Fiestas Patronales... anywhere you go
One of the things that I found most enjoyable, as a special activity, in El Salvador when we lived there (2000-2004), was to attend the local Fiestas Patronales. We had several nearby small municipalities and one or two larger ones, all with their own Saint Day. During the period of time close to and including that day, there was often a festival. Depending upon the wealth, size and religiosity of the community the festival might include any of the following:
vendors of hand made items and confections
Mass with procession of the patron saint
dancing in the streets
folkloric acts particular to the region
a parade with Queen of the Festival elected from the many beautiful young women perched on their "Carrosas" (floats).
If you visit the national tourism website (see link below), you'll find a pdf doc that lists the feast days of many Salvadoran municipalities. If the town you want to visit is not there, ask the locals, local government or Catholic Church when their festival is and they'll be sure to know.
I'll try to dig up some of my photos of Patron Saint Celebrations where we lived to put on this page.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Santa Ana is the second largest city of the country and lies not far away from the Guatemalan border. The wonderfull theatre in the centre of the city was originally completed in 1910 and is now one of the finest theatres of Central Amerika. The neogothical cathedral on the other end of the plaza might be an other point of interest in the city.
Cerro Verde & Volcan Izalco
The 'Parque nacional Cerro Verde' was untill a few years ago a dangerous place to go, but recently things improved amazingly. The tourist police and park guards are certainly responsible for that.
The park itself is very nice and the guides will lead you around for a increadibly cheap price. There are also possibilitys to climb one of the other volcanos in the neighboorhood with the guides.
There are direct busses from Santa Ana to the Volcano. In the way to the park you'll have wonderfull views over the lago de Coatepeque and the Volcan Izalco.
To enter the park you'll have to pay 0,60$
Joya de Ceren Ruins
Visit the Joya de Ceren ruins, a 1500 year old village buried by 14 layers of ash from a volcano erution much like Pompeii or Herculaneum in Italy. Don't expect great pyramids but an incredible view into the life of the Mayas at the time of the explosion of the Volcano Caldera. The site has a museum and well organized tours that explain the goelogy and the history of the place.
Parque Nacional El Imposible
Parque Nacional El Imposible is situated in western El Salvador. It became a national park in 1989 and covers an area of almost 3800 hectares, at an elevation of 300 - 1450 metres above sea level. The park is covered with tropical mountain forest and here you find the greatest biodiversity in El Salvador. For example there are 984 species of vascular plants, 286 species of birds, 103 native species of mammals and over 500 species of butterflies. There are several beautiful hiking trail and beside the flora and fauna you can visit view points, waterfalls and petroglyphs.
I did not visit El Imposible through the main entrance and visitor centre, but on a hike from Tacuba.
During the Cerro Campana-trek that I did from Tacuba we visited El Puente Imposible. The bridge El Puente Imposible was built at a dangerous passage over a gorge in 1968. Before that the journey had been dangerous for the coffee growers on the way to sell their crop. Several mules and men had fallen to their death when they had tried to cross the tree trunk bridges. Well, as the sign at the bridge says “Mayo 1968 - dejó de der imposible“, it is no longer impossible to cross the gorge. It is from this impossible passage that the National Park El Imposible has got its name.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Tacuba is a small town with a population of 5000 inhabitants. It is situated 14 km west of Ahuachapán and near the Guatemalan border. The surroundings are beautiful with mountains and many coffee plantations. Tacuba is situated on the northern edge of Parque Nacional El Imposible at an elevation of 700 metres above sea level. From Tacuba you can arrange great hikes in to the national park or the vicinity.
In the Pipil language Tacuba means “place of the ball game”.
I spent two and a half days in Tacuba and during that time I made two hiking tours with Imposible tours at Hostal de Mamá y Papá. Both hikes were absolutely great! Besides the good hiking opportunities Tacuba is a nice little town to stroll around in.
Santa Ana is the second largest city in El Salvador with more than 250 000 inhabitants in the urban area. The city is situated at an elevation of 650 metres above sea level and has a warm climate with an average temperature of 25°C. As the rest of El Salvador there is a wet season and a dry season.
Santa Ana was inhabited long before the Spaniards arrived and was then known as Sihuatehuacán, which means “The city of sorceresses” in Nahuat. In 1569 the name was changed to Santa Ana and that year a chapel in honour of Our Lady of Santa Ana was built. Santa Ana became a town in 1812 and a city in 1824. After a revolt in 1894 against the president and dictator Carlos Ezeta Santa Ana was called the Heroic City because the revolt begun there. In the late 19th century the coffee industry grew prosperous and some of the historic buildings around Parque Libertad were built at that period.
Santa Ana can be a good place to base yourself in when exploring the western part of El Salvador. I visited Parque Nacional Los Vulcanes (Cerro Verde) from here and had hoped to visit the ruins in Tazumal as well, but changed my plans in the end. In the city itself it is nice to spend some time exploring Parque Libertad and the historical buildings around. You can also find some good restaurants and cafés in the city and big shopping malls in the outskirts.
The Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota supercilious), in El Salvador called the Torogoz, is the national bird of the country. I saw it during both my hikes in Tacuba. Unfortunately you can’t see in my picture how colourful it is, but you can see the characteristic tail feather. The Torogoz is about 34 centimetres long and weigh about 65 grams. It can be found in Central America, from south-eastern Mexico to Costa Rica. It lives in quite open habitats where it can be seen sitting on a branch, wire or fence looking for insects or small reptiles. The nests are long tunnels often made in an earth bank (see photo 2).
Parque Nacional Los Vulcanes
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!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Juayúa is a charming little town along Ruta de Las Flores. It was founded in 1577, but the area was inhabited long before that. In Nahuatl Juayúa means River of the purple orchids. In the town there is a central plaza with a park. Around it there is a white church, some shops and cafés.
In the surroundings there are mountains, coffee plantations and waterfalls. It’s a good area for nice hikes. As Juayua is situated 1060 metres above sea level there is also a pleasant climate.
Many tourists come here for the nature, but most visitors come during the weekend when there is a food festival where you can try many El Salvadorian dishes, but also international ones. The festival has taken place in Juayúa since 1997. As Juayúa get many visitors there is a good choice of accommodation and tours to choose from.
San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, is situated on the foothills of Vulcán San Salvador in the centre of the country. It is a big city with a population of 1.8 million, almost a third of the total population of El Salvador. The climate is tropical with the wet season stretching between May - October and the dry season between November - April. December - February are the coldest months.
In 1525 San Salvador was founded at a location 30 km northeast of were it is now situated, but only three years later it moved to the present location. After independence from Spain San Salvador became the capital of the Federal Republic of Central America and later of El Salvador as the federation fell apart.
Even if San Salvador is an old city there are not many old buildings left. The city is situated in an area of tectonic activity and earthquakes have destroyed the city, or parts of it, in 1854, 1873, 1986 and 2001 and at several other occasions. And there was an eruption of Vulcán San Salvador in 1917 and there has been floods. To this the civil war added sever damages, both when it comes to lives and infrastructure.
In San Salvador you can find “different worlds”. There are modern parts with broad avenues and big shopping malls but there are also poor neighbourhoods. In the city centre you will find a bustling street life with a lot of traffic and vendors on the streets. There are several squares and parks and monumental buildings, the cathedral, the parliament and the theatre among others. This is an interesting part to visit for a tourist, but I would not walk around here alone after dark, even during daytime you should watch your belongings. The best museums in San Salvador you will find in the more modern and quieter parts of Zona Rosa and Colonia Escalón.
San Salvador has a reputation of violence and has got one of the highest murder rates in the world, but most of the violence is gang related and happens in some of the suburbs of San Salvador. So don’t let this stop you from visiting the capital of El Salvador! I found people to be very kind and helpful and I was also very happy to meet with VT-member conejita71 (Nancy) and her family who showed me around.
Probably one of the most notable monuments in San Salvador is the Monumento a la Revolucion (Revolution Monument). Locally it's called the Naked Man. It's located in Zona Rosa at the entrance to the Museum of Art of El Salvador. I didn't go into the museum, I just wanted to see this monument as I've seen pictures of it. It was created by many artists and on stone. I find it kind of interesting that a monument dedicated to revolution is located in one of the wealthiest areas of the capital city.
Joya de Cerén
Joya de Cerén is the only Unesco World Heritage Site in El Salvador. It is often referred to as the Pompeii of America because it was buried by volcanic ashes in AD 595 when the Laguna Caldera Vulcan had an eruption. Joya de Cerén is not as grand as Pompeii, but still a very interesting place to visit.
Joya de Cerén was a Mayan village and remains beneath the ashes have given a great insight in how common people lived. Most pre-Colombian archaeological sites in Central America shows temples, tombs and palaces, but at Joya de Cerén you can see how people in the villages lived. Protected under tin roof are several structures of houses, storages, kitchens ,a sauna and a shaman house. In one place you can also see the ridges of the maize field.
No human buddies have been found at Joya de Cerén so people probably had time to escape, but items found indicate they left in a hurry. Many of the artefacts found at the site are displayed in a museum at Joya de Cerén. I would very much have liked to see this museum, but unfortunately it was closed for renovation when we visited. There are a few artefacts at the Museum of Anthropology in El Salvador though and those I had seen the previous day.
You can only visit the site on a guided tour. When we arrived we had to wait for the next tour and then we had time to visit the souvenir stall and have a drink in the café. Our guide was very good and explained things in a good way. Even if it was mostly in Spanish I could understand most of it. She also explained a few things in English for me.
As the museum was closed for renovation we didn’t have to pay entrance fee. Otherwise it had been 3 dollars for foreigners and 1 dollar for El Salvadorians (June 2009).
The Archaeological Park of Joya de Cerén is open on Tuesdays - Sundays between 9 - 17.
Thank you Nancy, Marco and Ana Emma for taking me here!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
There are a good number of...
There are a good number of must see activities. Starting in San Salvador I've already mentioned the National Museum. Downtown San Salvador is an interesting and 'exotic' place. It's overwhelming with activity, people, noise, etc. The City Hall has been doing a lot of efforts to try to clean up the area and have been somewhat succesfull. A lot of work still remains to be done. If you decide to visit the 'old' San Salvador, visit the National Palace (a jewel of 'tropical' neoclassical architecture, the National Theatre (undergoing renovation after the 2001 earthquake), the cathedral (modern), Iglesia del Calvario, La Basilica, Iglesia Don Rua, Mercado Cuartel (for local handicrafts- very interesting). In downtown San Salvador keep your eyes open since there are beautiful 19th century buildings that haven't been restored but offer a good idea of what the place must have looked like some 100 years ago, visit La Casa de la Cultura del Centro where they usually host different kinds of exhibits, musical presentations, theatre, literature, poetry readings, and a small cafe. I found a good website containing some excellent pictures of downtown San Salvador at www.asa2000.org.sv. A great place to visit while in San Salvador is Punto Literario in Zona Rosa. They have a small cafe (good food and tropical fruit juices in a courtyard-garden), a book store with excellent books about El Salvador and a wonderful art gallery that showcases salvadorean artists. The Botanical Gardens of La Laguna are a must see in San Salvador. They are located in the crater of an extinct volcano and surrounded by a small tropical forest. They are impeccably kept and offer a relaxing day trip to learn about the rich flora and fauna of this beautiful country. Another great place is the Teleferico San Jacinto, an amusement park on top of a mountain. There is a wonderful view of San Salvador on one side and lake Ilopango on the other side. You go up by way of a cable car, which in itself is worth the trip for the amazing views. The nearby archeological site of Joya de Ceren is part of UNESCO's World Heritage since it's the only example of a Mayan village preserved by the eruption of nearby Volcano Caldera (called the Pompeii of Central America) it's a truly interesting site with guided tours for a small fee - given the nature of the place it's worth it to take the guided tour to really know what you're looking at. They also have a small museum with pieces coming from the site. Their web site is: http://ceren.colorado.edu/ Nearby the ceremonial center of San Andres with it's small but well presented museum completes the visit. This is a truly exceptional site and worthwhile to visit. Don't expect to find the soaring pyramids of Guatemala but instead an insight into Mayan daily life.
Unique Qualities: A unique place to visit when in El Salvador is the Cerro Verde National Park. The view from the spectacular Hotel de Montaña on to the Izalco Volcano is one you will never forget. The Cloud forest around the hotel is very beautiful and there are clearly marked pathways leading to amazing vistas of Coatepeque lake, Santa Ana Volcano, etc. If you like mountain and volcano climbing this is a good place both for beginners and pros.
More Info: Other suggestions are : the Colonial Town of Suchitoto, walk the cobble stone streets, the lookout to Suchitlan Lake is great, the central square with the recently restored Santa Lucia Church, and the Museo Alejandro Coto are a few of the things you can do Visit the web site: www.suchitototurismo.com Santa Ana: is a very nice typical midsize town with a beautiful central square. The Cathedral, City Hall and Theatre are all worth visiting. Coatepque lake is a crater lake that offers activities such as windsurfing, boating, and crater diving tours. There are two hotels that offer reasonable accomodations (if you are in Santa Ana you can go for the day) Arrange with the local offices to visit the national parks: Montecristo and El Imposible are two of the largest and best. They have limited facilities but in exchange offer some of the best preserved natural habitat in the country. The local NGO Salvanatura manages El Imposible park, a visiting permit must be isssued by them check it out at: www.salvanatura.org (photo credit ASA 2000)
Classification: Shopping , Eating and Drinking , Concerts , Theater , Museums , Surfing , Scuba Diving , Boating/Water Skiing , Sailing , Hiking , Mountain Climbing , Rock Climbing , Meeting New People , Photography , Site SeeingRelated to:
- Diving and Snorkeling
Vulcán San Salvador - El Boquerón
Vulcán San Salvador (Quezaltepeque) is situated northwest of the city and it has two peaks. The highest peak is Picacho with 1967m and the other is Jabali with 1397m. Jabali has a symmetrical crater called El Boquerón. The crater is 45m high and it got its present look after an eruption in 1917.
With a guide you can walk around the crater, or down in the crater. Otherwise you can walk to the three viewpoints near the parking lot , which most people do. We arrived at 16.45 and saw on a sign that the site was closing at 17.00, but as we asked we were told it closed at 17.30, which was good.
By the parking lot you pay the admission of 1 dollar, and there you will also find many vendors selling pupusas and fruits.
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