Food markets, volcanos & colorful villages
Duration: at least one week
Ruta de las Flores was slowly leading us towards the end of our El Salvador trip. We didn’t feel
ready to leave San Salvador quite yet. San Salvador was nothing like we expected, and we felt
comfortable in the city. As it was time to move on, our friend Douglas asked his group of friends if someone was willing to go on a day trip and give us a ride to Juayúa. The next morning Gustavo, one of Douglas’s friends, picked us up, and we were off to El Salvador’s West.
Ruta de las Flores is undoubtedly one of El Salvador’s most popular tourist destinations. The 40 km winding road leading from Sonsonate to the colonial town Ahuachapán includes picturesque villages such as Juayúa, Concepción de Ataco, and Nahauizalco.
Each of them is unique with its colonial architecture and indigenous tones. Every El Salvadorian we asked adored the area for its “bien fresco” (pretty chilly) mountain air and beautiful scenery surrounding the villages. It’s a quiet, tranquil life in the communities, at least during the week.
On the weekends, food and artisan markets attract tourists from nearby San Salvador, and the streets
are buzzing with life. Western El Salvador is also a renowned coffee area. If you haven’t visited a
coffee plantation yet, we highly recommend visiting one in El Salvador. Coffee beans from El
Salvador are some of the most revered across the world.
Despite zipping coffee, Ruta de las Flores offers plenty of things to do.
Juayúa’s food festival
Juayúa means “River of the purple Orchids” in Nahuatl. Surrounded by lush green coffee fincas and several volcanos, the peaceful town comes to life on the weekends and offers plenty of things to enjoy life. Juayua was our entry to the famous Ruta de las Flores. As always, we arrived a little too late and missed the first day of the food market. Nonetheless, we had a relaxing time just walking around the small mountain village. The next day, we ventured out to Juayúa’s buzzing food market and tried as much typical food as possible. The atmosphere is incredible. When everything gets tranquil during the week, you can quickly arrange for some day trips. Visiting coffee plantations and hiking waterfalls are among the favorite activities in the Juayá area.
Nahuizalco - the former indigenous capital
The small, underdeveloped town managed to maintain an influential indigenous culture. As a result, it might be one of the very few places in El Salvador where you’ll find some older women wearing traditional clothing.
There are almost no hotels, so we recommend visiting the small town on a day trip. In addition, Nahuizalco boosts El Salvador’s only night market, a great place to try traditional Mayan cuisine.
Apaneca- El Salvador's highest town
Apaneca’s fresh air and lush surroundings invite you to visit its two sister lakes, Laguna Verde and Laguna de las Nifas. Enjoy the stunning views over nearby volcanos and coffee farms. The actual town is tranquil and mellow.
Conception de Ataco - our favorite
Its cobblestone streets and colorful houses are incredibly charming. It’s mellow but offers plenty of eye candies. Conception the Ataco is also home to a great weekend food and art market.
While the food market might be smaller than the one in neighboring Juayúa, you’ll find a more exotic atmosphere. Offers include grilled iguana and lizard and some typical sweets and treats from wild honey.
There are some beautiful churches, and the Mirador Buenos Aires offers a lookout over the city.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find many places to stay online, but as we walked around the town, we encountered numerous cute guesthouses for a reasonable price.
Get ready to travel El Salvador
How to get to "Ruta de las Flores"
You can quickly reach Ruta de las Flores, when you are coming by bus from San Salvador. It
shouldn’t take longer than 2,5 hours. Buses connect the villages along the Ruta de las Flores at least
once daily. Just ask someone to make sure. Buses are generally cheap and cost between 0,5$ and 1$
When going by car, it’s worth stopping by Lago Coatepeque. The 6 km wide caldera with its
sparkling blue water offers a dramatically beautiful view.
Best time to visit:
It’s indeed “bien fresco” compared to the rest of El Salvador. However, since it cools down at night,
bring a sweater. You’ll see most of the flowers blooming between November and February.
Where to stay on the Ruta de las Flores?
The most famous town for visitors is, without a doubt, Juayua. The surrounding villages have
extraordinary guesthouses which you can’t book online. So it’s worth wandering around and
choosing your accommodation spontaneously.
The villages framing Ruta de las Flores are tranquil on the weekdays and get busy on the weekends
with domestic and some international tourists. The food market in Juayúa opens at 11 am and closes
at 4 pm.
Do not drink tap water in El Salvador; bring your Lifestraw instead!
While water from the national water company (ANDA) is generally safe, you never know the water
source the restaurant, hotels, and so on may use.
Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler
Trash: As anywhere in Latin America, a lot of street food is served in plastic or one-way
containers. Make sure to bring your foldable food container with you. Don’t forget to bring your Lifestraw, too.
Packing List Central America
Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, get ready for an incredible adventure!
Places to visit in El Salvador
Do not skip El Salvador! It’s one of the most amazing countries to visit in Central America!
We traveled to Central America a couple of times and had the chance to see several Maya sites along the way. Each impressive in its own way. Contrary to other Maya ruins across Central America. You’ll often have Copan to yourself. The mysterious archaeological site boasts remarkable hieroglyphics and sculptures. On top of that, the town of Copan itself is drop-dead charming.
Excited for the last volcano for this journey was awaiting us tomorrow. Volcano Santa Ana’s incredibly impressive crater marks the highlight for many travelers coming to El Salvador for a good reason. We were left speechless (and breathless) when we first set our eyes on the turquoise crater lake.
Suchitoto almost feels like a little journey in time and space after we visited busy San Salvador. The city’s name originates from the Nahual language and translates into “place of flowers and birds.” Known as the cultural capital, Suchi’s colorful historic houses are home to art galleries, boutique hostels, and NGOs. On top of that, little Suchitoto offers and exciting surrounding for outdoor and history enthusiasts.