A collective exercise in street art en masse, La Palma must have more public murals per capita than anywhere else on earth. This cool mountain village 84km north of San Salvador is literally splashed with loud, tutti-frutti tones. Everything from street signs to market stalls gives off an inner-child vibe, á la Sesame Street in the ‘70s.
The sleepy Chalatenango province comes momentarily to life each morning in the capital, ‘Chalate,’ the business headquarters of northern El Salvador. Honking trucks navigate the narrow streets, overflowing with pineapples, sugarcane, indigo and coffee, while colorful buses are stacked with friendly locals selling DVDs, toiletries and glittery sequined dresses.
The countryside around Chalate climbs into dry forest studded with toothy peaks and rugged tawny hills. The small villages in this remote area have stunning landscapes and interesting histories. Beyond the Río Sumpul, Arcatao is a beautiful village in the mountains bordering Honduras.
This former FMLN stronghold has transformed itself into a successful example of grassroots tourism. The friendly community has initiated a series of projects that have helped it to rebound from the horrors for the civil war. Ex-guerillas share firsthand accounts of the conflict at a new war museum.