Even though I was only there for two weeks, I really liked El Salvador. So much so that it made our list of the best places to backpack around the world. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. It is stuck in the middle of Guatemala and Honduras.
It is a beautiful country with a history of violence. There are volcanoes there. But you shouldn’t be worried. Every central America backpacking trip should include a stop in El Salvador, and we’ll show you the best things to do there.
Hiking The Santa Ana Volcano
In El Salvador, this was probably my favourite thing to do. When you get to the top of the Santa Ana volcano, you can see a beautiful blue-green lake in the middle of the crater. It is in the national park called Cerro Verde.
Take tour of a coffee farm.
El Salvador is a coffee-growing country, and they really do make some of the best coffee in the world. Since I love coffee so much, I was really excited to come to Central America and try all the great coffees. El Salvador’s coffee is my second favourite in the area, after Nicaragua’s.
Visit the Mayan ruins of Joya de Cerén and Tazumal.
So every place in Central America, including El Salvador, has its own Mayan ruins. I’ll say right away that we didn’t go to the Mayan ruins. We had planned to go too, but I had already seen about 5 sets and Tikal, the capital of the Mayan world, and didn’t want to see any more.
But if you want to visit Mayan ruins where you might be the only person there, you will love the ones in El Salvador.
See the Santa Ana Cathedral.
Stay in Santa Ana if you want to hike up the Santa Ana volcano. It’s El Salvador’s second-largest city, after San Salvador, and it’s actually pretty cute. There is a beautiful square with a great pizza place and the beautiful cathedral of Santa Ana.
Surf At El Tunco
El Salvador has some of the best surfing in the world, and both beginners and experts can find something to do there. If you want to surf, go to the beaches of El Tunco and El Sunzal. A lesson and renting a board for the day costs about $20.
El Tunco is also a popular place for backpackers, so there are a lot of great restaurants and bars there. This place really comes to life on the weekends, when there are great parties and live music. We stayed at the Casa De Mar hotel, which was right on the beach and right in front of the best place to surf in the area.
See El Salvador’s Waterfalls
There are many waterfalls in El Salvador that are worth seeing, and since I love waterfalls, they are on my list of the best things to do there.
You can take a tour to the Tamanique waterfalls from El Tunco, or you can rent a moped for the day and go there on your own. It’s a 30-minute hike, but the waterfalls are worth it because you can swim in them.
Check out the Route of Flowers
The Ruta de Las Flores is a winding road that goes for about 20 miles through coffee plantations, brightly coloured colonial towns, and colonial architecture. Salcoatitán, Nahuizalco, Apaneca, Ataco, and Juayua are the five most important towns on the Ruta de Las Flores.
From each place, you can take a bus, and there are many hotels and hostels along the way. This is the place to be if you want to see the real natural beauty of El Salvador.
Shop in the capital city
San Salvador is very commercialised, and it has the biggest shopping mall in all of Central America. So, if you have extra money or need new clothes, go to the mall and shop until you drop! They also have cool arcade shops and movie theatres, so you can relax and have a day of sightseeing.
One fun thing to do in El Salvador is to buy coffee. If you’re looking for a gift to bring back from El Salvador, coffee is a great choice.
See the San Salvador Volcano.
El Boqueron National Park is where you can find the San Salvador volcano. The “peak” can be seen by taking a 15-20 minute hike up to the park. You’ll get to see a crater. It’s pretty green, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking of when you think of a crater.
But you can easily take an Uber to the front door and walk up! It’s one of the best things to do in San Salvador because it gives you a great view of the city.
Explore Lake Ilopango
This is another one of El Salvador’s great things to do. This lake is more like a beach, though. I say that because it’s surrounded by little “beaches,” and all the locals go there like it’s the beach.
There are many places to eat by the lake, and you can also rent a boat and go for a romantic ride on the lake. The lake is east of San Salvador. It’s a great place to spend a day exploring, and you can take an Uber there and back for about $8, which isn’t too bad.
Check out the old town of Suchitoto.
This is like Guatemala’s Antugia, but it is much smaller and has a lot fewer tourists. There aren’t many places to stay in Suchitoto, so most people take a day trip from the capital to see the colonial town.
But if you want to go there yourself, you can take Uber or the chicken bus. I would ask your hotel for help figuring out which bus to take. There are cute churches, colourful buildings, and a nice market in this area. It’s also near another beautiful lake, so it’s a great place to spend a day.