Friday, April 5, 2024

5 days in El Salvador!

I recently did a solo trip to the Central American country of El Salvador. It's the smallest country in the region and you pretty much cover all of the "things to do" in about 4-5 days, which makes exploring it a great week long trip. The roads are pretty good and public transport though economical, is not that convenient, so if you're short on time or don't like waiting or strict schedules, renting a car is a good option, as the rentals are much cheaper than North America or even Costa Rica, for that matter.
San Salvador Centro
San Salvador Centro

I was able to arrange a rental car with the hotel/casa owner I was going to be staying at for the first and last nights of arrival and departure into the country, which was very close to the airport. The rate quoted at the time was $30USD/day which was a good deal as it included a $500 deductible with insurance.

Pupusa, a flat bread
made out of corn/rice flour
stuffed with beans or meat, and cheese
Day 1 (Arrival into El Salvador): My flight arrived at about 8pm local time. The immigration into the country is a 2 step process at the entry. Firstly, you need to get a $12 "tourist card", you can use Bitcoin,
cash or card to pay but at the time they were only accepting cash. Then you need to present this card to the immigration officer, who will then stamp you in with some basic questions like where you're staying etc. The whole process takes about 30 minutes, depending on how many flights have landed. Once that is done you are free to leave the airport, after the baggage claim area. I was picked up by one of my accommodation owner's guys, who was waiting outside with my name.
Santa Ana Centro

Lago de Coatepeque
Day 2 (Santa Ana and San Salvador) After spending the night resting, I got my rental car the next morning. I signed the agreement and paid the rental deposit the for 4 days I was going to rent. The highway #5 takes you straight from the airport into the capital in about 30-40 minutes, which is where I headed first. I parked close to the centro, which is their central area of the capital. It houses the National palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and a new national library in San Salvador which was is the most modern in Central America and gifted by China. After a few minutes of strolling around I continued on my way to Santa Ana, and grabbed some pupusa for brunch.

I reached Santa Ana around noon, as I took a detour to Lake Coatepeque, though it was a little hazy for prefect views. In the evening, I explored the Santa Ana centro which was a few minutes walk from my hotel.

Day 3 (Volcano Santa Ana) After having a sumptious breakfast at my Santa Ana hotel, I left for the main attraction of my visit the Santa Ana Volcano hike. I started my car ride at around 7:30 am, and it a little more than an hour on the curvy hilly road around lake 

Vista along the hike

Coatepeque to reach the Cerro Verde car park which is where the volcano lies. At the entrance they take $1 for parking fee and $3 as entry fees into the park. Once you're inside, you need to get a guide, and unless you're going on a private tour you'll need to join a group going to intervals of 1 hour which being at 9am and end around 11am (double check this before going, though, cause it changes frequently). The price to join the group is $3.

Once the group leaves, there a small announcement of what to carry, what to do and not to do and so on, before beginning the hike up. The hike starts off fairly easy with only slight inclines and declines through a forest. Then, you will get a small section of the road followed by another forest section. This is where you pay the $6 to enter the volcano part of the hike. This is also where it starts to get more difficult. It is about 3km of walking uphill and, in some parts, over rocks.

After 1.5-2 hours later, depending on your speed and fitness level, you will arrive at the top of Santa Ana Volcano. This is where you see the turquoise lake in the crater, apparently
, the weather can greatly affect what you can see during this hike. We were fortunate to see the lake and I was also able to fly my drone up at the crater.

The total cost of the hike, if coming by car as of March 2024 is $4+$3+6=$13USD

Day 4 (Tazumal Park and Nuevo Cuscatlán)

This was my last day in Santa Ana and I wanted to visit the Tazumal mayan ruins before I left the city. The ruins are about an 30 minutes away by car, and I was able to get to the park which opens at 9am.  There are 2 ar
chaeological sites in Chalchuapa. El Tazumal and La Casa Blanca. Tazumal is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site inhabited since the Preclassic period and that is as far back as 2000 BC. The fee is 5 USD for foreigners, and you can explore at your own pace. There is a map that tells you the main structures within the site.

Planes de Renderos Lookout
While speaking with the caretaker, he said though much smaller than Tikal in Guatemala it was important for the Mayan civilization and it was one of their first settlements. He also said there were some Japanese archeologists who did the excavation work here. 

My lunch on my way
There is also an underground site which shows the bases below the ground and a museum with some artefacts from that time period. 

I was told not to fly the drone here by the guard, but I'd already flown and captured some footage by then, so I just brought it back after he warned me, but he was generally chill about it.

Afternoon, I reached by Airbnb in Nuevo Custcatán and after a short nap, took a car ride to a lookout point (pic above) about 30 minutes away, where you can get a view the greater San Salvador metro area.

Fish soup with 
a view
La Libertad Coast
Day 5 (La Libertdad) On my final full day in the country, I did a day trip to the coast of La Libertdad province. This is a cost mostly for surfers with lovely waves. The road in the town are a little rough and some are not paved at all. But the highway leading up to the town is in great shape. I spent a few minutes flying my drone and then had a sea facing lunch at one of the local spots along the sealine.

This brought to an end an amazing 5 days of travelling in the small Central American country of El Salvador. Though smallest of the all in the region, you can surely pack a lot of things to do, in a vert short time.

What businesses did I use?

Hotel in Santa Ana: Remfort

Stay near Airport:

Airline: Avianca