After riding many more chicken buses, hitchhiking (sorry, mom!) and traveling to the Northern, Western and Eastern parts of El Salvador, we would like to confirm that our previous statement was spot on: this ‘Don’t go to El Salvador, it is dangerous’ is bullcrap and before someone shouts (people tend to shout at you on social media when they disagree with you. Go figure!) that we were a lucky exception, we did meet a few travelers who had also decided not to follow their governments’ recommendations and were, like us, surprised by the salvadorian kindness and the smiles that welcomed us. After sharing our experiences, we all agreed on this: El Salvador was safe and worth a visit! Nowadays, Europe and the rest of the world are probably far more dangerous than El Salvador and Central America. With those nutters threatening our freedom and sanity, I would rather be robbed by a delinquent than bombed by a fanatic. Ha, this reminds me of the ‘would you rather’ game we have played so many times while road tripping. Fun times!
Our highlight in El Salvador was definitely our time in Santa Ana where we found a home away from home Casa Verde. It was clean (you take this for granted, don’t you? Believe me, this is rarely the case. Sigh. Long life to fliflops), cozy, cheap(ish), with a wonderful kitchen (M even treated us to a Rice Casimir. Gosh, have I mentioned this man is a keeper?!) and a pool! Carlos, the kind owner, made us feel so welcome that we ended up staying 6 nights instead of the two originally planned. From Santa Ana, we were able to visit the Tazumal ruins (It took us only 20 minutes to go around the main pyramid and we were definitely perplex when we realized that this was it. We liked the trail through the forest better as we spotted many birds and other animals), take a day trip to the Cerro Verde National Park to climb the Santa Ana volcano (also known as Ilamatepec), take a peek at the lake Coatepeque and drive the famous Ruta de las Flores. We didn’t make it to the Parque El Impossible, due to heavy rains but we couldn’t wait until the skies clear up and even though Carlos’ hospitality made it hard for us to leave Santa Ana, we had to move on.
Before leaving El Salvador, we wanted to check either the Southern or the Eastern part. Our choice was easily made when we were told that the coast (Southern El Salvador) was popular among tourists. The Eastern part was mostly ignored as labeled dangerous (ah don’t you love labels?!). We shouldn’t go?! Then I guess we are going! To the East! If locals would have tried to talk us out of it, we would have listened to them. Rumors, however, couldn’t stop us, not anymore and after 6 buses, a ride on an ‘egg’ truck (don’t ask but once again, this Salvadorian kindness!) and 7 hours, we reached the cute mountain town of Alegria. Once we found a bed for the night, we headed to the Alegria lagoon. It was an interesting feeling to walk in a crater of a (even though it is inactive) volcano. The level was quite low and we could have gone for a dip but the water was way too cold (oh the chickens!). Instead we hung out with the locals who came over to treat themselves to a face mask. The volcano yellow mud seemed to have medicinal properties. We weren’t that brave, we went back into town and we will never know what we missed. Without knowing it, we had picked the perfect day to stay in this tow. On Sundays they seem to have a town fair with food stalls everywhere. Yes, El Salvador can indeed be dangerous but the danger is not where you’d expect it! You could easily fall into a food coma by overeating those yummy local (fried) specialities. But what should I have done when surrounded by pastelitos and nuegados of yucca?
Alegria, with its food ‘orgy’ and peaceful turquoise lagoon, was the perfect farewell to our Salvadorian exploration as it’s (unfortunately) time for us to leave (nooooooooo!) and cross into Nicaragua *sigh followed by another sigh and… another sigh*. Nothing against Nicaragua. It was described by many travelers as beautiful and cheap but El Salvador and Honduras have stolen our hearts and it will hard for Nicaragua to top up those wonderful experiences. If you are looking for a destination where tourists haven’t ruined the relationship between travelers and locals yet, where it is still possible to feel like an explorer, where smiles are genuine and people want to help you for no other reason than because they have a beautiful soul, El Salvador is for you.
However, it is really time for us so we here go: Adios El Salvador, hola Nicaragua!
Next stop: Somoto.