El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest country, in Central America with a total area of 21,040 sq km (8,124 miles), making it about the size of Massachusetts (20,300 sq km) or Wales ( 20,779 sq km). This mountainous country is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, and Honduras and is known as the Land of Volcanoes. Salvadoran people are very genuine and friendly and whilst English is not widely spoken they will always try and make you feel at home.

Here are 11 reasons why a trip to El Savador is worth a try:

1. Santa Ana

One of El Salvador’s biggest cities, Santa Ana is a very pleasant place to explore on foot. The most impressive building in the city is surely the Theatre, with its immaculately restored lavish interior – we oohed and aahed our way around the cavernous interior of this 100 year old architectural masterpiece, built on the profits of the nearby coffee plantations. The cathedral in the main square is also worth a look, while most visitors to the city will enjoy getting lost in the narrow alleys of the street market.

2. Parque Nacional Los Volcanes

The best day hike is  a  4 hour walk which will take  you  to the crater rim of a volcano that last had a major eruption only 5 years ago. The effort is rewarded generously by the incredible view into the crater when you reach the top. 

3. Barra de Santiago

Arguably El Salvador's most unspoilt beach, this vast sandy expanse doubles as a nature reserve for butterfly and bird species. You can explore the mangroves of the Zapote estuary by boat, try kayaking, canoeing, or fishing. The La Cocotera resort and ecolodge  is working to re-establish endangered species like the marine turtle and red macaw.

4. Canopy tour

For a powerful adrenalin rush, it's hard to beat the spectacular Apaneca Canopy Tour, 150m (492ft) above the tropical forest of western El Savador. Enjoy a bird's-eye view of Apaneca's coffee plantations as you glide over breathtaking mountain scenery. (Not recommended for those with a fear of heights!)

5. Suchitoto

This picture-perfect colonial town in the north of the country will surely become the hotspot of El Salvador’s nascent tourism boom. Small enough to cover on foot in a short gentle stroll, peaceful and safe, Suchitoto is set above the wonderfully picturesque Lake Suchitlan. The town also has arguably the best hotels in the country, with a handful of high quality yet affordable boutique hotels.

6. Surfing

El Salvador's Pacific coastline is surfing heaven, with uncrowded waters and world-class breaks. Las Flores, which suits beginners and experts alike, is overlooked by surfers' hotel Miraflores, from where boats head to Punta Mango and the biggest waves in the country. Closest to the capital is El Sunzal (La Libertad).

7. Coffee plantations

Coffee became El Salvador's most important export in the mid 19th century, and plantations are still dotted around the countryside. Buy the local product when visiting Ecoparque El Espino on the slopes of the Boquerón volcano. Alternatively, book a stay at the Hotel Santa Leticia  in Apaneca, a working plantation which offers tours.

8. Exploring Cerro Verde

Spectacular cloud forest, sweeping views, clean mountain air, exhilarating walks and three volcanoes are right at your finger tips in this 505 hectare (1,250 acre) national park. Expert local guides are on hand to offer advice and visitors are asked to book ahead and bring passports.

9. Fernando Llort Museum

Born in 1949, Fernando Llort is El Salvador's greatest living artist. He is known for his use of bright colours and for developing a highly individual style that incorporates symbols to represent life in the country of his birth. To view Llort's work, visit his shop and museum, El Arbol de Dios, in San Salvador.

10. Horse riding

Ecotourism is one of El Salvador's fastest growing activities, and the guides of La Mora  are experts in the field. Trek on horseback through beautiful scenery and three climate zones to the summit of the Guazapa volcano, before returning to base to learn how to make maize tortillas.

11. Panchimalco

Sadly, few of El Salvador's remaining indigenous people retain their old traditions, culture and dress. The Pancho Indians, who give the village of Panchimalco its name, are an exception. The best times to visit are 13-14 September (Patronal festival) or 3 May (harvest procession), colourful occasions when pagan and Christian customs merge.

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