You don’t often hear about the Central American country of El Salvador, and if you do, it often involves some sort of gang-related crime or murder. When I told my family I was traveling there I was met with fear and worry. I was well-aware of the violent reputation, and the US Department of State’s travel warnings, but something drew me in. If you look at the Global Peace Index, you’ll find that El Salvador actually ranks as safer than places like China and Mexico, places that see way more visitors than El Salvador.
I am happy to say that during my seven days exploring the country, I did not experience any violence or crime. Though El Salvador has the reputation of being dangerous, here’s why I can’t wait to go back there.
There are relatively few tourists.
One of the best things about El Salvador is that is it not overrun by tourists. You won’t find large crowds of people within the attractions. Your hotels won’t be filled to capacity. You won’t feel like just another tourist in the crowd. Due to the lack of tourists, El Salvador is one place you can travel and have an authentic cultural experience.
It’s a budget-friendly place to travel.
You can easily find accommodations from $8-$15 per night. Food costs around $10 a day. Transportation via local bus won’t cost you more than $2 for an hour-long ride. There were even many US products I found to be cheaper in El Salvador than in the States.
It’s the home of pupusas.
Pupusas are a classic El Salvadorian food, that will make both your taste buds and your wallet happy. They are essentially a thicker version of a tortilla, stuffed with cheese, chicken, beans, and whatever else your heart desires. Two pupusas are usually enough to fill you up, and will only set you back a couple of bucks.
It has an amazing and far-reaching cultural history.
This country’s history dates back to around 3000 BCE, when the Mayan civilizations lived in the region. Today, you can still see ruins — like Tazumal and Joya de Cerén — from this time when visiting El Salvador. In addition to its ancient history, visitors can learn about the Spanish conquering of El Salvador and its recent Civil War at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in San Salvador.
There are some seriously pretty little towns.
Many of them are in an area called La Ruta de las Flores, or the Route of the Flowers. This mountainous area is known for its little villages, covered in vibrant flora. If the big city scene is not for you, head into the mountains and explore them. Some notable places include Apaneca, Concepcion de Ataco, and Juayua.
It has super chilled out beach towns.
El Salvador has a small patch of Pacific coastline and is a great destination for surfers. But for me, the real draw to the coast is the chilled-out vibe that everyone seems to exude. With the warm weather, the ocean waves, and the abundance of cheap piña coladas, the beach towns are a great place to just relax and enjoy your surroundings. Try the towns of El Tunco, El Sunzal, or El Zonte to experience this vibe for yourself.
For a small country it has an amazing variety of landscapes and lifestyles.
There are so many different places to visit within El Salvador. From the coastal beach towns to the large cities, the small mountain villages to the volcanoes and lakes, there is just so much to take in. If you’ve grown tired of one area of El Salvador or if it just does not interest you, it’s not a problem. Simply move along to a new area to see and experience a whole new part of the country.