Western El Salvador
Two volcanoes tower over the lush, cloud-strewn forest in a national park that's within easy reach of Santa Ana. Climb Volcán Santa Ana for views of the steaming crater on one side and the stunning Salvadoran landscape on the other.
From the Maya pyramids at Tazumal to the pre-Hispanic settlement that was preserved in volcanic ash at Joya de Cerén (El Salvador's Pompeii), the western half of the country has a wealth of archaeological sites to explore.
Purveyors of local delicacies ply their wares at weekend food fairs along the Ruta de las Flores, while the town of Chalchuapa is a low-key culinary hotspot where simple roadside restaurants serve yuca con chicharrón (yam with roast pork rinds).
Northern El Salvador
Rainbow-colored pieces in the naïve style are produced in cooperatives in La Palma, while Suchitoto is home to a bohemian community of artists and indigo artisans whose work can be bought in the town's galleries.
Chalatenango's mountains offer crisp, cool air and peaceful hiking through pine forests. Cerro El Pital, the country's highest peak, is easily accessed from La Palma. From Suchitoto there are walks to waterfalls and trails in nearby Cinquera forest park.
The best of the region's coffee can be sampled at cafes in Suchitoto and La Palma. A chemistry lab of brewing equipment is on display and gourmet beans are treated with respect. Homemade cakes are the perfect accompaniment.
Eastern El Salvador
With some of the most consistent waves around, the long right hander of Las Flores and the famed Punta Mango break attract surfers from all over the world.
Civil War Sites
Former guerrilla fighters offer tours of civil war sites in Morazán, including the somber memorial at El Mozote. A museum explains the causes and impact of the war and the guides' personal experiences make for evocative storytelling.
A Birder's Delight
The mangrove-lined inlets of the Bahía de Jiquilisco are a prime birdwatching spot. This Unesco biosphere reserve is home to large numbers of coastal marine birds and also visited by migratory birds of international importance.
El Salvador's complex history is put into context in the capital's fine museums, from galleries displaying archaeological finds from early Maya and Lenca communities to moving exhibits relating to the civil war (1980–92).
Leafy suburbs chime with the clinking of glasses and scraping of plates as happy diners fill the outdoor terraces of lively cafes and restaurants.
Art lovers will delight in seeing the works of El Salvador's most prominent artists displayed in a number of fine galleries, not to mention the rainbows of light at the Iglesia El Rosario and the painted dome of the city's cathedral.