El Salvador Overview
‘Fly to El Salvador, don’t know why and I don’t know what for…’ English rockers ‘Athlete’ pretty much sum up the prevailing wisdom about this small corner of Central America, which people still remember for it’s ferocious 90s civil war. As we all know, however, prevailing wisdom isn’t always that wise. There is still an undercurrent of illicit activity, but all in all, the negative image is the perpetrators loss, as there's more than enough here to enjoy, providing you stay well away from the annual hurricane season.
If it is the civil war that fascinates you, though, check out the sobering sites at Perquin – a former rebel stronghold – where a revolutionary museum gives visitors a glance at the homemade hardware and political leanings of the insurgents, as well as the remains of the helicopter their leader ultimately died in. The area is also a haven for bird spotters and plant lovers, as home to copious breeds of birds of prey and an abundance of tree-hugging plants.
At Parque Nacional Montecristo-El Trifinio you can stand amid the clouds, and watch drops fall from the leaves of a lush green rainforest stretching to the horizon. Forest hikes take you over quivering footbridges and past a phenomenal array of technicolored wildlife, scampering and fluttering through the trees. Off shore, surfers traverse waves many argue are the best in Central America, launching off brooding black-sand beaches right in the heart of the jungle.
Hopping San Salvador is not the prettiest of cities, but it does have a noisy street culture and funky nightlife that charms visitors nonetheless. Gang culture’s alive and well here (you’d best avoid the notorious district of Soyopango), but with a little care, most travelers find it an unexpected highlight. A more laid back, colonial ambiance is up for grabs at quiet Suchitoto, where you can gawp at the surrounding volcanoes from a cobbled lane, or visit harrowing bomb craters on the back of a trotting steed.
Relatives may greet news of a trip to El Salvador with presents of flak jackets and tearful send offs, but, as long as you’re careful, the same group will be eying your photos with ill-disguised envy on your return.