Hotel Villa Real
We were very comfortable here, our room included breakfast which we would eat in the garden and there was unlimited coffee.
January 20th, 2012
We left the Ticabus terminal a little late and arrived at the El Salvador border around 5 in the afternoon. It took well over an hour to clear the border, with us simply following along and doing what our fellow passengers were doing. We also converted our remaining Guatemalan quetzals for US dollars, the currency in use in El Salvador. Of course, the money changers try to take advantage of ignorant tourists and offered us only $21 US for our 300 quetzals. They used fancy math on their calculators to justify their offer. They were using a simple trick, but I had checked the rates on the net the night before and knew what we should get, and we finally settled for $36. Quite an experience!
We arrived in San Salvador at about 8 pm and took a local taxi to the "Happy House" hotel which we had booked online the previous day. They only had a room available for one night. So after settling into our room (with 3 beds), we crossed the street to another hotel and booked for the following 2 nights of our stay in San Salvador.
Our Garden in the Hotel
Very quiet and peaceful, it was a great place to read and relax. It also had good Wifi, so staying in touch with home was pleasant and easy.
Hotel Villa Real turned out to be the far nicer of the two. We wandered down the street in search of supper, and stumbled upon a quaint Chinese restaurant that served HUGE dishes of authentic and delicious food. Two meals and 3 beer came to $15.25 including a generous tip.
Next morning, we took a cab to a tour operator's office at the Sheraton Hotel. We booked an afternoon tour of the city. First stop, the top of a mountain to see Volcan El Boqueron which last erupted in 1917. Prior to this the crater contained a lake, but this last eruption eliminated the lake and created yet another crater within the orginal crater. After a short hike, we reached the lip of the volcano and were able to see down to the bottom of the craters. It was possible to hike from the top lip down to the bottom of the craters, about an hour and a half down, but it would then take another 3 hours to hike back up and out of that Jurassic Park setting. We decided we didn't want to hike that trail. There happened to be people at the bottom when we were
View of San Salvador
From the top of Mount Boqueron on the outskirts of San Salvador, the view of the city is breathtaking!
there, and they looked like little ants, they were that far down.
In the opposite direction, the view of the city was incredible. We then drove down into the city and Roberto, our guide, proceeded to give us a history of El Salvador and San Salvador. We saw the old town including the Centro Historico, the daily market, the national palace, revolution monuments, Santa Ana Cathedral, Iglesia El Rosario, the soccer stadium and so much more. These guided city tours are such a great way to learn about the history of these areas as well as what their current situation is.
El Salvador is a country even smaller than what Belize is, however, unlike Belize, it is densely populated. Nearly half of the 6 million inhabitants live in the greater San Salvador area. With a land mass of only 8,123 sq miles, El Salvador is known as the 'Tom Thumb' of Central America. Torn by civil war between 1980 and 1992, about 75,000 people died and the country's infrastructure was destroyed. Economic reforms since the early 1990s have brought about major benefits in terms of improved social conditions, diversification of its export sector, and access to international financial
View from Mount Boqueron
Opposite the city, a view of the mountains in the distance.
markets. In 2009, Mauricio Funes, formerly a journalist, became the first president representing the left wing party in the country's history, and he has implemented a policy of exposing government corruption and has also introduced free education and free health care. We found that there was a lot of optimism amongst the population. Most people were working, and the future seems bright for this tiny country.
We noted the good roads and on Sunday were given an explanation for them from another guide, Eric. Roads are good for all the right reasons, easier travel, better movement of traffic and cash that was formerly going to the military now goes to the good of all the citizens of El Salavador ... namely roads, parks, schools and hospitals.
We traveled up to the Apaneca canopy. 15 people, including 7 kids, piled into the back of a one ton, four wheel drive truck that carried us up to the top of the mountain. We traveled through coffee fields to where the 15 zip lines were located. We zipped on the safest lines we have ever tried. Our compliments go to the owners and operators of this tour.
We then swept
Crater within the Crater
Visible to the eye, but not the camera, there are people down there.... 1and 1/2 hours down, 3 hours back up! We just took pictures rather than hiking today.
down down the mountain via Ruta des Flores through Santa Ana, Nahuizalco, Juayua, Ahuachapan (a city on the west of El Salvador), Ataco and Coatepeque Lake, one of the prettiest crater lakes imaginable. We crossed hrough fertile valleys growing various crops, through a solid lava river, up mountains covered with coffee trees and other various fruit trees and then finally to an out of the way restaurant where we enjoyed a gourmet local meal. Eric and Roberto gave us a lot of insight into their country, a huge thanks to Nahuat Tours!
For our last day in El Salvador we hired a cab for the day to take us to La Libertad, a city with a fishing pier an hour west from San Salvador. First off, the cab driver took us to walkthe fine, black sand beach north of La Libertad. HOT! And humid. It was nearly impossible to walk on the dry black sand with flip flops, so we found a palapa and cooled off ...with some liquid refreshments. We were the only tourists on this gorgeous black sand beach. The beaches in El Salvador are awesome and they offer the chance to not only relax, but practice
Football Stadium in San Salvador
Home of the national soccer (football) team, the stadium seats 50,000.
different sports. For surfing there are beaches like El Sunzal, Mama Roca, and others, which host national and regional tournaments. Los Cóbanos is a favorite place for snorkeling. The prime coastal fishing waters offer a wide variety of sport fishing adventures for the experienced and less experienced fishermen. You can also paddle your way through mangroves at the Jiquilisco and Barra de Santiago bays or the estuary at Costa del Sol.
Our driver then took us to the pier in La Libertad, where we watched the diesel powered hoists lift small fishing boats in and out of the water on both sides of the pier. The crowds scurried around the incoming boats to see what had been caught and then barter on the fisherman's catch of the day. Within a few minutes the incoming boat was replaced by another boat either coming in or heading out to fish. The local older kids cooled off by taking the 40 foot leap off the pier into the water fully clothed and managing to avoid the fishing lines as they swam about.
We headed to another beach south of the pier and were surprised to see that the beach did not
Monument to the Civil War
Lest they forget, this monument lists most of the 75,000 people killed in the 12 year war.
have black sand. The volcanic sand didn't extend that far south. We walked down this beach a ways, however, we gave up after a while as the beach seemed to go on and on and on, as far as the eye could see, with nary a building to be seen.
After the scenic drive back to San Salvador we prepared for our next leg of the trip to Nicaragua. The bus was leaving at 5 AM, so we moved to the hotel next door to the Ticabus station. It happens that because buses often leave or arrive late at night, all Ticabus terminals are associated with an adjacent low cost hotel for customer convenience. We were up at 4:30 after a rather fitful sleep, the bus was on time and we were off to Nicaragua!
We passed through the Honduras on our way and snapped a few photos. The Honduran border and the surrounding area were to say the least ... dismal. This was a main highway, and in many places, the bus was forced to slow to 10 kph in order to navigate around and through the humungous holes in the pavement.
Our impressions of El
Monument of app. 75,000 Names
Monumento A La Memoria Y La Verdad.....means Monument to the Memory and the Truth
Salvador: An exciting future lies ahead for this tiny country. A stable government, improving infrastructure, friendly people, beautiful country, coffee, beaches, all this bodes well for El Salvador.
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