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March 30th, 2016

Q&A: Charlie Thomas in El Salvador

Where have you been?
El Salvador.

Have you been before?
I spent one night in San Salvador back in 2009, en route to Guatemala from Nicaragua.

How did you get there?
We flew with Iberia from London Heathrow - San Salvador via Madrid and Guatemala City but on the return leg we didn’t have to stop in Guatemala City.

How long where you there?

2 weeks. El Salvador is tiny in comparison to other Latin American countries so we managed to fit in a lot without ever feeling rushed. As there are no internal flights in El Salvador you have to travel overland but journey times between the major tourist areas are rarely longer than 3-4 hours and furthermore it’s a fantastic way to see the country’s landscape unfold.

General route?
Playa El TuncoPerquin and El MozoteSuchitotoSan SalvadorRuta de las Flores (we based ourselves in Juayúa) – El Imposible National Park – Barra de Santiago.

Which was your favourite…
Perquin and El Mozote in the north east corner of El Salvador and I’d recommend visiting both to provide you with a deeper understanding of El Salvador’s turbulent recent history. Perquin was a guerrilla stronghold during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980 – 1992) and today houses the fascinating Museo de la Revolución, while El Mozote suffered greatly during this period.

We chose to stay mainly in guesthouses – one in particular was a slightly quirky two bedroom guesthouse in Suchitoto owned by two hilarious brothers called Napoleon and Armando.

I love hiking so reaching the top of Santa Ana Volcano (2,381m) was certainly a highlight. It’s a 2-3 hour hike to the summit, and from there you can peer down into the volcano’s bubbling, turquoise crater lake. There are also very impressive views of nearby Lago de Coatepeque and the imposing Izalco Volcano.

Appeals to which type of traveller?
El Salvador would appeal to someone who wants to explore an off-the-beaten-track destination. Compared to other countries in Central America, El Salvador receives few foreign tourists.

What did you pack/take with you?
Nothing special apart from a Water-to-Go bottle with a built in filter. I filled it up with tap water and never had any problems apart from in Playa El Tunco and Barra de Santiago, two beach destinations, where the saline tap water left a horrible taste!

Any good food, drinks, restaurants or bars recommendations?
Pupusarías are everywhere in El Salvador. These informal cafés are the best place to eat a pupusa (or four) - a thick handmade corn tortilla, filled with melted cheese and an ingredient of your choice, and topped with a dollop of cabbage slaw and a drizzle of tomato sauce. They’re cheap and filling. When you’re fed up of pupusas, La Lupita del Portal, overlooking Suchitoto’s central plaza is a nice option, as is Restaurante R y R in Juayúa.

How would you summarise your trip in a sentence?
I didn’t want to come home!

Any top tips?
Brush up on your Spanish (or hope they speak English!) and chat to the salvadoreños. They’re extremely friendly and full of interesting stories.

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