The modest ruins of Cihuatán were once an immense urban area alongside the Río Guazapa, possibly the largest pre-Columbian city between Guatemala and Peru. Today Cihuatán makes a convenient excursion for those staying in the capital and helps to contextualize San Salvador's modern-day settlement.
From San Salvador's Terminal de Oriente, take bus 119 toward Chalatenango (1½ hours) and get off 2km beyond Aguilares; ask the driver to let you off at the ruins. It’s a 900m walk to the site.
The city thrived for 100 years before being sacked and burned by unknown invaders in the 10th century AD. It was likely occupied by Maya, Lenca and other groups joined together for commerce during an unstable period. There is a small museum explaining the history and excavation of the site.