From Santa Ana you can take a bus up past the Coatepeque Lake, into this National Park, which contains three major volcanos. Cerro Verde itself is an ancient crater, now filled by woodland (2nd photo). You can take a free tour around this given by one of the young volunteers - they are unpaid so tips are very welcome. You'll find the guides at a little hut at the entrance to the car park. Along the way you'll also see Izalco volcano (1st photo) which erupted almost continuously from 1770 (when it formed) to 1958, and is still a bare, ashy heap. Santa Ana volcano 5th photo), the highest in the country, and the crater lake (4th) are also visible.
If you get there early enough (around 10am, you can arrange to climb one of the two volcanos). We got there too late (problems finding the right bus!), so just enjoyed the tour of the jungle, the views and the wildlife. We spotted our first toucan here!
The wonderfull restored classical theatre in the centre of the city was originally completed in 1910 and is now one of the finest theatres of Central Amerika. A guide will show you around for a small charge on weekdays.
The neogothical cathedral in the hart of the citycenter imediately will get your attention. Wathever you like it or not it is at least remarkable in the country. The catedral was build in 1905 as church but bacame a catedral only 8 years later.
When I entered the lovely patio of the town hall I almost fainted. Just in the middle of it there's a fountain ánd a real 'Manneke pis', just like in Brussels (in my home country). And that while people looked to us like they had never seen foreigners. They asked us all the time where we came from and how many hours it was with the bus and there was even a man trying to sell us a bed! Amazing
The mint green theatre is standing on the north side of Parque Libertad. It is built in a renaissanse style and It was inaugurated in February 1910. On the opening night an Italian opera company performed with the opera Rigoletto. The interior was grand with marble staircases, parquet floors and stained glass windows.
Only 23 years later it was converted into a movie and its original glory was lost. But since 1979 much of it has now been restored.
During the day, Monday - Friday, the theatre is open between 8 - 12 and 14 - 18. I was in the area around lunchtime so the theatre was unfortunately closed and I could only admire the exterior. Sometimes there are concerts and plays performed in the evenings.
The City Hall is a beautiful colonial style building on the western side of Parque Libertad. Above the main entrance there is a clock tower. If you enter through the main entrance you will come to a nice courtyard with palm trees and a fountain where you can sit down and rest for a while. Around the courtyard there are offices.
You can visit the courtyard of the City Hall on Monday - Friday between 8 - 17.
With its neo-Gothic façade the cathedral in Santa Ana looks different than other churches in El Salvador. Construction of the big church began in 1906. In 1913 the cathedral was inaugurated, but all details were not completed. Inside there are high arches and in the front there is a marble altar from 1959. There are two bell towers, one where the bells are activated manually and one where the bells are activated with electricity.
The cathedral is open between 7.00 - 12.30 and 14.30 - 19.00.
The Main Square, the center of the city life, is the main - perhaps the only - tourist site in Santa Ana. During the day-hours it is a lively and colorful place crowded with street vendors, food stalls and passers-by.
All buildings of some relevance in Santa Ana are lined up around the Main Square, with the most notably of those being the neo-gothic white cathedral and the neoclassic green Theatre, both built in the early 1900 in the heydays of Santa Ana as center of coffee export. The building on the third side, the City Hall, is a colonial administrative building of interest today for the lively inner yard more than for its architecture.
The Main Square is a good place to capture some some street-scenes and do some people watching. When the sun sets, not too the late afternoon, the Main Square gets deserted like all the rest of the city center and the feeling I had is that is better not to hang around.
Santa Ana is a great base for visits to nearby Mayan Pipil ruins in Tazumal/Ahuachapan, San Andres, Joya de Ceren. Also close to the Volcan de Santa Ana, Cerro Verde Ntl. Park, and Volcan de Izalco, made famous in the book about the 1932 revolt and massacre of Indian laborers: Cenizas de Izalco.
The theatre was built in the late 1800's as a result of a booming economy due to coffee production around the city. Italian and french architects were hired hence a classic italian theatre in the middle of salvadoran coffee country! It's being restored, but open for visitors and during performances.
Santa Ana's Cathedral is El Salvador's largest neo-gothic building. It's elaborate facade contrasts a lot with the clean and simple interior.
A beautiful colonial building. Generally not open to the public but you can ask to visit the central courtyard.