Parque Nacional Los Vulcanes has only had that name since 2003. Before it was called Parque Nacional Cerro Verde and that is the name which is still in use by many people. The national park covers an area of 6300 acres and in it there are three volcanoes: Izalco, Cerro Verde and Santa Ana.
Vulcan Cerro Verde hasn’t had an eruption for 25 000 years and it is in its crater that the visitor centre is situated. Here you will find the guides to climb Izalco or Santa Ana. As you can only climb the volcanoes with a guide and police escort, leaving every day at 11, you can only visit one of them in one day. Which volcano it will be depends on where the majority wants to go. We were two tourists who wanted to climb Santa Ana as we had heard it was the nicer one (our guide later said the same) and two El Salvadorians who had come for Izalco, but they luckily agreed to visit Vulcan Santa Ana.
Admission to the park was 1 dollar (June 2009) and then there was 1 dollar more for the guide. To climb Izalco doesn’t cost any more, but for Santa Ana there were an additional 6 dollars.
Izalco is a 1910 metre high cone shaped volcano without vegetation. It is the youngest volcano in El Salvador. From 1770 to 1966 it had constant eruptions with smoke, boulders and flames. The light could be seen far out at sea so it was often called The Lighthouse of the Pacific. As the slopes are 45degrees it is a hard walk up to the top. I’m glad we didn’t chose Izalco as the volcano was covered in dark clouds as we walked up Santa Ana, and we could hear the thunder.
Vulcan Santa Ana had its last eruption in 2005 and for some time the national park was closed. Santa Ana is the highest of the volcanoes in the park with 2365 metres and from the top there are great views if the weather is clear. Even if it was not clear when I visited it was a nice walk (it is longer than to the top of Izalco and took about four hours to the top and back). At the top you will be on the edge of the crater and a few hundred metres down you will see the green waters of the crater. It is spectacular!
Lago de Coatepeque is a beautiful crater lake at the foot of Vulcán Santa Ana. When we climbed Santa Ana there was a viewpoint from where you can get a nice view of the lake, but unfortunately it was too cloudy and we couldn’t see it. Not until we were on our way back the lake was visible, and you will also pass the lake on your way to El Congo.
Lago the Coatepeque is a large lake and is 6km wide and 120m deep. The water is clear and clean. Many people come here for the weekend to enjoy the view and maybe take a boat ride on the lake. If you want to stay there are a few hotels and hostels along the shore.
Lago de Coatepeque is situated 18 km south of Santa Ana, in Coatepeque municipality.