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Best Places to Visit in El Salvador, Top Attractions
El Salvador is a destination rich in both geography and culture. Sitting in the heart of the Central America region, this small country boasts incredible national parks, long stretches of beautiful beaches, a plethora of inland attractions, and relatively lax visa requirements. Despite retaining its dated reputation for being an unsafe country, El Salvador is actually one of Central America’s safest countries to visit. With its violent civil war over two decades in the past, visitors of all backgrounds and interests are quickly discovering the array of attractions this country has to offer. Among the long list of destinations, are the following 15 places you should visit in El Salvador. El Salvador has incredible national parks, long stretches of breathtaking untouched beaches, enchanting waterfalls, marvellous lakes, mountainous areas with picturesque villages, a plethora of inland attractions like the vast plains of coffee plantations and of course the incredible volcanos. This stunning ‘must-visit’ country sits in the heart of Central America on the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, and often gets overlooked. But despite its size, there is actually a ton of great things to do in El Salvador! Full of striking volcanos, gorgeous waterfalls, and black sand beaches, there is so much to explore.
#1- National Theatre of El Salvador
San Salvador’s magnificent National Theatre of El Salvador (Teatro Nacional de San Salvador) is not only one of the city’s principal landmarks, but a National Monument and the oldest theater in Central America. Designed by French architect Daniel Beylard, the building is among the capital’s most notable works of architecture, with its stately Neo-classical façade giving way to lavish French Renaissance interiors, including a grand mural by Salvadoran painter Salvador Carlos Cañas.Today, the 650-seat theater remains the heart of Salvadoran performing arts, hosting an ever-changing schedule of classical concerts, theater, folk music performances and art workshops.
#2- National Palace
El Salvador’s current National Palace offers visitors a look at the politic, historical and national past. It is comprised of four main rooms and more than 100 smaller secondary ones, which provide visitors with a unique look at the historical, political and national past of this small South American country.Travelers caution that many of the Palace’s rooms are now closed to the public despite the fact government offices haven’t operated here since the mid-1970s. But a tour of this famed landmark is still worth the stop, as the early 1900s furnishings and well-curated historical displays present a grander picture of the city’s colorful past.
El Salvador’s most picturesque towns, a maze of timeworn cobblestones and well-preserved colonial architecture.Suchitoto’s tranquil surroundings and laid-back pace of life make it a popular retreat for capital dwellers, as well as nurturing a lively arts scene, and the streets are dotted with artist’s workshops, galleries and cozy cafés. The town’s most famous landmark is the striking white Iglesia Santa Lucia, but the area is most celebrated for its natural assets, with the neighboring Suchitlán reservoir sheltering a large variety of migratory birds and nearby sights including the Los Tercios Waterfall.
#4- Santa Ana National Theater
Construction on the Santa Ana National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Santa Ana) began in 1902, partly because the city lacked adequate entertainment options and partly — and perhaps more importantly — due to a rivalry with San Salvador, the nation’s capital. Whatever the reason, area coffee growers imposed taxes on themselves to raise money for the project, which opened its doors in February of 1912. It’s first production was of the Italian opera Rigoletto.Located along Avenida Independencia in the old part of Santa Ana, the three-tiered theater has been marvelously restored and stages performances almost nightly throughout the year.
#5- Cerro Verde National Park
The main pastime for visitors to the Cerro Verde National Park is hiking and its three volcanoes, Izalco, Cerro Verde and Santa Ana, are all easily accessible. The highest point is the 2,381-meter summit of Santa Ana, El Salvador’s highest and most active volcano, capped with four craters and a glistening green crater lake, but equally dazzling are the views from neighboring Izalco, nicknamed the “Lighthouse of the Pacific” for its near-continuous eruptions over 160 years. Another highlight is climbing the eponymous peak and hikers scaling the now-extinct Cerro Verde volcano will find the mountaintop cloud forest filled with colorful birdlife, including hummingbirds, jays and emerald toucanets.
#6- El Rosario Church
The inspired creation of artist Ruben Martinez, the arched walls are adorned with scrap-metal figures and feature dozens of stepped windows made of colored glass, which flood the open, pillar-less hall with a kaleidoscope of light.Built in 1971, the church was as controversial as it was innovative, and today it remains among El Salvador’s most unique and memorable landmarks. El Rosario Church is also famous as the resting place of José Matías Delgado, or “Padre Delgado,” the father of Central American independence.
#7- Lake Coatepeque
A startling blue pool nestled beneath the peaks of the Cerro Verde, Izalco and Santa Ana volcanoes and fringed by sloping sugar and coffee plantations, Lake Coatepeque is among El Salvador’s most enchanting natural attractions, located on the cusp of the Cerro Verde National Park. At almost 6 km in length, this is the country’s largest lake, formed in the crater of an ancient volcano more than 50,000 years ago and nurturing a colorful population of catfish, guapote and zebra fish.
#8- Metropolitan Cathedral
Once the site of a violent massacre where some 40 people were killed during a stampede at the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero, today the iconic structure offers a bit of peace and tranquility for visitors to this capital city. The white façade gives way to a colorful interior, where images of the Divine Saviour and a four-column bladcchino bless the main altar. Travelers can spend a moment in quiet contemplation, light a candle, and take in the massive paintings that depict moments in the life of Christ while on a visit to the nation’s most famous cathedral.
#9- Izalco Volcano
It’s also one of the most challenging treks in the park; it takes visitors an average of three hours (one way) to reach the summit at 6,404 feet (1,952 meters).A baby when compared to other Central American volcanoes, Izalco only formed in 1770 and didn’t stop erupting until 1966. It’s violent eruptions made the volcano a natural beacon for sea farers off the Salvadoran coast, earning it the nickname Lighthouse of the Pacific.
The scenic mountain town of Apaneca is the second highest destination in the country. Its back roads, thick forests and fertile farms are a Mecca for eco-tourism and draw travelers in seeking to make an authentic connection with both the people and the land.Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the trails of nearby Parque Nacional El Imposible, where secluded swimming spots and ancient Mayan remains make for a memorable trek through the El Salvador hillside.
#11- Santa Ana Volcano
Surrounded by the cloud forests of Cerro Verde National Park, Santa Ana Volcano (Ilamatepec) is the biggest volcano in El Salvador—and at 2,381 meters (7,812 feet) above sea level, it’s also one of the most popular to climb. Offering spectacular views and hiking routes, plus a peek into the turquoise crater lake at the summit, Santa Ana is an adventure lovers’ dream.
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