Around San Salvador

Many places can be visited in a day from San Salvador either on the frequent bus services or by car. Closest to the city is south to the indigenous village of
Panchimalco
, heading east are the beautiful setting and views around
Lago de Ilopango
; and to the southwest the crater of
Volcán San Salvador
.

Heading west towards Santa Ana, but still manageable in a day, are the archaeological sites of
Joyo de Cerén
, El Salvador's Pompeii, and
San Andrés
and the peaks of
Volcán Izalco
and
Cerro Verde
with the deep blue waters of
Lago de Coatepeque
in the crater below. The limits of a comfortable weekend trip will take you to the garden park of
Ichanmichen
, which is restful , and the pyramid of
Tazumal
(west of Santa Ana) is also worth a visit . At weekends the coast around La Libertad is very popular. Bus 495 from the Terminal del Occidente goes to the seaside resort of
Costa del Sol
.

Panchimalco

This small town and the surrounding area is home to the Pancho, descendants of the Pipil tribes, one of the region's dominant indigenous groups prior to conquest. This is one of the few places in El Salvador where you can still see indigenous people in traditional dress. Streets of large cobbles, with low adobe houses, thread their way between huge boulders at the foot of Cerro Chulo. A very fine baroque colonial church, Santa Cruz, has a white façade with statues of eight saints. Inside are splendid woodcarvings and wooden columns, altars, ceilings and benches. There is a bell inscribed with the cipher and titles of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and a colourful cemetery. The Casa de La Cultura in the main street has frequent cultural events and crafts stores. The
Fiesta de Santa Cruz de Roma
is held on 12-14 September, with music and traditional dances; on 3 May (or the second Sunday of the month) there is the procession of
Las Palmas
.

Lago de Ilopango

Beyond the four-lane highway to Ilopango airport (14.5 km east) lie the deep waters of Lago de Ilopango. Surrounded by mountains, the views around El Salvador's largest and deepest crater lake are impressive. Before the conquest local people used to appease the harvest gods by drowning four virgins here every year. Private chalets make access to the lake difficult, except at clubs and the
Turicentro Apulo
, but it is well worth a visit. The eastern shore is less polluted and is reached from Cojutepeque. There are a number of lakeside cafés and bathing clubs, some of which hire dug-outs by the hour. The cafés are busy in the dry season, but often closed in the middle of the year.

Volcán San Salvador

This large massif at 1839 m has an impressive crater, more than 1.5 km wide and 543 m deep, known as
El Boquerón
. About 2 km to the east is the equally dramatic peak of
El Picacho
(1960 m), which dominates the capital. Buses leave a block from Plaza Merliot. By car you turn right just after the Plaza Merliot Mall and continue to the end of the road where a newly paved road take you up the volcano. A walk clockwise round the crater takes about two hours; the first half is easy, the second half rough. The views are magnificent, if somewhat spoilt by TV and radio towers. The area by Boqueron is now a park administrated by the Ministry of Tourism.
 La Laguna
botanical garden is near the summit. The inner slopes of the crater are covered with trees, and at the bottom is a smaller cone from the eruption of 1917.

You can follow the road north and then turn right through extensive coffee plantations and forest to reach the summit of
El Picacho
. This also makes an excellent climb from the Escalón suburb of San Salvador, in the early morning preferably, which takes about three to four hours return trip (take a guide). The easy access, great views and fresh climate has made the Volcano of San Salvador a popular destination for people in the capital, and as a result new restaurants have opened their doors in recent years. Another access to the volcano from the city side is by
Ecoparque El Espino
, www.ecoparqueelespino.com. The entrance is by the Polideportivo in Ciudad Merliot. They have several trails, bike rental and small cafeterias. The trails end at a mirador with a panoramic view of the city.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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