El Salvador is the smallest but still the most densely populated country in Central America (6.3 million inh. on 21041 km²). So it is a small country, with a coast to the Pacific Ocean in the south, but it has much to offer; High green mountains, several active volcanos, deserted amazing beaches, beautiful lakes and historic maya archeological sites attract visitors. The capital, San Salvador (pop 1.7 million with suburbs) might not be charming but is a huge metropolis with much to offer. The coast, especially Costa del Sol and the town of La Libertad has good beaches, very popular for surfers.
Santa Ana, the second largest city, and the 3rd largest, San Miguel are popular cities with stunning colourful colonial buildings. In small towns and villages you find charming native markets
with cheap souvenirs and colonial churches. Ruta de las Flores is a popular road and tourist area where one can find charming villages, green mountains, nice hotels and restaurants and cafés with private gardens. It is a must to visit Ruta de la Flores, the Coatepeque volcano lake, San Salvador Volcano (Quezaltepec) -or Santa Ana volcano, and the historical core of the capital, San Salvador when in El Salvador. The ancient mayan town Tazumal with its pyramid, the beaches of Costa del Sol, some small towns like Ataco and Apaneca, and Santa Ana, are also highly recommended. Pupusa, beans and chicken are traditional dishes that are recommended to try. There is also much American influence in El Salvador, you will find American fastfood chains, stores and even signs in American. The currency is even, since 2001, US dollar! But don't expect everyone to speak English. Only some people, mostly in the cities, can speak English. The Spanish is also quite different from national Spanish.
The climate is hot and humid all year round. Due to a long civil war, several severe earthquakes, poverty, threat of zika virus, bad roads and public transport, plus one of the world's highest crime rates, many people might be put off to visit El Salvador. Many roads are in very bad condition, especially on the countryside, and many people are very poor, many cars look like wrecks, but you will also see modern roads, ultra luxorious mega malls, large houses and new cars, especially in the capital. And there are many areas, gated community guarded by policemen with machine guns, were you will feel safe, at least if you don't disturb the order. El Salvador can be a very noisy country sometimes, you will hear (and probably be disturbed by) crackers 24 hours a day for some months in the summer and winter (even in residential areas), night guards with whistles noisy chickens and mobile street salesmen in the early morning!
I had the opportunity to visit El Salvador (that means the Saviour in Spanish) in August 2016, since I could stay at friends' places and their relatives private houses. We rent a mini van and drove around. We didn't experience any of these difficulties mentioned, nor did it feel dangerous, and many parts were a lot more modern then expected. The only mishap that happened was a flat tire on a mountain road in Ruta del Flores. The traditional food is also very good, very underrated! You can also find dishes from all around the world. We used San Salvador and Santa Tecla as a base for our day trips. We flew to San Salvador from Copenhagen, via San José, Costa Rica, with Iberia and Avianca. The places we visited, are the ones represented in the thumbnail links further above.
HISTORY OF EL SALVADOR:
El Salvador was for centuries inhabited by several Mesoamerican nations, especially the Cuzcatlecs, as well as the Lenca and Maya. In the early 16th century, the Spanish Empire conquered the territory, incorporating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled from Mexico City. In 1821, the country achieved independence from Spain as part of the First Mexican Empire, only to further secede as part of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823. Upon the republic's dissolution in 1841, El Salvador became sovereign until forming a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898.
We also made a 2.5 half day trip to Guatemala City, about 7 hours by the cheap luxury bus Pullmantur (a very good, safe comfortable and luxorious yet not expensive bus company) from San Salvador.
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