After taking a tour of San Salvador, we felt re-energized. Andy and I were happy with our decision to come to El Salvador, and now we wanted to explore some of its natural attractions. For such a small country, it has quite a few volcanoes. The best way to see a few seemed to be on a tour, so we found one that sounded good and booked it for the next day.
It didn’t really come as a surprise that we were the only people on the tour. Our experience touring San Salvador the day before made it quite obvious that not a lot of tourists go there. It was a little awkward at first basically being on a private tour, and normally we enjoy meeting other people on tours, but at least this meant we had a little more control over what we did.
The guide drove us outside the city and up a mountain to a national park, stopping in a few places along the way so we could take pictures. The park is a protected area and entrance is restricted in order to maintain the area. Our guide was able to take us for a hike through the woods to a few points where we could see nearby volcanoes and views of the surrounding areas.
We also saw an abandoned building that was once a rather fancy hotel. It was built in the late 1950s overlooking the Izalco Volcano, which at the time was erupting almost constantly. Just as the hotel was finished, the volcano’s eruptions ceased, though the view was still gorgeous (see photos below). In 1986, the hotel was badly damaged during an earthquake, and even though it continued to operate for a few years, it was eventually shut down in 1997. Now it’s a somewhat creepy but interesting place to explore.
Eventually we started heading back down the mountain towards lunch. He obviously had a specific restaurant where he normally takes tours because we drove down several windy dirt roads passed dozens of restaurants until we reached the one he was looking for. It was right on a lake, so we had some really nice views, and the food was decent enough. It was a Monday, so no one was really around, but apparently the lake is a popular area on the weekends.
After lunch, as we drove back towards San Salvador, our guide pulled over on the side of the road. He was showing us a big lava field called El Playón. (Side note: I just did a search for this field because I couldn’t remember the name of it. Turns out it also used to be a dumping ground for bodies during the civil war.)
We continued on until we reached another volcano. After a little more hiking, we reached the top where we could just barely see into the caldera. It probably would’ve been better to come here first thing in the morning so the sun would’ve been at a different angle, but it was still cool to see.
Winding up our tour, we stopped at a restaurant and hotel called Linda Vista Gardens that has one of the best views of the city. We could even see the cathedral we visited the day before on our city tour.
It was a long and exhausting day but very enjoyable. It was one of our favorite dates in Central America. The volcanoes were gorgeous, the guide was friendly, and we unexpectedly got more spectacular views of the city. We booked through EC Tours and paid US$145 (plus US$30 for two lunches) for the two of us. I’d definitely recommend them.
We stayed at Hotel Las Magnolias in the Zona Rosa district of San Salvador. To read more about our San Salvador city tour click here.
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