El Zunsal and La Libertad, easily accessed from Sonsonate.

Key events
Semana Santa, Easter, throughout El Salvador. Celebrated from Thursday through to Easter Sunday.
Fiesta 19-25 Jun. A religious occasion with music and dancing, including the Danza de los Historiantes exploring the conflict between heretics and Christians.
Christmas festival, Sonsonate, 24-5 Dec. Includes the Danza de los Pastores. 

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Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast
El Salvador’s Pacific coastline is punctuated with small fishing communities and although tourism is in its infancy, there is a range of accommodation available from large, all inclusive resorts to small eco-conscious lodges. Beaches vary from soft white sandy bays to dark volcanic ones. Most of the coast is accessible by road and is generally less than 3hrs hours from the capital San Salvador.  

Rugged bays with big breaks are a haven for surfing enthusiasts and many international competitions have been held here. For nature enthusiasts there are 4 species of turtle which frequent the Pacific coast, in addition to an abundance of wading birds. That said, the majority of people who visit the coast just kick back, relax and enjoy juicy sea food washed down with a cold beer.  

When to go

The Pacific coast has a tropical climate all year round with temperatures hovering around 30°C. The dry season is Nov-Apr. The rainy season, May-Oct, is characterised by mostly evening and nocturnal showers.  El Salvador is an important area for the the endangered Eastern Pacific hawksbill.  Nesting months are May and October. Leatherback turtles can also be seen between October and January.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

El Salvador uses the US dollar. The former local currency (colon) was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash locally in banks and exchange houses and may be able to obtain cash advances from a couple of ATMs in Suchitoto among other large towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.  

Combines with

A visit to the lovely colonial town of Suchitoto, or Antigua in Guatemala; similarly a centre for the arts (6-7hrs by road crossing the land border at La Hechadura); the Ruta del las Flores (112km by road to Juayúa, 1hr 45mins). 

Getting there

The area of Costa del Sol is only a 1.5hr drive from San Salvador

Key events

Gastronomic festival of seafood in La Libertad in May.

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Gulf of Fonseca and Eastern El Salvador
Meanguera Island

The 261km of Pacific coastline and the islands of the Gulf of Fonseca are shared by El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. It’s a hot, steamy place: the vegetation is predominately mangrove, with tangled wetland forests stifling the shore, beyond which are rugged volcanic hills.  The long neglected islands host modest sandy coves and small fishing communities. La Unión, the main port of entry from Nicaragua and ferry port for the islands, is also having a revival. Some of the country’s best beaches are in the area, and, in the little-visited east, Perquín is great mountain-hiking and bird watching territory with important revolutionary significance.

When to go

The Gulf receives the majority of its abundant rainfall May-Nov; travel is more pleasant in the dry season Jun-Nov although rare hurricanes or tropical storms may occur at this time. The temperature along the coast hovers around 30°C all year, but it is cooler inland and in the mountains around Perquín (26°C).

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

US dollar. The former local currency ( colon) was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash or exchange travellers cheques locally in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) and may be able to obtain cash advances from a couple of ATMs in main towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited. There are money changers at frontier crossings. Acquire your dollar bills before travelling to the region.

Time difference

Time difference:  GMT -6 hrs.

Combines with

 Ruta del las Flores, it’s a 4-5hr drive to Juayúa from Perquín.

Getting there

There are land crossings from Honduras.  Access is possible by boat across the Gulf of Fonseca to La Unión from Potosí, Nicaragua (2hrs).

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El Salvador
Ruta de las Flores
El Salvador is a pocket-sized country of wild beauty. Volcanic in more ways than one, it has emerged from a period of civil strife with a strengthening economy. Mindful of its tourism potential the authorities have renovated the historic centre of San Salvador and opened up national parks to visitors. Overall the country is refreshingly natural, with a bucolic rhythm to its lifestyle and some of the friendliest people in Latin America.

While farming has undeniably made its mark on the countryside, El Salvador has some unforgettable landscapes. The tropical forest of El Imposible National Park is cut through with hiking trails. The winding Ruta de las Flores splices the country’s beautiful coffee heartland dotted with highland villages.

There are spruced-up colonial towns, such as of Suchitoto with its cobbled streets and thriving arts scene, and Joya de Cerén – a pre-Columbian village remarkably preserved under layers of volcanic ash. Beaches are undeveloped: Punta Roca is a popular destination for surfers. In the east, the rucked hills around Perquín, the guerrilla movement’s base in the civil war, are now a haven of serenity.

When is the best time to visit El Salvador?

The coastal lowlands have a hot tropical climate all year round with temperatures peaking at well over 30°C. The mountainous interior has a milder climate and in Dec-Jan temperatures hover around 18°C and it is cool at night. The best time to visit is during the drier months of Nov-Feb – it gets very hot thereafter. The rainy season runs May-Oct with short tropical showers – it is cooler, but some of the back roads may be impassable. Sep-Nov is the season when rainfall may be heavy and hurricanes are possible.

What is the official language of El Salvador?

Spanish

What is the official currency of El Salvador?

US dollar. The former local currency ( colon), was phased out in 2003. You can obtain US dollar cash or exchange travellers cheques locally in banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) and may be able to obtain cash advances via the few ATMs in larger towns and cities. You should authorise your bank first, and withdrawals may be limited.

What is the time difference between El Salvador and GMT?

GMT -6 hrs.  

Which countries combine well with El Salvador?
A visit to neighbouring Central America countries, such as Nicaragua with its splendid colonial cities and coral island beaches; wildlife-rich, slickly organised Costa Rica and the Mayan cities of Guatemala, all easily accessed by land or air.  
What are the festivals and cultural events in El Salvador?
Semana Santa, Easter, throughout El Salvador. Celebrated from Thursday through to Easter Sunday.
Towns and villages all celebrate the feast days of their local saint, sometimes with protracted celebrations, as in San Miguel and Sonsonate with programmes of artistic events. 
Arts and Culture Festival, Feb, Suchitoto. The pretty colonial town hosts a world-class arts and culture festival with music and dance groups.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Signature El Salvador: Revolutionary road trip

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