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4 Days in San Salvador

Discover the best of San Salvador in 4 days. From vibrant city tours, ancient ruins, and volcanic hikes to colonial Suchitoto, experience culture and adventure.

I spent 4 days in San Salvador and was glad I decided to drop by after my 3-country backpacking in South America. From the moment I landed, every day brought something new. I wandered through historic streets, marveled at natural wonders, and dove into the rich culture. Along the way, I discovered hidden gems, learned local traditions, and tasted delicious cuisine. This city surprised me with its beauty and vibrancy. Join me as I recount the unforgettable journey through San Salvador, where every corner held a story waiting to be told.”

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sta Ana Volcano Hike)
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sta Ana Volcano Hike)

Day 1: Discovering the Heart of San Salvador

I landed in San Salvador at the crack of dawn at 5 AM, buzzing excitedly. By 9:30 AM, I joined a FREE city walking tour. It took us through the historical district, highlighting all the must-see spots, such as the El Rosario Church, The National Palace, The Cathedral of San Salvador, The Crypt of Monsignor Romero, and the Central Market. (Don’t forget to ask your guide for some recommendations on where to eat for the rest of your stay.) There’s also a paid walking tour, but I won’t recommend it if you want to save money. 

After the tour, I retraced our steps. This time, I ventured inside the places we had only admired from the outside or passed by. Then, roaming the city without a plan, I soaked in its vibrant atmosphere. I even got lost once, but that only added to the adventure. 

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure

Day 2: An Adventure Through El Salvador’s Natural and Historical Gems

The next day brought another tour but with a twist. We explored El Salvador’s stunning natural landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage Mayan Sites. Our journey began with the country’s breathtaking volcanoes and lakes, which were hailed as the “2nd 8th Wonder of the World for 2013.” The afternoon took us back to the Mayan ruins, where history came alive right before my eyes. I highly recommend this tour – the guide was terrific, and there were only 4 of us! 

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure 9parque Cerro Verde)

Day 3: A Step Back in Time in Suchitoto

On day three, I ventured to Suchitoto, the country’s first capital, by bus. Going there by bus on my own was actually easy. The hotel receptionist was clear with his instructions. This charming town captivated me with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. I visited the Santa Lucia Church, a masterpiece from 1853. Then explored the town’s art galleries, the Ruins’ Theater, and the House of Crafts. I even learned how to dye cloth with indigo, a traditional method. And you’ve got to visit the ‘Museum of a Thousand Plates.’ It’s an intriguing and mind-blowing collection. Returning to San Salvador, I marveled at the colonial houses. I enjoyed a panoramic view by sitting at a cute cafe overlooking Lake Suchitlán. This rural area of El Salvador was a treasure trove of natural beauty and history. If you don’t have a whole day to spare, you can join a half-day tour of Suchitoto

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sochitoto)
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sochitoto)

Day 4: Conquering the Sta Ana Volcano

The highlight of my trip was the hike to the Santa Ana Volcano. I’m telling you – you’ve got to do this! The views from up there were breathtaking. And if you are a fan of the story “The Little Prince,” you might find some places described familiar to you while hiking up there! We started early, dressed in comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes. The intermediate-level hike was challenging but rewarding, with stunning views of the Izalco Volcano and Lake Coatepeque in the background. Reaching the summit, I was amazed by the sulfur lagoon at the crater’s bottom. After descending, lunch by Lake Coatepeque was the perfect end to an exhilarating day.

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sta Ana Volcano)
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sta Ana Volcano)

Day 5: Sliding into the Rainbow and into Departure

On my last morning in San Salvador, I rode to the rainbow slide. This colorful attraction was not just a slide but a vibrant symbol of joy and creativity. Some tours combined this Rainbow Slide activity with other city tours. There’s no bus going up there, and it’s a bit far from the city. Taking an Uber is your best option. 

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Rainbow Slide)
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Rainbow Slide)

Afterward, I headed to the airport for my 8 PM flight, reflecting on the unforgettable experiences and the beauty of El Salvador.

Where to Stay in El Salvador

In San Salvador, accommodation options cater to all tastes. Backpackers rave about La Zona Hostel, which is known for its vibrant atmosphere and central location. Mid-range travelers find comfort at Hotel Armonía, offering great value with modern amenities. For a touch of luxury, Barceló San Salvador dazzles guests with its elegant rooms and stellar service, ideally near the city’s top attractions.

4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sitio Arqueologico San Andres)
4 Days in San Salvador: Culture, Nature, & Adventure (Sitio Arqueologico San Andres)

Goodbye, San Salvador!

Reflecting on my four days in San Salvador, I feel a deep connection to this vibrant city. I explored, learned, and experienced more than I imagined. From the historic streets to the majestic volcanoes, I made sure that my itinerary was of varied discoveries. I tasted the local flavors, embraced the culture, experienced nature, and made memories that will last forever. San Salvador, with its beauty and warmth, truly captured my heart. I leave enriched and grateful, dreaming of returning to this city. As they say, “El Salvador: Impresario!”

To Surf City – If You Have One More Day

Surf City, nestled along El Salvador’s Pacific Coast near El Tunco and El Sunzal, shines as a global surfing hotspot. Famous for its endless sunshine, top-notch waves, and warm weather all year, it’s a magnet for surfers worldwide. El Tunco stands out with its unique black sand beaches and lively nightlife, attracting locals and tourists alike. A quick trip from San Salvador, Surf City buzzes as a surfing epicenter, boasting exciting international contests and plenty of surf shops and schools. Perfect for experts and newbies, it promises an epic surfing journey.

HOW TO GET THERE: From San Salvador to El Tunco, it’s a 37-kilometer journey, taking about 30 to 60 minutes, traffic depending. Driving is your best bet for convenience. Rent a car, hit the scenic CA-4 and CA-2 roads, and find parking near the beach, though it fills up fast on busy days. Prefer buses? Catch one towards La Libertad and hop off at El Tunco or El Sunzal. It’s cheaper but slower, with several stops. Alternatively, book a shuttle or tour for a direct, worry-free ride, possibly with surf gear or lessons included.

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