Offical languages: Spanish if the official language of the country and very few Salvadorans don’t speak it. Thankfully for non Spanish speakers a decent percentage of the locals can speak a good level of English too.
Currency: The US Dollar
Anyone looking for an exhilarating trip should take the chance to try some incredible surfing, check out the amazing volcanoes or enjoy the sizzling nightlife. It is a terrific destination for finding out about the Latin American culture and living it up in the city but the countryside is diverse and spectacular as well. The capital is San Salvador, which is also the biggest city in El Salvador. The country has coastlines on both sides and its small size has seen it be given the memorable nickname of The Tom Thumb of the Americas. Tourism is growing in a big way here, with eco-friendly tours really taking off in recent years. It might be compact in size but El Salvador still offers the chance to see volcanoes, forests and beaches in its diverse list of attractions. As with most of Latin America, it is also well known for its fun loving inhabitants and its wide selection of fiestas. The week long August Carnival will have you gasping for breath, while important days like Christmas and New Year’s Day are welcomed with a deafening cacophony of firecrackers.
Must see places in El Salvador
Joya de Cerén
As well as being the capital and biggest city, San Salvador is also an important transport hub. All of this means that it is a city you are likely to spend some time in during your trip. About a third of the country’s population lives here and the contrast between the richest and poorest parts makes for some thought-provoking moments for many visitors. It may be light on traditional tourist attractions but the friendly people, the great shopping opportunities and the warm climate all make it a relaxing place to spend some time.
If San Salvador is too big and cosmopolitan for you then beautiful San Miguel might be the Salvadoran city that wins you over. It has a population of little more than 200,000 but it has grown impressively in recent years and has an entertaining nightlife. There are some classy beaches nearby and the weather here is simply perfect.
El Sunzal Beach
Arguably the best surfing beach in the country, as well as one of the finest anywhere on the planet, El Sunzal is simply breathtaking. Some people even call it one of the continents best kept secrets. You will feel far the stresses of the world melt away as you try and tame the waves or simply splash about in the warm waters before drinking something cool and refreshing.
With less than 10,000 inhabitants, this small town feels a world away from the urban delights of the capital city. It is a cute and charming little town in the mountains. Interestingly, the cathedral in the main plaza has a statue known as the Black Christ of Juayua.The views of the countryside are incredible, there is fantastic colonial architecture and the weekly food festival will have you licking your lips. This is a laid back spot that is becoming increasingly popular with tourists without showing any signs of losing its gentle appeal.
El Imposible National Park
The first piece of good news is that it isn’t as impossible to visit this national park as you might think. The name comes from the gorge which has proved so difficult and dangerous for the locals to cross over the years. These days, it is an attractive national park in a lush tropical forest setting. The diversity of plant and animal life here is simply incredible, with wild boars, pumas and eagles among the most treasured creatures to live here.
El Cerro Verde National Park
El Cerro Verde (the Green Hill) is an extinct volcano that sits in the national park of the same name. The lush cloud forest that now covers it makes it a wonderful sight. This is a fine place for taking some photos of this and the other 2 volcanoes in the region. Active visitors will enjoy the fascinating hikes and climbs which are possible here.
El Cuco Beach
You’ll be in seafood heaven when you get to this beach. The dark sands and the palm trees make it instantly appealing but it is the seafood that will knock you out. There are other beaches nearby too, such as Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores. This whole part of the coast is famous for its water sports possibilities, while there is also enough laidback nightlife for anyone who doesn’t want to go straight to bed after an active day out on the water.
The colonial buildings and cobbled streets of Suchitoto make it the kind of place where you feel at home even before you step off the bus. From here you can see Suchitlán Lake, check out the local crafts for sale and soak up the culture. The waterfall is well worth seeing too, with the local police offering escorted daily tours. Another decent option is to take a boat trip out to Bird Island. Finally, the indigo dyeing production here has been going on for centuries and you can see how they still do it in the time honoured way.
If you want to explore the history and natural wonders of El Salvador you can’t do much better than choose Santa Ana as your base. This is one of the country’s biggest cities, even though the population is relatively modest at fewer than 300,000. There are lots of coffee plantations near here and it is easy to get out to the best archaeological sites from here too. In the city itself, you will be bowled over by the lovely colonial architecture.
Things to do in El Salvador
Enjoy the countryside
While the city is a fabulous place to spend some time here, the countryside is outstanding too. For example, you could hike up to the active Chaparrastique volcano, go on a trip to the various lakes and islands or check out the invigorating hot springs. It may be small but El Salvador has something to offer everyone in this respect.
Visit the historic sites
There are plenty of historic, colonial towns in El Salvador that will take your breath away. The likes of Juayua, Suchitoto and Apaneca are lovely, laid back towns where leaving is a lot more difficult than arriving. Even older are the settlements built by the indigenous population before the Spanish arrived. Among these you will find the stunning so-called Pompeii of Central America at Joya de Cerén.
Take in the nightlife in the big city
Eat and drink
The capital city is a surprisingly fantastic place to eat in, with a wide variety of different influences from around the world making it hugely diverse. In San Salvador you are just as likely to find Asian or European food here as you are to come across a US style fast food chain. The delicious local food is rich in rice and beans, while seafood is abundant on the coast. In terms of the popular drinks, the wonderful cebada and horchata should be on any visitor’s list of things to try while here.
Undoubtedly one of the main attractions of El Salvador, the surfing here is excellent. Some people will tell you that the surfing here is among the best anywhere on the planet. There is certainly no denying the appeal of stunning beaches like El Sunzal, La Libertad and El Cuco. Don’t worry if have never tried this sport before; the waves are gentle in places and you can get lessons from a surf instructor once you get here.
Best time to visit El Salvador
Tourists visit El Salvador from November to April
The year-round warm weather means that El Salvador is a welcoming country at any time of year. The biggest factor to take into account is the rain, which means that November to April is a popular period with tourists looking to enjoy this marvellous country without worrying about getting soaked or coming across blocked roads. The week before Easter and carnival time in August are examples of times when the country goes party wild and lots of tourists come to enjoy the experience.
If you want a totally tropical trip then you can’t do much better than head here. The temperature varies little throughout the year despite there being marked dry and rainy seasons. The low lying areas tend to be a lot hotter than the higher altitude regions. Winter is what they call May to October here and that is when nearly all of the annual rainfall occurs. The rest of the year is called summer.