Northern El Salvador
The small province of Chalatenango constitutes the northern region of El Salvador, where mountains run to the Honduran border. It's a very pretty, peaceful area, easily accessible from both San Salvador and the Honduran border. Suchitoto – everyone's favorite Salvadoran colonial town – is deservedly the area's most well-known attraction.
Located 50km northeast of San Salvador, wondrous little 'Suchi' is the cultural capital of the country. Every weekend the cobbled streets come alive as Suchi fills with weekenders. In February, the entire month celebrates the town's resident artists and the small galleries swell with domestic tourists.
Only 65km from the capital, Santa Ana is a mid-sized El Salvadoran city, the long-standing coffee wealth of which is reflected in its architecture, some of the most magnificent in Central America. There's a relaxed confidence in the wide, tree-lined streets and colorful houses, and Santanecos are genuinely proud of their growing cultural scene.
Central El Salvador
San Salvador lies in the 'valley of the hammocks', skirted by makeshift communities clinging precariously to sloping land and with Maya ruins dotting its fringe. It is also surrounded by steep volcanic peaks that offer hiking opportunities and visits to small artists' towns and coffee fincas (plantations) elevated from the heat.
The northeastern Morazán Department is a small agricultural region interspersed with rugged mountain forest. The cooler climate attracts visitors from San Miguel, as does the country’s cleanest river, the Río Sapo, and the opportunity for countless hikes to waterfalls and old hideaways from the civil war.
A visit to the former FMLN headquarters in the mountain town of Perquín is paramount to understanding El Salvador’s brutal civil war. It was in these hills that the opposition garnered its most loyal support, and despite vigorous bombing campaigns, the military was unable to dislodge the guerrilla forces.
La Libertad is the first port of call for many travelers fleeing the capital in search of Pacific Coast surf beaches and all the misadventure that entails. Its no picture postcard, but the notorious Punta Roca wave breaking before a bustling fish market and malecón creates a striking urban image hard to manufacture elsewhere in the world.
Juayúa (why-ooh-ah) is the most-visited town on Ruta de las Flores due to its attractive cobbled streets, weekend food fair, and nearby waterfalls and hot springs. The fresh mountain air led to a rich indigenous settlement here and Nahuatl roots can still be seen in the craft aesthetic.
There's a strong sense of pride among the citizens of this hot agricultural capital, which makes a charming detour from the wilds of the bigger cities. The restored colonial town square, dominated by the impressive Iglesia de San Pedro, is a pleasant place to stroll around and fills with local families in the evenings.