San Salvador is the capital of the country and hosts more than 800,000 people. The city suffered from as well the many earthquakes as the civil war. Many monuments or historical valuable buildings are not any more. But the few wich are are well restored.
Spanish name is "Museo Sitio Arqueologico de San Andres". Central America is La Ruta Maya ....the ancient Mayan Route through the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatamala, Belize and Honduras. The route, and this incredibly fascinating region of wonderful tropical jungle, mysterious archeological sites, ancient ruins and rich Mayan Culture, is known worldwide as La Ruta Maya. El Salvador was an important comercial link among Mayas and a place where many cultures interacted. I took a 7 hr tour for $70USD which included, San Andres, Joya de Ceren, and Lago de Coatepeque. The guide spoke English very well. Eva Tours provides other guided tours as well.
The Maya inhabited western El Salvador well before the arrival of the Spanish, and although not as well known as Palenque, Mayapán, Copán, Tikal, or Chichén Itzá, many Mayan ruins have been uncovered in El Salvador, including huge limestone pyramids. The greatest period for the Maya was between 250 and 900 A.D. During this time, the Mayans developed a 52-year calendar so accurate, their leap years occur only every 400 years. They also developed a complex system of writing and built a trade route 1,500 miles long, called La Ruta Maya. I took a 7 hr tour for $70USD which included, San Andrés, Joya de Cerén, and Lago de Coatepeque. The guide spoke English very well. Salvador Tours provides other guided tours as well.
Very peaceful place with hammocks underneath little huts. The view is overlooking a black sand beach (volcanic Beach). I think this is a private club. They have a pool, picnic areas, they will serve/sell you food.
Approximately 15mins along the coast from La Libertad going toward Guatemala, is Club Atami set on a cliff-top overlooking two beaches. It has two swimming pools, a 60 metre water slide and a restaurant. Entry costs $7.00 per person and you can hire a cabaña (thatched shelter with hammocks and table) for $2.50. Waiters then bring food and drinks. A double room for the night (basic but clean with fan) costs $20.00. There is access to both beaches from the club and they have surfable waves. Take your passport to get in as a “visitor”. Or you can get a tour guide to take you there. Inter Tours http://www.viajero.com.sv will take you there for a full day trip, $50 per person.
Beautiful view. Our guide took us here and we ate at a little pupusa stand.
I took a 7 hr tour for $70USD which included, San Andrés, Joya de Cerén, and Lago de Coatepeque. The guide spoke English very well. Salvador Tours provides other guided tours as well.
Zona Rosa was once the heart of San Salvador's entertainment district. Located in San Benito, a middle-class area of the city, it was close enough to the core to be a short car-ride away from home, but far enough away in order to guarantee safety and security. In the last few years, however, the area has had a bit of a rough spot, and while there are still plenty of restaurants and night clubs, these are often empty. The presence of the Sheraton and the Hilton don't really help, as many guests are still wary of going a hundred meters by foot to the establishments. Some still do good business, but these are few and far between. Nevertheless, it is a good taste of what San Salvador used to be like on a Friday night, even if it does resemble a faded beauty from time to time.
One of the establishments that makes up San Salvador's cultural scene is the Teatro Presidente, so-called because of the large number of busts and monuments to the country's various leaders (as well as to other individuals connected with the arts). This is, evidently, a sensitive structure, as I was warned by a soldier that I was not to take pictures of it. Nevertheless, it appears that the various performances put on here are open to the public, as are the grounds, where you can wander freely. Together with the MARTE, which is right next door, this completes one of the capital's largest cultural complexes, allowing visitors to the Sheraton some form of entertainment wihtout having to wander too far from the hotel.
The Monument to the Divine Saviour of the World, in a way the namesake of the city of San Salvador, is perhaps the single most identifiable monument of the city and indeed the country as a whole. It is, ironically, in a part of the city that tourists are unlikely to visit, but nonetheless attracts protestors and those looking for a significant start to their activities. The statue was first erected in 1942, although the image of the Christ on top of a globe was originally taken from the tomb of one of the country's presidents during the first half of the 20th Century. In 1986, it was damaged badly during a massive earthquake, requiring a complete reconstruction of the monument. Today, the entire area is once again under construction, as the current mayor has sponsored a remodeling of the plaza to include a lake. Until then, it's not much of a photo opportunity.
While much of San Salvador’s historic centre has been overrun by street vendors and the shadier aspects of Salvadorean life, la Plaza Gerardo Barrios helps to preserve some of the sense of grandeur and stateliness of the capital. It is dominated by a statue of Gerardo Barrios, an ill-fated President of the Republic during the 1850s and 1860s. President Barrios introduced coffee as a mainstay of the country’s economy, but he lost support of conservatives during a dispute with the clergy and was eventually brought to trial after Guatemalan troops seized control of San Salvador in 1865. The square itself is one of the few open spaces free from peddlers, and it is kept fairly secure by a police patrol in the area. You can get some good shots of the Cathedral from here, although it is nonetheless advisable to keep close watch of your belongings.
The National Palace was once the seat of the country's government, but successive earthquakes (and now probably the threat of gang violence) have left it empty of its former importance. It was built at the start of the 20th Century, using materials that were imported from Europe. The various elements of neo-Renaissance architecture belie a time when the country's élite, unmoved by the revolutions of neighbouring countries, still saw themselves as Europeans. The interior of the National Palace is, supposedly, the reason why it was named a national monument in 1974, as a number of the rooms are lushly decorated. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go in, but I did rather admire the European architecture with clearly American accents in the form of the statues out front.
The heart of San Salvador is not, unfortunately, a popular tourist attraction. This is in part due to the fact that it has been overrun with street vendors and the offshoots of gangs, as well as its close proximity to some of the worse neighbourhoods of the country's capital. There are, nevertheless, a few sites worth seeing when visiting the core. One of them is the Metropolitan Cathedral, a massive church with a façade that looks like a large quilt. The building itself is an interesting quasi-futurist, neo-Romanesque structure with two campaniles and a large cupola over the nave and the transept. The interior is not all that remarkable, except for the huge, caverous main aisle that leads up to the an equally huge altar. What is neat, however, is the façade, with its colourful decoration that is quite obviously inspired by the indigenous traditions of the country. The Cathedral is also important because it houses the tomb of the Cardinal Romero, a controversial figure who was actively involved in the politics of the country and who was assassinated in 1980. His tomb draws pilgrims, including the late John Paul II, who visited the church twice.
Thanks to the fact that the country lies on a very active fault line, and that the Civil War deprived the church of much of its support during the 1970s and 1980s, El Salvador is actually pretty poor in interesting and inspiring religious architecture. There are a few churches that were rebuilt in Colonial style, but most of them are rather drab and ugly, blending into grimy sections of the city that are otherwise unremarkable. La Virgen de Guadalupe shrine is clearly an exception, as it stands back from the street in an area that is devoid of other structures. While the building lacks the sort of Spanish Baroque grandeur that one might expect, it nevertheless is a pretty white and salmon structure that recalls memories of missions in California. The simple but pleasing interior, with its white and black tiles and various chapels, is also quite inviting, perhaps because of the relative peace and quiet that the Church offers, in contrast to the hustle of the Panamericana just outside. The Virgen also attracts a fair number of people asking for help, with messages posted on a smaller shrine outside the church showing the popularity of a Catholic figure generally associated with Mexico and her indigenous peoples.
San Andrés, not far from La Joya de Cerén, provides visitors with another glimpse into pre-Colombian life in Central America. Although the pyramids here are not those of Tikal or the Yucatan, they are quite impressive, especially for those who have never visited pyramids before. A short hike from the visitors’ centre, the actual structures are in a meadow beautifully devoid of any development or human presence. The impression of solitude and abandonment is even stronger because of this, which helps to create a special feeling among visitors. The complex of pyramids that remains contains a court in which the indigenous communities – related to the Mayans – would play a game not dissimilar to basketball. Much of the court is now overgrown with grass and plants, but the pyramids themselves are still standing, and visitors can sit on the walls of the court and pretend that they are where spectators once watched incredible feats of strength and agility.
La Joya de Cerén, the Jewel of Cerén, truly is something special. The Pompei of Central America, these ruins were buried under layers of volcanic ash and soot, allowing them to be preserved in a remarkable fashion. Prior to 900 AD, the area in which El Salvador lies was inhabited by a native group unrelated to the indigenous nations found at the time of the Spanish Conquest. In the 10th century, however, the volcano at Ilopango (not far from the capital) erupted violently, covering the area with volcanic ash and lava (the reason why coffee grows here). The inhabitants, luckily, appear to have escaped in time (no human remains were found in the ash), but they left their homes and possessions as they were. In the 1970s, a farmer inadvertently discovered the remains of their village, which was excavated by an American archeologist. Today, you can visit the preserved remains of the few houses found, including that of the Shaman and his family. The tour guide (Spanish only) provides an interesting insight into the significance of the various sites, as well as an overview of life in the region at the time of the volcano’s eruption.
The Museo de Arte, or MARTE, is the second impressive museum in San Salvador. It is devoted largely to modern art, although it does include a fairly good but brief collection of the art of the country from the first installation of Spanish colonists to the present. The MARTE has two special exhibit rooms (one at the entrance, the other in the basement). When I visited, they had a great collection of Picasso sketches and a couple of sketches inspired by Picasso. The basement also had a collection of local artists' work depicting dreams and nightmares - a great little horror show. The main collection of the museum is small, but still provides a good idea of the development of the arts in El Salvador. In particular, it allows visitors to understand the general evolution of Salvadorean artists, first from the total reliance on Spanish form and canon and then the gradual schism and development of a unique American style, followed by the effects of the civil war on the country's artistic persona. Perhaps the most impressive part of the museum, however, is the entrance, dominated by the massive Alegoría a la Constitución, a piece that is in fact inspired by the Mexican Constitution and sculpted by a Mexican artist. This is complemented by the large naked man, el Chulón or Monumento a la Revolución. This piece was allegedly inspired by a massive general strike that brought an end to military dictatorship, known as brazos caídos (fallen arms). El Chulón's arms are raised up, representing the triumph of a liberated people over tyranny.