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Highlights of El Salvador

Categories:

  • Holidays
  • Central America

Price:

From $2,410

Stay:

10 nights

Travel Dates:

Saturday 28th of March 2020 until Saturday 20th of February 2021

Description:

Highlights of El Salvador - 11 Days / 10 Nights - from $2410* per person (with Explore Worldwide).

Often overshadowed by its neighbours, El Salvador is a little hidden gem. With turtle nesting on the miles of coastline, volcanoes concealing deep crater lakes and delicious food being prepared in beautiful colonial villages, this country is not to be missed.

  • Jiquilisco Bay - Take part in a turtle-monitoring project with a local biologist
  • Santa Ana Volcano - Hike up El Salvador's highest volcano and get outstanding views of the surrounding valley
  • Suchitoto - Learn to make traditional pupusas in this charming village

Itinerary:

DAY 1 - Join trip in San Salvador

The trip starts today in San Salvador, El Salvador's capital. After some major regeneration works, the leafy plazas and pedestrianized central zones of El Salvador's main city have never been safer and more pleasant to explore. Encircled as it is by volcanoes, San Salvador is a good-looking capital, quite rare by Central American standards.

Due to the number of evening flights into El Salvador, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a poster in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. If there are no evening pick-ups, the Leader will suggest meeting for dinner, for those who wish.

There are no activities planned today, so you can arrive in El Salvador at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into El Salvador International Airport (SAL), which is around a 40 minute drive from the hotel.

ACCOMMODATION:

Eco Hotel Arbol de Fuego (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: NONE

DAY 2 - Discover San Salvador on foot; drive to Jiquilisco Bay

We will take a walking tour of the city this morning, visiting the city's main attractions including the Iglesia El Rosario. This enormous concrete church looks nondescript from the outside, but the architects have cleverly designed a spectacular arched roof, covered completely in fanned-out windows of coloured stained glass that cast a rainbow of natural light through to the tiled floor. This unusual and abstract piece of art contrasts sharply with the colonial and classical architecture that we'll see elsewhere in the city, for example at the grand National Palace.

Later, we take the two-hour drive to Jiquilisco Bay, a biosphere reserve and large network of canals and mangrove-lined inlets that are largely undeveloped, hosting over 200 species of bird and playing an important role in turtle conservation efforts within the country. We'll have the rest of the afternoon free to relax at our lodge - perhaps bird watching from the grounds, or heading down to the marina to watch the fishermen.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel Puerto Barillas (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 3 - Boat trip with a local biologist to monitor hawksbill turtles

We have the morning free to discover more of our surroundings. One activity on offer is a kayak trip through the mangroves, searching for crocodiles and marine birds. Alternatively, take a leisurely bike ride through banana plantations towards a local cacao farm, where you can see how chocolate is produced.

In the afternoon, we take a boat trip through the mangrove canals, with the aim of monitoring the population of hawksbill marine turtle. This project, run by the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (known in Spanish as ICAPO), has many facets and our task today will be to help measure, weigh and tag the turtles in order to monitor their healthy growth. We'll be accompanied by a biologist from the project who will explain more about what they do to protect this endangered species. During the course of the trip, we'll also be passing through some small communities, giving us a more in-depth view on rural El Salvador. The excursion lasts for approximately 3 hours, when we'll return to our hotel for the evening.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel Puerto Barillas (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 4 - Drive to Suchitoto via the Laguna de Alegria; evening pupusa-making class

The drive from our coastal location to the colonial town of Suchitoto is only three hours, giving us plenty of time to explore El Salvador's countryside en route. We'll drive through Berlin, a rural village with a prime location near the top of a volcano, which gives out excellent views across the rest of the country and to the coast. Here we set off for the Laguna de Alegria (Happiness Lagoon), located within the crater of the dormant volcano Tecapa. The lagoon glows a brilliant green colour due to the sulphur and other minerals within, and it is favourite spot for local Salvadorans. We'll stay to soak up the views before continuing to the coffee farm at Los Pireneos. This local farm has been in the same family for more than 120 years, and their stunning location beneath the volcano Tecapa makes it a relaxing place to stop for a drink.

Arriving into the peaceful lakeside town of Suchitoto this evening, we set out for a dinner with a twist. During your last four days in El Salvador, you may have noticed a distinct clapping sound in the street - the sound of ladies patting down big circles of corn dough, stuffed with mixtures of black beans, vegetables, cheese and meats before being cooked on a hot plate and served up to hungry locals. These delicious snacks are called pupusas, and are El Salvador's national dish. This evening we'll learn to make them before sitting down together for a well-deserved meal.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel El Tejado (or similar)

Grade: Premium Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

SWIMMING POOL AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST & DINNER

DAY 5 - Visit the ex-guerrilla community of La Cinquera; free afternoon in Suchitoto

Just a short ride out of Suchitoto is the rainforest community of La Cinquera, a former FMLN stronghold (the FMLN were the main left-wing guerrilla faction during El Salvador's civil war, and is now one of the country's major political parties). This small village has emerged from the brutality of the civil war, which raged throughout the 1980s, and has established a grassroots tourism project that serves as a living museum of the wartime era, with the ex-guerrillas and their families acting as guides. The community's aim is not only to educate people about this important part of El Salvador's history, but also to protect the forest from illegal logging - the trees are a haven for birdlife, and there are numerous swimming holes and waterfalls hidden within. The tour takes us through the forest, and the roughly two-hour walk is steep and hilly in parts.

On our return to Suchitoto, we have the afternoon free. The village seems timeless, with cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings and an impressive colonial church in a leafy plaza. It was once at the heart of the country's indigo trade, and we have the opportunity to take part in an indigo workshop in the afternoon. Alternatively, you may take a boat trip out onto Lake Suchitlan, where over 200 bird species have been recorded including hawks and falcons.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel El Tejado (or similar)

Grade: Premium Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

SWIMMING POOL AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 6 - Visit the Joya de Ceren, El Salvador's Pompeii; drive to Cerro Verde via Lake Coatepeque

We drive west this morning, skirting around the north edge of San Salvador before hitting the Joya de Ceren, a UNESCO-listed archaeological site that can be likened to Pompeii. This Maya farming community was covered by an eruption of the Loma caldera in the 7th century, and while we now know that an earthquake just prior to the eruption caused the villagers to flee, their possessions were immaculately preserved by ash, from pottery to garden tools. It wasn't found again until the 1970s and is one of the best and most complete records of pre-hispanic life in Central America.

Following our visit, we drive to the volcano-laden Los Volcanoes National Park, via the immense and beautiful crater lake of Coatepeque. The shores of this lake are dotted with houses of the rich and famous (well, in Salvadoran terms!), while there are small restaurants with views over the lake. Time permitting, we aim to have lunch here before driving on to Cerro Verde in anticipation of our volcano hike tomorrow. This evening we will be glamping in the national park - our campsite is made up of large fixed tents, each on a wooden base, and with two full single beds inside. Sheets, duvets, pillows and towels are provided, and there is even a nightstand with an electric lamp. Bathrooms are shared, with showers available.

ACCOMMODATION:

Tres Volcanes Glamping (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Camping

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST & DINNER

DAY 7 - Hike the Santa Ana volcano to the impressive Llamatepec crater lake; drive to Ataco

The Santa Ana volcano is El Salvador's highest, at approximately 2300m high. Our campsite is already at 1800m, and the ascent is only a moderate grade as we start our hike through forest, slowly ascending for 45 minutes. The landscape begins to change as the overgrowth becomes more barren, and a rocky, volcanic terrain takes over with red-black rocks cracking underfoot. It's about a one-hour hike up to the summit and to our big pay off - the Llamatepec crater lake, its milky-green colour contrasting starkly against the black rock that encloses it. Looking out into the distance, the volcano Izalco sticks out of the valley, with the enormous Coatepeque lake spreading out to the east and small villages dotted around the impressive landscape.

Our descent is quicker than the climb, and in total the trip should take around 3-4 hours. After our return we drive to the small colonial town of Ataco, on El Salvador's Ruta de las Flores (Flower Route).

ACCOMMODATION:

Fleur De Lis (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST & LUNCH

DAY 8 - Explore the small villages on the Ruta de las Flores

El Salvador's Ruta de las Flores is a beautiful, meandering set of small villages, each with an array of different colonial-era buildings. It is designed to be visited slowly, savouring the food and the ambiance. Ataco, where we are staying, is one of the main villages - particularly well known for the bright and colourful street art that adorns most of the buildings in town. Juayua, another of the main towns on the route, is famous for its weekend food festival - luckily our trip happens to pass by at this time! The festival is made up of countless street food stalls, with typical foods including barbecued meats or huge prawns, even fried frog skewers and guinea pigs being sold at some stalls. The desserts are also worth a look - piles of ice creams or sweet buns with a cup of locally produced coffee.

As part of the day, we'll also visit the Chorros de Calera waterfall, where we can take a swim. We return to our hotel in Ataco this evening.

ACCOMMODATION:

Fleur De Lis (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 9 - Drive to the Los Cobanos protected marine area; continue to La Libertad

Los Cobanos is a protected marine area just 90km away from the capital, well known in El Salvador for its coral reef and the sandy beach that locals regularly frequent on the weekends. We'll take a walk along the beach today, spotting marine life such as heron and crab, and watching the fishermen in action. We'll also have the opportunity to swim and snorkel off the beach.

Later this afternoon, we drive down the coast to La Libertad, widely regarded as one of the best surfing surfing spots in the Americas. Our hotel is set on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with outdoor swimming pools and access to one of the areas striking black sand beaches.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel Atami (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 10 - Free day on the coast in Sunzal

Our final full day in El Salvador is free to spend as we choose. The beaches on this coastline are rugged, with great surf, and one of our options today is a surfing lesson to make the most of this. You can also visit nearby community turtle breeding farms, or alternatively, the waterfalls at Tamanique are a great adventure - just 30 minutes outside the hotel, surrounded by rolling hills and with views to the ocean, this complex of four waterfalls is perfect for fresh-water swimming. If you'd prefer to stay close to the hotel, there are coastal walks to be had.

ACCOMMODATION:

Hotel Atami (or similar)

Grade: Comfortable Hotel

SINGLE ROOM AVAILABLE

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

DAY 11 - Trip ends at La Libertad

The trip ends after breakfast this morning in La Libertad.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from La Libertad at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from El Salvador International Airport (SAL), which is approximately a one-hour drive from our hotel.

MEALS PROVIDED: BREAKFAST

Departs: Selected departures from 28 Mar 20 to 20 Feb 21.

Conditions: * It is our policy to present the cost of our flights & holidays inclusive of all airport and government charges. Please accept however that these charges are not within our control, therefore we reserve the right to pass on any increase. Travel agent professional service fees where charged, will be additional to the advertised prices.

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