THINGS TO DO IN EL SALVADOR
ONE WEEK IN EL SALVADOR: MUST VISIT DESTINATIONS AND EXPERIENCES
Welcome to the hidden gem of Central America! El Salvador is a compact country packed with diverse landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality. Although there is much to do, and your itinerary may vary depending on whether or not you rent a car, I wanted to make a list of must-visit destinations and experiences that you can easily do in one week. I will list a range of adventurous, cultural and fun activities. You can mix and match these depending on how long you’re traveling and what you’re in the mood for.
During my time in El Salvador, I personally based myself out of San Salvador and took day trips from there since I work remotely. You can watch my whole vlog from my week in the country here. The country is the smallest one in Central America and can easily be navigated from the capital, or you can venture out and stay around the country. Either way, distances are only a few hours long at most, making it a country that’s easy to navigate.
Is El Salvador safe to visit?
Yes. El Salvador is now regarded as one of the safest countries in Latin America. If you were to look up the country, articles as recent as June 2023 would list it as The Murder Capital of the World. Even travel advisories have not been updated regarding what it’s like being in the country. However, situations in a country can change, for better or for worse. In this case, within less than 2 years, Depending on who you ask, they might even say it’s now the safest. I go more into detail about how the situation changed in my vlog, or you can read more about it here.
Is El Salvador safe for solo female travelers?
Yes. I happened to visit the country on my own. I always try to be as transparent as possible: there was some catcalling involved, but only from vehicles passing by. Please don’t let this deter you from going. Unfortunately, this is still the norm in many Latin American countries. Personally, as long as no one approaches me I feel completely safe. I want to be clear and state that catcalling is not exclusive to Latin America. It can happen even in the countries that people deem “the safest” or “most popular” like Italy and the UK.
These incidents aside, I felt completely fine roaming around on my own and meeting other people. Locals were friendly, open and eager to engage with foreigners. As a Spanish speaker, I got to hear first-hand about how the country has changed so quickly in such a short period of time. No, you do not need to speak Spanish to visit the country. I had a great time, and these are some of the best things to do in El Salvador.
Down the Ruta de las Flores
Translated to English as The Flower Route, this is a trail that covers some colonial towns of great historical importance. This can definitely be done on your own, but dealing with the logistics (and covering all towns in one day) can be difficult unless you have your own vehicle. I took this day trip which I’d highly recommend, and it allowed me to see it all with a guide and learn about El Salvador in detail. Some highlights include learning about indigenous communities, visiting local food markets, and seeing what life was all about away from the main cities.
Ah, pupusas. Probably the most famous food in Central America. Corn tortillas filled with your choice of beans, assorted meats, and/or cheese. Towns compete to see where the best ones can be found, but I was told by locals that Izalco, found on the Ruta de las Flores, has the best ones. Luckily, we did make a pit stop there to try them. If you’re looking into learning how to make them on your own, you should try out a local food cooking class!
About an hour away from San Salvador is Suchitoto, a beautiful colonial town, and much larger than the ones visited throughout the Ruta de las Flores. You don’t need to take a day trip for this one unless you want to make the most of your day by squeezing in something else. If that’s the case, this tour will take you to some beautiful waterfalls, as well as some cultural activities as part of your visit to Suchitoto.
While you’re in town, make sure to check out Cafe 1800. I found out about this place through Instagram and it’s definitely worth the hype. You can even stay here overnight! It has the best views of the lake and pretty good food, even if it was overpriced. Afterwards, you can either take a $5 USD tuk tuk or walk 15 minutes down the hill to Lake Suchitlán. While I don’t think visiting the island where the plane crash happened was interesting, it was still a nice way to finish our day.
Hey there, and welcome to Go Global with Sibu! I’m a global citizen that has been living and traveling around the world since 2005 – all through budget travel, scholarships, study/work and living abroad opportunities. I share everything I’ve learned over the years here – to prove to you that you don’t need money or privilege to enjoy everything that this world has to offer.
Go down a rainbow slide
You need to try this out! There are two rainbow slides in the country. One that’s not far from San Salvador, you can check out this cultural tour that includes going there! The other one is a few hours away. If you happen to venture out west, not far from Apaneca, you’ll find the second rainbow slide. This one is faster, longer and doesn’t need water for you to slide down it. It’s part of Cafe Albania, and you’ll find other fun, adrenaline-filled activities there! I would have loved to go if I had more time.
Climb Santa Ana volcano
If you’re looking to hike a volcano but you’re not ready to deal with the effort that Acatenango, in neighboring Guatemala, takes – Santa Ana is the place for you. The hike there takes 2 hours on average, and the way back takes even less than that. It has a beautiful lake in its crater that can change color depending on the time of the day that you’re there. I haven’t done this hike yet, but in the meantime, you can check out this blog post on how to do it yourself!
Stay overnight at Lake Coatepeque
After hiking Santa Ana, you’re going to need to relax and get some energy back! Right in the same area, you can head down to Lake Coatepeque. This is a beautiful lake with insanely blue waters.
If you’re into hostels, everyone I met was talking about how cool Captain Morgan Hostel was – with stand-up paddleboards and a chill environment. If not, you can check out this list for recommendations on where to stay by the lake.
Visit Mayan ruins
El Salvador is usually referred to as ‘The Pompeii of the Americas’ – think about Mexican and Guatemalan ruins without the crowds. For this, the best thing to do is to head out to Santa Ana and use it as a base to explore the area. But if you’re running short on time, I’d personally recommend this tour. Locals say Joya de Ceren has the best archeological sites in the whole country, and this can easily be arranged with a volcano visit!
Chill at the beach
What better way to finish your time in El Salvador than by chilling at the beach. El Tunco and El Zonte were the ones that I heard most people talking about, but you can check out the 10 best beaches in El Salvador here. The beauty of El Salvador travel is that it has so much to offer in such a small space. Just like with the other suggestions I previously gave you, you can even catch an Uber to the beach for the day and it won’t cost you a fortune. Of course, you can also take a local bus to save money. Just ask your host or accommodation depending on where you want to go!
I hope this article inspired you to look for fun activities to do within the country. El Salvador culture exploration could take weeks – that’s how much it has to offer. However, this should give you a good idea of what the country is all about. As someone who has visited every country in Central America, I can tell you that if you want everything that the region has to offer without the crowds, El Salvador is the place to go to. Nos vemos en El Salvador!