Best time to visit:
All year round
In a word:
Cheque (all right)
Take the whole "Ruta de las Flores" from Ahuachapan by bus stopping in all the various villages in the area; Relax in the placid and calm Suchitoto; Eat a divine pupusas in Santa Ana.
In this wonderful adventure we focused on some Central American states; slowly, on the road, using hundreds of colorful local buses and vans, we traveled the long stretch of land that connects the two Americas.
We started from Guatemala after falling in love with its ancient Mayan culture, its traditional clothes, its markets and its religious people, we crossed the small El Salvador hitchhiking stopping in the most suggestive towns; we then continued south through the infamous Honduras with its Mayan sites and tropical islands; we fell in love with Nicaragua with its colonial cities, its volcanoes, its people of the "revolucion" up to the very modern Costa Rica, with its beaches, its national parks and its lush nature! We only skipped Belize and Panama, having endorsed them on previous trips!
Here is the part dedicated to El Salvador!
Our suggested itinerary (7 days)
Auachapan, Ruta de las Flores
San Salvador, Suchitoto
transfer to Honduras or San Salvador and flight to many destinations on the American continent
We reach El Salvador by land after many hours on the road. With a hitchhiking on the border between Guatemala and El Salvador we are able to set foot in this small nation with such a disaster economy that they use the US dollar as their currency!
The first taste shows us a totally different country from the one just left behind. Traditional clothes are gone, the color of the skin is lighter, only the Spanish language is common.
We have a coffee in a typical little bar in Plaza Concordia, warmed by the first rays of the sun and, from Ahuachapan, the starting point of the "Ruta de las Flores", we begin our exploration of the small villages in the area.
We climb on the fly and climbing in mountain roads we arrive in Ataco, an old colonial village that maintains, however, a strong indigenous identity.
We find ourselves in the open space of a church during a performance for the Epiphany with dances, songs and masks typical of the Salvadoran tradition.
On the bus to Juayuà we admire the "Ruta de las Flores", the winding 36 km long road characterized by coffee plantations and of course greenhouses of colorful and lively flowers.
In the shadow of the majestic church of 1500 with the "Cristo Negro", we get lost among the stalls of the great gastronomic fair held every weekend and we taste many local specialties, from the yuca (a sweet potato) to the pieces of pumpkin with the honey!
Santa Ana, the second largest city in El Salvador after the capital.
The historic center is embellished with a beautiful white Gothic-style cathedral, an elegant theater and an ancient colonial building that now houses the Town Hall.
We are guests of a couchsurfer, a nice medical student named Roberto who takes us out of town to Lake Coatepeque, a romantic lake created millions of years ago inside the crater of a large volcano. We spend a few hours in complete relaxation chatting and admiring it from the top of a "mirador”.
In the evening Cecilia, his girlfriend, joins us to taste the best "pupusas" of Central America.
We reach the infamous San Salvador with a passage; we only have a brief glimpse of this city since our goal is the "Terminal d’Oriente" from where we will leave for the peaceful Suchitoto by chicken bus.
San Salvador appears very dirty, chaotic, abandoned to itself. As we walked through its streets, Roberto, our couchsurfing contact, told us of the times of the "guerrilla", of the 2001 earthquake, of Hurricane Mitch ... how many this small and tormented nation had to go through.
The chicken bus is an experience that every time we are passionate about!
It is folkloristic to see the driver who "fights" with traffic and bad roads; his aide who hugs himself, who sells the tickets, shouts the destination, helps the old women to get on; the street vendors of water bags or colored juices, peanuts or candies, freshly cut fruit or fried plantain; Gospel preachers or charlatans of dietary or anti-cancer products!
Two days of relaxation in Suchitoto were needed, especially to take stock of the situation in view of the next stop: Honduras!
When traveling in freedom as we are doing now, every now and then you have to stop to plan the next trips, all the more so when you have to cross land borders and moreover with local means.
Traveling in Central America with local buses is a real poem to get you directly into the daily life of the locals; it's tiring because, sometimes, you have to take 3-4 buses to reach your destination and often there are neither timetables nor bus stops so you have to rely on the locals and you also find hours, on the side of a road, with your big backpack, to wait and hope that the colorful bus appears on the horizon! This is also one of the reasons we love to travel!
Here in Suchitoto, we stay in a delightful hotel "Villa Balanza" in an old colonial house. We have a private terrace, with two hammocks, overlooking Lake Suchitlan, the atmosphere is wonderful and we really needed it after the chaos of these first Central American towns ... we wanted a little silence, a little tranquility ... . But tomorrow we immediately turn the page!
We wake up very early to face this long day. It's five in the morning and it's still dark outside ... in the distance some small lantern light from the nearby lake can be seen ...
Backpacks are heavy in the early morning ... the town, already sleepy of itself, rests blissfully ... around there are only a few employees who go to San Salvador with its well-ironed polo shirt and the emblem of their company or some old man who, in boots and cowboy hat, machete with a shoulder goes to the woods in search of who knows what.
It is 05.48 when we arrive at the small "parada" of the bus, we collapse to sit on a sidewalk to rest, but we do not last long ... we are literally attacked by an "army" of small but bastard ants that are so bad ... we dance like crazy to free ourselves from the killer attack ...
Finally at 06.20 our colorful bus arrives. This time the driver's assistant does not scream the name of the destination and does not try to push people inside ... perhaps he too has just woken up.
In an hour we reach the town of Las Aguilares which is nothing more than a large sorting road for the south or north of El Salvador.
We manage to conquer the first two seats of the bus and therefore we have the opportunity to enjoy scenes of Salvadoran daily life ...
Las Aguilares. An enormous sign that frames an elevated passageway invites citizens to vote for "Pena" in the next "Alcadesa" (mayor) election.
We cross the road and wait together with the street vendors for bus n ° 119, destination: El Poy (the frontier) while a young lady in flesh packs the last "pupusas".
Here is our bus overloaded to slow down, I take the backpacks in the luggage rack, I pass the last sellers of mango and fried bananas and finally I sit down!
El Poy. Borders have always fascinated me. The bus driver shows us the immigration office in the distance and we, hand in hand, pass the long line of waiting trucks, show the passport at the checkpoint, reject a couple of guys with two big wads of banknotes from all over the Center America and when yet another policeman approaches us I can only smile at him saying: “El Salvador? lindissimo!”
Exit stamp: start a new adventure!
We enter the notorious Honduras!