Parque Nacional Montecristo

Western El Salvador

The cloud forest–cloaked mountains of Parque Nacional Montecristo are home to abundant flora and fauna that make it a magnet for nature lovers and researchers. From the park entrance, a 45-minute drive up a steep mud track takes you to Los Planes, a flat grassy area with a campsite, orchid garden and walking trails. From here it's a 7km hike up to El Trifinio (2418m), the point where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala meet (allow five hours).

With a cool climate that's perfect for hiking and sublime views over the trees, this well-maintained national park is a truly special place – if only it weren't so tricky to reach. You'll need a 4WD to make it up to Los Planes (walking from the park entrance is not permitted); drivers in Metapán charge US$80 to US$100 for the round-trip. To climb up to El Trifinio in one day you'll need to be at the park gates at 7:30am to begin the hike from Los Planes by 8:30am and be back down in time to leave the park before it closes at 3pm. Spending a night camping at Los Planes will give you more time. The trail to El Trifinio is closed from May to November, the breeding season for local fauna, but Los Planes is open year-round.

Advance permission from the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente is always required for camping. Day trippers usually find that during the week it's usually possible to turn up and pay admission at the gates, but if the park is busy (usually on weekends) you may be turned away if you haven't booked ahead, as there is a limit on the number of people admitted to the park.

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