Central America: El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, yet it has no fewer than 25 volcanoes, including steaming Izalco, which first appeared about 200 years ago, and Santa Ana, the highest in the country. The country's volcanic terrain offers many opportunities for hikers and other activities including surfing, rafting, kayaking and boating.

Some highlights:

  • Cerro Verde National Park: Located west of San Salvador and above the mountain lake of Lago de Coatepeque, the park is home to more than 120 species of birds, including 17 kinds of hummingbirds. The park lodge looks out on the 6,200-foot Izalco volcano, and visitors can climb to the volcano rim.
  • Joya de Ceren: This village, west from the capital, thrived 1,400 years ago before being buried intact by lava from the Laguna Caldera volcano around the year 600. On site is a museum housing the excavations from original adobe houses unearthed with household goods and utensils intact.
  • Tazumal: This is El Salvador's most significant Maya ceremonial center, featuring a step pyramid, ball courts and temples. It was built between the fifth and ninth centuries. The archaeological zone lies next to the town of Chalchupa, whose shops are full of colorful wooden masks.
  • Craft Villages: North from the capital is La Palma, with crafts from decorative canvases to painted wooden art. Tell clients to drive east (regional markets held on Fridays) to Ilobasco, specializing in ceramic figures and to San Sebastian, known for its textile crafts of making hammocks, bedspreads and tablecloths.
  • Fiestas: Village saints' days or holidays are marked with street fairs and processions, with participants in traditional garb. Easter is a major celebration everywhere, and the town of Sonsonate in the western part of the country is noted for its Holy Week observance.
  • Montecristo Cloud Forest: Also called El Trufinio, it is open only October to March. Located where the borders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras meet, the reserve is protected by all three countries. It shelters a variety of microclimates and possibly the greatest diversity of wildlife in Central America.
  • Sample

    El Salvador Package

    Discover El Salvador: Four nights, visiting San Salvador, Joya de Ceren, San Andres, Lake Coatepeque, Cerro Verde, Costa del Sol on the Pacific Ocean costs $691, with first class hotels, transportation and guides. Maya Tours in Boca Raton, Fla.; (561) 477-4848 or (800) 392-6292. n

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