Spending time in my native and beloved El Salvador has been the silver lining to the pandemic for me. With a little over 21,000 sq. km, it’s the smallest country in Central America, which allows for easy travel to the countryside, lakes, beaches and archeological sites in relatively short distances. Over 20 potentially active volcanoes have given it the nickname: Land of Volcanoes.
Having spent lockdown in chilly Bogota last year, the warm climate, beaches and abundance of nature have been a much-welcome treat!
Here are a few of my favorite spots.
1.Majestic and imposing, volcanoes are a lovely visual treat while driving around the country. Fun fact: Antoine Saint-Exupery’s wife, Consuelo Suncin, was Salvadoran and just as interesting and prolific as her writer husband. Several literary experts believe that the volcanoes depicted in his masterpiece, The Little Prince, were inspired by his flights over Central America.
2. Fertile soils and ideal climate conditions make Salvadoran cacao one of the best in the region and very sought after during the Spanish conquest. Initially grown by the Mayas over 3,000 years ago, the name of the species is criollo and is considered to be of very high quality.
- Coatepeque: Calm, serene and mystical, this crater lake located in the department of Santa Ana is one of my favorites spots in the country. There is an island called Teopan which was considered a sacred place for the Mayans— there is definitely a special kind of energy there.
Monkey: A spider monkey in Puerto Barillas in the department of Usulután. Don Miguel, a kind, local man considered to be a monkey whisperer of sorts is able to call them over when visitors are around.
- Llort: You will find Fernando Llort’s paintings anywhere from church doors, souvenirs and murals in El Salvador. A former hippie in the 60’s, his work has been heavily influenced by the Mayans.
Simon Vega: A fantastic local artist who illustrates and creates tropical versions of space ships. In 2018, he had an amazing installation at Coachella. You can expect to bump into him at el Sunzal beach with his surfboard, beer and dog!
- Playa Sunzal: Just a short ride from the city, the constant, high quality waves on this beach make it a surfer hot spot. Here she is at sunrise!
- Puro Surf: My happy place. More than a surfing academy, hotel and delicious restaurant, Puro Surf is an obligatory stop when visiting El Salvador.
- Veranera: Like a lot of other Latin American countries, there are plenty of veraneras or bougainvillea here! They especially flourish around the beach. My favorite are the peach-hued kind, and also the least common ones around here.
- Volcan Santa Ana: An early morning hike towards the crater of the Volcan de Santa Ana is a must. From the top, you can see Lake Coatepeque, Izalco volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean.