Good things come in small packages, and nowhere more than El Salvador
Good things come in small packages, and nowhere more than El Salvador. Sitting quietly nestled in between Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador’s epic volcanoes, misty cloud forests, ancient relics and quiet colonial towns will capture your imagination – while the undulating waves that roll along the surf coast will unleash your inner grommet. Immerse yourself in the handsome capital of San Salvador, meander through the wildflowers that line the Ruta de las flores, explore the lush nature reserves of Ahuachapan and wander through the whitewashed village of Suchitoto – then spend your last few days swinging in a hammock by the beach in El Tunco. This trip is the perfect introduction to your next favourite country.
Welcome to San Salvador! As the capital city of El Salvador, San Salvador isn’t just the centre of the country in a political, cultural and financial sense, it’s also surprisingly pretty; trees dot the streets next to drastically different buildings, rebuilt after historic earthquakes rocked the city to the core. This hasn’t stopped San Salvador from maintaining an excellent selection of museums, bars and marketplaces. If you arrive early, why not visit Jardin Botanico La Laguna – a botanical garden that’s home to a beautiful display of El Salvadorian flora and fauna, which flourishes from the soil of a what was once a flooded volcanic crater! Or visit Iglesia El Rosario, a beautiful church with a rainbow arch of multi-coloured windows.
Location: San Salvador
Early this morning, check out part of El Salvador’s capital with a one-hour leader-led walking tour of your hotel's neighbourhood – then depart the city at 10 am and travel by private vehicle to Juayua (approximately 1.5 hrs). From rolling ‘R’s to rolling hills, learn the local lingo and gaze at the greenery as your leader teaches an informal Spanish lesson en route. Every weekend, travellers and El Salvadorian’s alike, flock to the small town of Juayua for its fantastic Feria Gastronomica (Food Festival) where an array of market stalls showcase a variety of sweet and savoury eats and treats from small plates to large platters. Take your time to soak in the delights, indulge in an included lunch and sample a few local delicacies. This afternoon, enjoy a leisurely drive along the Ruta de las flores (the Flower Route) – a road meandering through wildflowers and verdant countryside, to the town of Ahuachapan near the Guatemalan border. Spend your free time in the evening familiarising yourself with the town’s vibrant street art before perhaps savouring a drink at one of the local restaurants.
Location: Juayua / Ahuachapan
Today is free for you to discover the surrounding beauty of Ahuachapan at your own pace. Ahuachapan is known for its geothermal activity, which it uses to produce electricity for the rest of the country, and is a great base for exploring the highlights of western El Salvador. For the history buffs, why not venture out to the Tazumal ruins – an impressive pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site that is estimated to date back to around 5000 BC. Wander the extensive complex and learn the story behind this ancient civilization through the onsite museum. For a real buzz, you might like to visit one of the many coffee plantations that are nestled in the shadows of the Apaneca mountain range – a rich mix of elevation, climate and volcanic soil makes this fertile landscape the perfect location for this addictive little bean to flourish. Alternatively, with its shimmering rivers, misty peaks and butterflies in abundance, El Imposible National Park is a must for nature enthusiasts – a little patience and you may be able to spot wild boars, antelope and even pumas! This dense, pristine forest is also a hiker’s paradise. Be prepared for some muddy, steep climbs, which are easily outweighed by rewarding panoramic views of the lush canopy and glistening Pacific Ocean.
Say Adios to Ahuachapan this morning as you make your way to Suchitoto, the cultural capital of El Salvador! Along the way, enjoy some spectacular views from the comfort of your private vehicle, particularly while driving past the beautiful Lake Coatepeque. After approximately 1 hour of driving, stop to explore the fascinating preserved ruins of Joya de Ceren – known as the Pompeii of the Americas. Consider sharing an optional lunch with the group before heading on to Suchitoto in northern El Salvador (approximately 1.5 hours), where on arrival you can enjoy an orientation walk through the rustic streets before enjoying a free evening at your leisure. Suchitoto feels like a world away from modern El Salvador – a beautiful colonial town with painted houses and cobbled streets that serves as a reminder of El Salvador's past. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande, also known as Lago Suchitlan, which is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks.
Location: Joya de Ceren / Suchitoto
Use this free day however you wish! Those looking to kick things up a gear may fancy an adventure out to the Cinquera Forest. Once a military stronghold, the local community of Cinquera have created a series of projects that have helped the town bounce back from the horrors of civil war. Visit the museum, where ex-guerrillas share their stories, or enjoy a short hike and waterfall swim in the forest park – there’s even a sustainable iguana farm! Alternatively, why not go kayaking on Lago Suchitlan, spot the abundance of birds that flock to the lake and take in the surrounding beauty of this ecological paradise, or perhaps tour the Guazapa Volcano and the Cihuatan Ruins in the valley below. This evening, take part in a pupusa making class in a local restaurant – pupusa is a type of dough ball made with rice and often stuffed with cheese, beans or pork. Once you’ve mastered this Salvadorian speciality, feast on your creations.
Depart from Suchitoto late morning and head onwards to El Tunco in your private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). Known for its surf and laidback atmosphere, this peaceful village is the perfect spot to kick back with a drink and sway the days away from the comfort of a hammock. The sun setting over the black-sand beach creates a rare spectacle that attracts international travellers and locals alike. Enjoy free time upon your arrival, perhaps resting on the beach as the waves lap against the shoreline’s iconic rock formation.
Location: El Tunco
Take the day to enjoy this laidback piece of paradise. Why not hire a board and tackle the waves, practice your poses with a yoga class, sip on a smoothie along one of the main streets or visit the beach caves at low tide. In the evening, munch on the Salvadorian specialty of pupusa and join the locals down from San Salvador at the bar.
Location: El Tunco
There are no activities planned today, if you have time, you might like to venture inland and explore the waterfalls nearby to El Tunco. A short hike through the mountains and you’ll reach the isolated waterfall of Cascada Tamanique – where you can cool off with a dip in the pristine waters. Alternatively, make the most of the golden sand and wrap up your eight-day adventure relaxing on the beach.
Location: El Tunco
Intrepid was started by two friends from Melbourne, Australia, in 1988 after embarking on a trip through the wilds of Africa in a modified ex-council truck, crammed with friends, supplies, a handful of aviator sunglasses and a case or two of beer. Could this type of travel be something others would be interested in? The answer was a resounding yes and today Intrepid send 100,000 travellers across the globe each year with the help of a staff of 1,000.
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