By , April 16, 2012 11:00 am

We went to El Salvador for the pupusas.  Unexpectedly, it became our favourite country we’ve visited in Central America.

Tree at entrance of San Andres ruins

I say that it was unexpected because we hadn’t heard many good things from other travelers.  The Yucatan, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Utila… all of these places had come highly recommended and we expected to fall in love with them before we even arrived.  But El Salvador was rarely visited and rarely recommended.  The most memorable advice came from a pair of nurses we met in Guatemala that had spent several months volunteering in El Salvador.  They told us it was so dangerous with all its gang violence that we shouldn’t even consider going there.  When we explained our pupusa desire, they suggested making a quick day trip across the border and getting out.

Luckily for us, we didn’t listen to them.  If we didn’t have flights and a cruise booked in April, we would – without a doubt – still be in El Salvador (ever since we booked the tickets, we’ve been wishing for more time at each place… we’re really missing the flexibility that came with having no future plans).

Mike, processing cashew nuts

Why do we love El Salvador?  The people are amazing.  They’re not just friendly, but downright go-out-of-their-way-to-make-sure-we’re-taken-care-of helpful.  On a few occasions, people would even stop whatever they were doing and start flagging down buses for us to make sure we got on the right one.  The landscape was stunning, the energy in the towns was invigorating, and, of course, the pupusas were to die for.  What more could you want?

Coconut soup in the making

El Salvador Summary:

Length of Stay:  19 days
Average Cost per Day for Two People:  $23.26
Cities Visited:  4
Distance Traveled:  748 km in 17 buses
Days Sick:  0 for Ashley, 2 for Mike
Number of Items Lost:  0
Biggest Tourist Traps:  none
Exchange Rate:  $1 CAD =$1 USD (the US Dollar is the official currency in El Salvador)

For more great stats, check out our statistics page!

Church in Juayua

Our Route

Honduras border [El Espino] – San Miguel – Juayua (Ataco) – Playa El Tunco – Organic farm near San Andres Ruinas – Honduras border [Anguiatu]

El Salvador Route

Highlights

  • Connecting with the food we eat while WWOOFing on an organic farm… our eleven days here were a game changer for us!
  • The laidback vibe and mountain scenery of Juayua and the brilliant murals in Ataco on the Ruta de las Flores
  • Surfing lesson in Playa El Tunco
  • The people… every we went, the people were beyond friendly

Sunset at Playa El Tunco

Lowlights

  • Mike got a nasty cold (on the back of another one earlier in Nicaragua) for several days, keeping us out of the surf until the last minute in Playa El Tunco

Marañónes (cashew fruit)

Surprises/Lessons Learned

Note: Normally, these are separate categories, but for this country they seem to be one and the same.

  • The ENTIRE country!  I don’t think we were expecting a lot from El Salvador but we were blown away by the culture, the land, and the people.  I can’t believe how un-touristed the whole area is!  It just goes to show you that the best places often don’t come with the hype.
  • We may just be becoming vegetarians.  (I know, I know… we’re surprised too.)  After eleven days of eating delicious vegan food on the farm, feeling energetic as a result, and a few documentaries on factory farming and the health benefits of organic food, we’ll never look at lunch the same way again.
  • Sustainable food production may just be in our future.  We’ve never been more at peace than when we were living and working at the permaculture organic farm.  The last 27 years of my life have trained me that life can’t be that easy… but maybe it can.

Mural in Ataco

El Salvador Journal – Where Did We Spend Our Time?

San Miguel – 1 night
This was a stopover the break up the buses between Somoto, Nicaragua and Juayua, El Salvador.  Here we experienced our first (through eighth) authentic Salvadorean pupusas.

Juayua – 3 nights
We spent our time wondering around town, breathing in the mountain air, and enjoying the vibe.  We took in the smaller-than-normal food fair between our regular meals of pupusas.  Before we left, we took a day trip to beautiful Ataco to see the brilliantly-coloured murals that cover their walls.

Playa El Tunco – 4 nights
Mike’s cold kept us from doing much for the first few days.  We did a lot of blogging to prepare for our eleven days without technology on the farm.  On our last day, we tried our hand at surfing with our first ever lesson.  Mike rocked it (as much as you can in your first hour with a surfboard) and I was  a spectacular failure… but we had a blast doing it!

Organic Farm near San Andreas Ruinas – 11 nights
We found this farm through HelpX and decided to give a volunteer experience a try.  What an experience!  We planted veggies and gardens, picked fruit, learned how to cook organic vegetarian cuisine, practiced yoga, and exercised our mind through books, discussions and documentaries on healthy living, spirituality, economics and politics.  We left different people.


5 Responses to “El Salvador Roundup”

  1. Rhonda says:

    After reading your blog posts we can not wait to explore El Salvador on our own! And, we can’t wait to hear how the hike on the Camino goes, another thing on our list. lol..so many things, so little time!
    In respect to your time at the farm, we just watched the documentary Food Fight, which is about the influence Alice Waters & Chez Panisse had on healthy, organic food in the schools in California. I had known the story, of course, but fascinating all the same to see how great of an influence it really was.
    Enjoy the cruise!
    Cheers,
    Rhonda

  2. Trina says:

    It sounds absolutely fantastic. VSO has a really cool project in El Salvador. They using the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as a model for tourism and economy in a small town. The volunteers who go year after year love it there. You can check out more details in the Toronto Star article if you like.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/1161445–el-salvadoran-town-looks-to-stratford-for-a-better-future

  3. Florence says:

    Hi guys, sounds like you had a great adventure and nice to hear some positive things. I’m headed there net and like you hadn’t heard much. I wondered what the farm you worked on is called. I’m looking for exactly that and work away doesn’t have much online. Will be greatly appreciated
    Cheers
    Flo

  4. Silvia says:

    Great post guys! I’m going to El Salvador in 2 days so this was very helpful 🙂

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