About one fourth of El Salvador’s rapidly growing population lives in the capital city- San Salvador. The busy streets are always crowded with pedestrians and enterprising locals. Women carry goods on their heads and traders sell wares on the streets, just as people do in any small village in El Salvador.
San Salvador is a cosmopolitan city with wide highways and narrow street lanes. Its wealth of natural and cultural attractions is set behind the imposing presence of the San Salvador Volcanoes. The view of San Salvador City from the edge of the crater is truly remarkable. The city is encompassed by slum communities as well as the rich urban scene filled with fine dining restaurants and expansive shopping centers. Christianity is the main religion and the official language is Spanish.
When To Go:
Situated right in the heart of Central America, the climate of San Salvador is genuinely tropical with hot daytime temperatures and warm to cool nighttimes. The city has two prominent seasons the dry and stormy season. In spite of being close to the northern part of the equator, the city experiences for the most part, colder temperatures from the months of November up to April. The cold winds eventually also bring in a dry and damp atmosphere usually called as the “verano season”. The midyear months April to October is mostly characterized by occasional rains and thunderstorms. Therefore, the best time to enjoy a wonderful adventure in this volcanic mountain area is during the season of verano – Summer.
Discover these top things to do and great places to see when in the city of San Salvador…
Iglesia El Rosario (The Rosary Church of El Salvador)
The Iglesia El Rosario or the Rosary Church of El Salvador is like one of those cute things you do not expect to find in the middle of downtown San Salvador. It is worth entering, whether you are a believer or not. The design is a bit modern architecture and engineering unlike other churches you can find in the area. If you visit the place in the afternoon you can better appreciate the stained glass windows in the walls. The Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) is pretty abstract, made of metal, and you’ll need time to understand and reflect on the scenes depicted on some of the stations of the cross.
The mosaic pictures and the images are ideal for photo shoots. It is a harmonious place that combines spirituality and color. This architectural beauty with meticulous attention to detail is a must see for every visitor of San Salvador. Surrounded by ruins, bus stops and vacant lots, camouflaged by a gray and dirty structure, the center of San Salvador lies one of the most renowned and significant buildings throughout Latin America. A highly controversial and challenging work that had to be supervised by Pope John XXIII, who in 1962 sponsored a previous experiment as the revolutionary council was coming. The building and its contents are the culmination work of an architect and a renowned sculptor from San Salvador. Perhaps because it is situated in the most central and wide area of the capital, The Rosary Church became one of the privileged scenarios to voice the growing protests of workers, students and farmers in the seventies. If you are visiting San Salvador, do not miss the opportunity to visit this stunning work of art.
Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site
In the spectrum of archaeological sites, the Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site is by far the most interesting. The structures of the archaeological settlement are fully covered in ash, and one can already imagine or have an idea how the daily lives of the ancient people were. The well maintained museum provides valuable amounts of information. It’s an interesting ride and it is inspiring to see that the maintenance of the place is unbeatable. There is a small souvenir shop with interesting souvenir items about San Salvador City. A visit is required if you have school-age children.
This excellent archaeological gem is awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site and has perfectly preserved the old Mayan culture that was discovered more than 2,000 years ago. The origin of the Mayan world is impressive from what can be viewed from here, El Salvador and this site keeps alive the spirits of its ancestors. It is small but filled with so much history. Joya de Ceren shows how the ancestors lived and he succeeds in imparting his noble message and intention. Much remains to be excavated, but what you see is really cute and different from other archaeological sites. A visit is a must for people who want to get educated about the Pre-Columbian cultures and early civilization in North America.
The Lake Coatepeque is the pride of San Salvador and one of the ten most beautiful lakes in the world. In addition, this natural lake has a rich natural habitat with a diversity of animal species; it also holds spectacular and panoramic views of the entire city. Water sports such as parasailing, jet skiing, boating, diving, local cuisine, and international sports are best enjoyed in this number one tourist site in San Salvador. You can also rent a house by the lake, an ideal place to disconnect from the routine life and eliminate stress.
However, you can visit the complex volcanoes, (open to the public) consisting of the Izalco, Llamatepec and Green Hill, which, in turn is part of the volcanic range of the Apaneca – Ilkamatep territory and explore more biological wonders of the living species and an endangered wildlife that is not seen elsewhere in the country. If you love nature this is the perfect place. There are cloud forests to enjoy a chance to make contact with nature and wildlife. The words fall short to describe the beauty of these places of global concern, it is imperative to explore and see all its natural wonders when in the city of San Salvador.
Parque Nacional El Boqueron
The Parque Nacional El Boqueron is set on a very beautiful location overlooking the crater of the volcano near San Salvador. The overall structure is very simple but functional and filled with good signage making it easy enough to locate. The view is impressive and the site has many locals who act as guards and guides tasked by the government to take care of the place. It’s worth the visit, but one should be prepared for the physical challenge of going up and down the makeshift stairs.
The natural wonder of Boqueron is awesome from all points along with its pure and cool atmosphere where you feel like being caressed by a windy and relaxing temperature as you take its treacherous hike along the trails. It is a volcano crater with a mini volcano inside, very active (just like the other volcanoes in San Salvador) and the nearest volcano that is accessible from the city. It is recognized as a national park with plenty of lush nature. It is a good choice for those who want to take a break from the city and wants to enjoy a more peaceful environment away from the noise and traffic of the downtown area of San Salvador.
Devil’s Door (Puerta del Diablo)
On a geological fault that rises about 2012 meters above sea level lay one of the most emblematic places in El Salvador, the Devil’s Door (La Puerta del Diablo) which is comprised of three rock formations called; the pimp, cocky, and Chulón. From there you can have a 360 degree panorama in which you can see the Pacific Ocean, lakes and volcanoes and the historic capital city, the weather is often hazy, since this is where it converges the stream of hot moist air from the Pacific Ocean to the stream of fresh air from the mountain and this is how the fog that give a dramatic touch is formed.
It is a special tourist attraction which is very close to the capital with a cool climate and where along the way you can discover spectacular restaurants that serve delicious “pupusas” a traditional and typical Salvadoran food that you will not regret to try and taste while in San Salvador. If you like mountains, nature, the typical food of El Salvador, great views and nice weather, you’re in the right place. Reaching the top does not take much effort, it takes about 15 minutes to climb, however, it is required to wear suitable footwear and conquer the fear of heights. They have options for rappel and canopy if you like new experiences. There are also short sections and alternative trails for beginners.
Hospital Divina Providencia Chapel
It was here at the Hospital Divina Providencia Chapel where the Romero assassination occurred at the hands of the armed forces. But the people here ignore the government’s call and the need to silence him, and keep him alive by continuing his social work and his legacy of solidarity and fight against injustice. It is fundamental to know the history of this great man and his noble contribution to the Salvadoran and Central American village before making a visit.
See the place where they murdered Archbishop Romero, up to now it is very relevant. It was a tragic part of the history of El Salvador about a man who played an important role to help the people against the excesses of the ruling class of that time and paid dearly about it with his life.
The conservation of the room is important to the history of El Salvador, as you can see the simplicity of a holy man, who despite being the Archbishop of San Salvador did not live ostentatiously and prefer to stay in that place to be next to the patients of the hospital who even refused to take refuge in other protected places even more rejected offerings to live as an exile in Guatemala. It is a must visit place in El Salvador, go with an open mind to understand the legacy left behind by an inspiring man.
Museo de Arte de El Salvador
The Museo de Arte de El Salvador is an amazing museum and thoroughly recommended. It is a place located in a safe and very nice area of the capital that is accessible and close to shopping centers for tourists. If you go to San Salvador do stop even for a little while to visit this museum, you will surely not regret it. The real story about several things and the items displayed are there and the explanation of the staff and the guides will leave you satisfied. It is a nice place to go and spend a few hours during the afternoon and check out a few rooms with good art collection. It is one of the most chic areas of San Salvador that has easy accessibility and safe surroundings.
The exhibitions are all housed in a building with an extraordinary collection of art, with a pretty little shop and a restaurant. Visitors are often deeply struck by the amount of space they have reserved for the period war and post war that marked all aspects of the Central American life. It displays a lovely collection of El Salvador’s ancestors especially about the manufacture of indigo and coffee, the golden grain and main source of livelihood in the city.
The Catedral Metropolitana is the major cathedral of the city and located in the center of the capital. It is a religious place where you can meet the patron saint of the whole Christian faith in El Salvador the Savior of the World. It is also here where you can see the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero considered as a modern national hero by the people of El Salvador.
In the crypt where Archbishop Romero is buried, there is an excellent sculpture by an Italian sculptor that fills you with peace, and testifies to the strength of the Salvadoran people against injustice, pain and death. During the funeral of Archbishop Romero, the National Guard opened fire on people attending the mass and unarmed. It is now regarded in history books as the “slaughter of the innocents” at the front of the cathedral.
The Plaza Futura is a place where they combine to perfection fun and good food and indeed there are great places to have a good time either with family or with friends. It is highly recommend to visit at night and appreciate its spectacular view. The place is a business center that is connected to the hotel Crown Plaza where you can also find different restaurants to eat, sushi, tapas, high, burgers, and the famous Olive Garden. It is a favorite meeting point of the hip and young Salvadoran society.
Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology)
The Museo Nacional de Antropologia highlights 490 years of history in a mural that is exciting, nostalgic and captivating. This happens to be the murals located at the entrance of the National Museum of Anthropology, which makes you fly around with a mosaic image that reflect the thinking and feeling of a hard-working people who love peace for a period of 490 years. Anthropology Museum has a few rooms explaining the culture and history of the Salvadoran people.
The rooms display information and artifacts from the agricultural, religious, cultural, and the role of the private sectors. It has a very impressive display about the life of the late Archbishop Romero. It is an interesting museum where you can find the beginnings of civilization which later gave rise to both El Salvador and other Central American countries. The museum is modern and has audiovisual and meeting rooms with good lighting and the latest gadgets.
The Lake Ilopango is actually the crater of a volcano that erupted on the edge of San Salvador in the year 530 BC. During this time it has reduced to a great degree the global temperature and eliminated all forms of life on earth in Cuscatlan (the original name of El Salvador). The lake is located near San Salvador in the perfect place to understand the life and culture of the early Salvadorans. This site is inter-related to the civilizations that inhabited the land of Cuscatlan, before the Spanish conquest.
You can bathe in the cool waters, travel by boat to the shore, or the islands that are in the lake. You will love the small channels lined with restaurants by the Lakeside where you will enjoy fried fish with rice, fresh vegetable salad, soft and toasted tortillas while you enjoy the view of the serene lake. Just 30 minutes away from San Salvador, the Lake Ilopango is an excellent choice for a walk and a weekend getaway.
Every visitor is struck by the natural beauty of this lake created by a volcanic crater. To understand the culture and identity of a hardworking people who love peace and harmony, visit all the scenic and architectural structures of San Salvador. The city has a range of attractions to see, but somehow, if you visit an old museum or art gallery, there is always a story behind the picture to share with you every detail that will make the experience not only about architecture, archaeology, history, but also about human geography, gastronomy, religion, political and so much more.