What's a Flower Route without some flowers?
Mike seemed pretty up in the air about the whole thing, but I insisted we needed to check it out. I didn't care so much about exploring the entire route, but wanted to experience at least a town or two.
We ended up making the beautiful town of Juayúa (who-ah-you-ah)
our home base, since it's famed for it's weekend fería gastronómica or food fair. The fair happens every weekend, so we arrived on a Friday so we wouldn't miss out on anything.
Juayúa is definitely set up for tourism, but it was interesting to notice that we were some of the very few foreign tourists there. It seems that most of the tourists that visit are Salvadorean, which leaves the authentic cultural experience intact. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and we met quite a few people that just wanted to chat.
Market stalls lining the street
We spent most of Saturday wandering the cobbled streets of Juayúa, enjoying the beauty around every corner. The town is one of the "greenest" we've encountered in a long time, with trees and flowers bursting out from every yard and fence. Every street offers a view of the volcanoes and mountains in the distance.
The Saturday food fair was up and running, though it was a little more low-key than the one described in the LP (no barbecued iguana, guinea pig, or frog skewers to be seen and the live music was a woman singing karaoke-style in the food tent), but it was still busy and full of options. We decided on sharing a $5 USD steak platter, which included a large, juicy and tender steak with chimichurri sauce, a grilled potato, a "sandwich" of what we think was mashed yucca and cheese between two really thick corn tortillas, some spicy coleslaw and a grilled green onion. We figured that the really interesting stuff would come out on Sunday.
Yuca frita (fried yucca) from the food fair
Alas, our timing was off. It turned out that Sunday was election day in El Salvador and, as a result, no food fair. You might think this was enough to turn us off the town (we did, after all, come to the Ruta de las Flores specifically for this food fair), but we were so enamoured with the charming town and its surroundings that we couldn't be disappointed.
Church at sunrise
Rather than hiking out to the nearby waterfall, we decided to spend Sunday morning exploring another of the route's towns, Ataco. Ataco is a brightly coloured town, with murals painted on several of the buildings.
Mural on one of the local businesses
Mike and I spent some time debating which town was prettier - Juayúa with it's greenery or Ataco with its murals - but it was an impossible decision to make. They are both lovely.
Without a doubt, I could easily spend a month or more taking in everything the Ruta de Las Flores area has to offer - waterfalls, nurseries, fresh fruits and veggies, coffee farms, furniture building, etc, etc. Unfortunately, we had upcoming plans to volunteer with an organic farm so were limited to two and a half days in the area. The charm of the area has left its mark on me, however, and I would definitely recommend a visit to the Flower Route to anyone travelling through El Salvador.
View from the streets of Apaneca, another town along the Ruta de las Flores
Lonely Planet describes the Ruta de Las Flores (Flower Route) as the "wildflower of Salvadorean tourism... a 36-km long winding trip through brightly colored colonial towns famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking to hidden waterfalls scattered throughout the glorious Cordillera Apaneca." What doesn't sound great about that?