El Salvador is a small country and we only explored a small portion of it, but what we saw was stunning. From the first day we felt welcomed, had wonderful coffee and food, and met so many warm and friendly people. Our week here is full of happy memories and we had full, happy bellies to match.
After a painless border crossing from Guatemala, we took the Ruta de las Flores. Earlier in the year the road has tons of flowers blooming, but when we went we were “only” treated to cute villages, great coffee and beautiful views. We camped at a small lake just off the route, Laguna Verde. The tranquil lake had a small walking trail around it and was a nice spot to relax. In the evening, the local police came by to welcome us to the region and chat with us a bit. They were really friendly and wanted to take selfies with us. This isn’t at all the image I had of police in Central America.
The next day, we explored a couple of villages and visited the weekly culinary festival in the village Juayua. We tried some local sausages, served with beans and vegetables, then had our very first pupusas. They are essentially stuffed tortillas cooked with oil. Like good street food, cheap stuff is often the best – pupusas are less than $1 and delicious.
Filled up on food, we headed to Parque Nacional Cerro Verde to burn the calories off. We hiked up the Volcano Santa Ana, where we got an amazing view of the crater. The sulfurous lake in the crater is a stunning green color. If the winds are not in your favor, you get a whiff of that sulfur, too.
Next stop was the Lago de Coatepeque. This is a big lake at the base of the National Park and a popular weekend hang out. Folks were out taking boat tours and playing on jet skis, or having drinks at one of the many restaurants that line the lake. The city Santa Ana is close to the lake and also worth a quick stop. The church and buildings surrounding the plaza were very cute and there are plenty of pupusa stands to choose from. We then drove to the adorable village of Suchitoto for the night. The village was fun to walk around and we had a nice place to camp at a hostel/peace museum built into the grounds of a former convent. The night turned into two after Rachel got food poisoning, but the folks running the hostel were very generous and let us have a private room for a fraction of the normal price. We haven’t gotten sick on any street food yet, but some raw tomatoes in a “nice” restaurant is what got us. No more raw vegetables unless we are washing and cutting them ourselves!
For our final night we went to the highest point in El Salvador. El Pital was a peaceful place, but we got caught in a torrential downpour while out for a walk. Another lesson learned, this time about rainy season! Our shoes and clothes were completely drenched and it took a week to get the car fully dry again. Oops! In spite of all that, we still loved El Salvador. There is so much more to see, but our plans for Honduras led us to the western border crossing and left the southern half of the country unexplored by us.