Quito – the world’s highest capital

Quito

ECUADOR
Quito Itinerary

The world's highest capital

Duration: at least one week

Stay:  Friends Hotel & Rooftop, Colonial House Inn OR Bunker Hause

After having such an incredible wildlife experience on the Galapagos Islands, we were ready for some city adventures in Quito. The world’s highest capital has been Lauri’s home for some time, so our visit almost felt like visiting home. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is perched high in the Andes mountains at an elevation of 9,350 feet. It is home to a variety of cultures and landscapes. From its world-renowned architecture and stunning views to its diverse mix of ethnic groups and creative people, Quito is a city not to be missed. 

Quito is an intense place to visit. However, if you feel like taking a break from the city, Quito’s surroundings will leave you speechless. Climb volcano Cotopaxi, venture out to the Amazon lowlands, explore the Quilotoa crater, or hang out in Mindo. There are countless things to do around Quito.

  • Sight Seeing 85% 85%
  • Culture 95% 95%
  • Activities 100% 100%
  • Nightlife 70% 70%

We loved the lively, authentic feeling and highly recommend spending at least a week in Quito to experience its incredible energy. Being a cultural hub, there is not only plenty to learn and discover in Quito, but you’ll also find some of the best food in all of South America. 

Take a teleferico and enjoy Quito's (literally) breathtaking views

High in the Andes, Quito offers fascinating views. The Teleferiqo, a 2.5 km long cable car route, leads over the slopes of the volcano Pichincha to the so-called Cruz Loma. Admittedly, it’s a bit nerve-racking to get up, but once we made it, the view was spectacular! We couldn’t decide whether to marvel at 1000 colorful houses or the dramatic mountain landscape. It is best to leave as soon as the Teleferiqo opens at 09:00 because the first clouds usually come up around noon. The ticket costs $7.50. Once you arrive at the top, you can find a nice place in the meadow, relax and soak up the view over Quito’s rooftops. If you still want to go higher, you can climb the peak of Rucu Pichincha in a three-hour hike

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Quito's Centro Historico:

The historic old town is, without a doubt, the jewel of the city. The old town deserves its very own “Things to do” because there is so much to discover.

Plaza Grande is a perfect starting point. Sit among locals, street vendors, and playing children and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s a lively and charming place. Imagine that just years ago, Ecuador’s former president had to be flown out of the Palast to avoid the protesting masses.

Our tip: Quito offers interesting free walking tours. Discover the old town, architecture, food, and surroundings with local guides.

img 12

Presidental Palace

At the Plaza, you will also find the Ecuadorian presidential palace, which you can visit as part of a free guided tour. We loved the detail with which our guide explained Ecuador’s somewhat turbulent history. Every Monday at 11 am, there is a “changing of guards” ceremony.

img 16

National Bank

One of our tour highlights was visiting the former Central Bank of Ecuador. There, we learned about the significant inflation and Ecuador’s tormented and turbulent times.

Today, Ecuador has overcome those times, and the colorful streets around the central Plaza can bear witness. In the many small alleys, you will find one architectural gem after the other. But unfortunately, many buildings, such as the Metropolitano Cultural Center, only reveal their beauty when entering them.

img 17

La Ronda (old town)

Finish your trip in the old town, either in pretty La Ronda or a chic restaurant in Parque Itchimbia.

La Ronda is an exciting little alley with many small bars and restaurants, colorful buildings, and artistic walls.

In Parque Itchimbia, you will find restaurants offering a magnificent view of the old town. Centro Historico has so much to offer that it is worth planning at least two days for a relaxing visit to the old city.

Masaya Nicaragua 26

Cathedrals, Churches & Monasteries

Ecuador is a country with a rich history and culture, and religion plays a large role in that. The capital city of Quito is home to some of the country’s most beautiful and historic churches. If you’re interested in learning more about Ecuador’s religious heritage, visiting these churches is a must. The Churches of San Francisco and La Compania de Jesus are two of Quito’s most popular tourist attractions. Both churches are incredibly ornate, with detailed architecture and stunning works of art. In addition, they offer a glimpse into the religious beliefs of the people of Ecuador. If you’re looking to experience this fascinating country’s rich culture and history, then be sure to add a visit to these churches to your itinerary.

img 12

Gothic Basilica de Voto National

Quito’s landmark impresses with its incredible towers. You can climb the basilica, and the views over Quito are stunning. However, it’s nothing for people with a fear of heights. The way leads over wobbly ladders and narrow transitions

img 16

Compañía de Jesús

The church of the Compañía de Jesús’s interior is almost entirely decorated with gold leaves. Although the church is considered the most beautiful in Ecuador, this exaggerated representation of a religious identity makes us rather thoughtful. The history of Ecuador and the dramatic conquest of the indigenous population was in no way glamorous.

img 17

El Sagrario

We found the church El Sagrario very pretty. Tucked away behind the cathedral, the church is too often overlooked. Although it is much less magnificent than the gilded Compañía de Jesús, El Sagrario scores with its striking colors, decorations, and authentic atmosphere.

 

Quito Ecuador 14

Chill out at Quito's many parks

Parks are a great way to spend an afternoon, especially when they are as beautiful as the ones in Quito. Parks provide a place for people to relax, picnic, and exercise. They can also be used as a space for cultural events and festivals. Parks in Quito include Parque La Carolina, Parque El Ejido, and Parque Itchimbia.

img 12

Park El Ejido

This lovely park is located between Mariscal and the Centro Historico. We loved hanging out there for two reasons: it’s a great place to meet locals, and there is tons of street food.

Street food vendors sell traditional delicacies at low prices. May it be meat skewers, plantains, mote (cooked and peeled corn grains), tostada (roasted corn grains), or merely a delicious fruit salad. We loved Ecuador’s food! The small country has a lot to offer in terms of culinary delights.

img 16

Parque La Carolina

Parque La Carolina is the largest park in the city and is home to a variety of trees and plants, as well as a lake where you can go canoeing or paddleboarding. Parque El Ejido is notable for its large fountain, built in the 19th century. Parque Itchimbia is located on a hill and offers stunning city views. Spending an afternoon in one of these parks is an excellent option if you’re looking for things to do in Quito.

img 17

Parque Metropolitano

Parque Metropolitano is one of the best places to go in Quito if you’re looking to get some fresh air and take in some stunning views. The park offers a number of hiking and biking trails, as well as plenty of open space to just sit and enjoy the view. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the top of Volcán Cotopaxi – one of the tallest volcanoes in the world. If you’re looking for something a little more active, Parque Metropolitano is definitely worth a visit.

Beach Nicaragua 4

Discover "Mitad del Mundo," the center of the world

Just outside of Quito, the capital on the equator, a monument marks the “center of the world.” A monolith with a globe at the top represents the Mitad, del Mundo. In addition, you’ll find a large park, museum, and planetarium close by. An excursion to the equator monument makes up for a relaxing day with a bit of history and culture.

Admission to the monument and museum is $5. You can reach Mitad del Mundo by public bus in about one hour for about 0,50 Cent.

Street art in Quito

The street art in Quito is some of the most vibrant and unique you’ll find anywhere in the world. From political statements to community pride, there’s a mural for everyone in Quito. The artists who create these murals are incredibly talented, and they’re often members of the community they’re painting in. This makes their work even more special, as it’s a way for them to connect with their neighbors and make a positive impact on their city. If you ever find yourself in Quito, be sure to seek out these amazing murals – they’re sure to brighten your day.

Quito Ecuador 2
Beach Nicaragua 4

Take a cooking class

If you’re interested in learning about Ecuadorian cuisine, what better way to do it than by taking a cooking class? Quito is filled with culinary institutes offering classes for all levels of interest and expertise. I took a cooking class while I was visiting Quito and it was one of the best decisions I made during my trip. Not only did I learn how to cook some traditional Ecuadorian dishes, but I also got to experience the culture and traditions firsthand. The cooking class was led by a local chef who was extremely knowledgeable about the cuisine and was able to answer any questions we had. It was a great way to learn about the food of Ecuador and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the culture through food.

Admission to the monument and museum is $5. You can reach Mitad del Mundo by public bus in about one hour for about 0,50 Cent.

Quito's nightlife

There’s no shortage of things to do in Quito after dark. Whether you’re in the mood for dancing, drinking, or simply socializing, you’ll find plenty of options. One of the best places to start your night is La Ronda. This pedestrian-only street is lined with bars, cafes, and restaurants, and it’s always lively. If you’re looking for something more low-key, grab a drink at one of the many rooftop bars in the city. For a truly traditional Ecuadorian experience, check out one of the many salsa clubs. And if you’re in the mood for live music, there are plenty of options, from jazz clubs to venues that feature local bands.

Quito Ecuador 2
Beach Nicaragua 4

Shop the local markets

Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, is a great place to get a taste of the country’s diverse culture. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting one of the many markets that dot the city. From fresh produce and handcrafted goods to delicious food, you’ll find a little of everything at Quito’s markets. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, spending an hour or two browsing the stalls and chatting with the vendors is a great way to get a feel for the city. Just be sure to haggle! Prices are usually negotiable, so it’s worth trying to get a better deal. And of course, there’s plenty of delicious food to try. So whether you’re looking to do some shopping or just soak up some local flavor, a visit to one of Quito’s markets is a great choice.

Daytrip: Otovalo - the biggest Quechua market in the world

Otavalo’s market has often been recommended to us, and after reading about it on “the queen of water” by Laura Resau, we were even more excited to go. (By the way: we highly recommend the book!)South America’s most famous and largest indigenous market is every Saturday in Otovalo. We were somewhat disappointed as the market offers identical products to Quito’s textile and artisan markets. Nevertheless, Otovalo is worth a visit! Take some time to spend the whole day in the village; it has a unique flair! In Otavalo, we observed and learned a lot more about indigenous. The Otovalenos are very proud of their indigenous heritage. Until today, they wear traditional clothing and speak Quechua predominantly.

Quito Ecuador 2

Get ready to travel Ecuador

How to get to Quito and away:

The airport is located about 45 minutes outside the city—a taxi costs around 25$ per car.

The buses in Quito operate from two terminals: Quitumbe in the south and Carcelen in the north of the city. You’ll need your passport to buy a ticket.

Quitumbe bus station

From Quitumbe station, buses leave the country’s south and can reach the coast, the Amazonas, and the southern highlands, such as Banos.

 

Carcelen bus station

The hub for all buses heading to the North of Ecuador, e.g., Otavalo or Ibarra. You can also hop on buses to Mitad del Mundo (40mins) and Mindo (2,5 hrs).

How to get around Quito

Transportation within the city is cheap and frequent. Just take the Trolebus for about 25 Cents. However, for your comfort, avoid Trolebus rides during rush hour.

Altitude sickness

You’ll feel some altitude sickness, so give yourself time to get used to it. Chewing coca leaves helps a lot.

Passport

Carry around a copy of your passport. You’ll need it to buy bus tickets or have a beer in a bar.

Safety in Quito:

Quito is safe during the daytime. However, some areas are prone to robberies. Exercise caution in big parks and viewpoints like the Angeles Statue. As always, don’t flash your valuables! Take a taxi at night.

Best time to travel to Quito

The summer months, if you don’t mind the heat. It rains quite a lot from November to February

Tap water

In Quito, Ecuador’s tap water is generally safe to drink. Though it may not be of the highest quality and can get contaminated through the old pipes used. Additionally, the water is treated with Chlorine. I personally prefer drinking my water from the Lifestraw Go, also because it keeps it cold.

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Trash: As anywhere in South America street food causes a lot of trash. Bring your foldable food container and cutlery with you. Don’t forget your Lifestraw Go 🙂

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Explore Ecuador – start your adventures from Quito

Day-trips from Quito

ECUADOR
Day-trips from Quito Itinerary

Volcanos, beaches, rainforests & more

When most people think of Ecuador, they automatically imagine the Galapagos Islands. However, this small country has much more to offer than just its world-famous archipelago. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located in the middle of the Andes and is an excellent starting point for exploring all three regions of the country. 

The mountain plateau, the Amazon region, and the coastal plain are all easily accessible from Quito. In this blog post, we will explore four different day trips you can take from Quito – each showcasing a distinct highlight of this fascinating country!

Day-trips from Quito

Otovalo – the Quechua market

South America’s most prominent indigenous market draws local and foreign visitors to Otovalo. Admittedly, the market now offers almost the same products as Quito’s textile and artisan markets. Nevertheless, Otovalo is worth a visit. Bring enough time to spend the whole day in the village. It’s a charming place with a unique flair. In Otavalo, you can get closer to the ethnic identity of Ecuador’s indigenous people. The Otovalenos are very proud of their indigenous heritage and continue to live their culture. They wear traditional clothes and speak Quechua predominantly.

You’ll find some museums and cultural centers around Otavalo that offer insights into the Quechua people’s history and way of life. We also loved reading “The Queen of water” by Laura Resau about life as an indigenous woman. Part of the moving story takes place in Otavalo, and it’s cool to discover the city after reading about it.

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
img 12

Quechua people in Ecuador

The Quechua people are a series of indigenous tribes that live in the Andean mountains of South America. However, Quechua refers more to the language than to a specific human group because many different tribes speak Quechua or closely related dialects. The Inca civilization was Quechua-speaking, and Quechua remained the Lingua Franca of the Andes even after the Spanish conquest. We had the opportunity to visit some Quechua communities on a recent trip to Ecuador. We were struck by their deep connection to the natural world. For the Quechua, nature is not something to be conquered or subdued but to be respected and protected. This worldview is evident in their traditional architecture, designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape. It is also apparent in their approach to farming, which is based on sustainable practices that have been passed down for generations. Spending time with the Quechua was a profoundly enriching experience. We came away with a greater appreciation for their culture and how they live in harmony with the natural world.

img 16

How to get to Otavalo?

From the Terrestre Carcelen terminal, it takes only 2 hours to get to Otavalo. As soon as you arrive, you have to name the place, and the bus companies will show you where to buy your ticket. The buses depart approximately every 30 minutes.

img 17

Best places to stay in Otovalo:

 

Granada, Nicaragua: market

Mindo – relaxation in the cloud forest

Whenever you feel like leaving Quito for more tranquility and fresher air, Mindo is the place for you. As a passionate horseback rider, the Andean village offered a welcomed alternative to the crowded city.

img 12

Things to do in Mindo

The small town is picturesquely nestled between mountains covered in a cloud forest. We loved exploring Mindo and the landscape by horse, but there also were plenty of other things to do. A butterfly farm, zip lines, and hiking routes will clear your mind. Mindo has gotten quite popular, yet it’s quiet during the week. We especially enjoyed eating at the Food Studio. The owners are super interesting Ecuadorians who moved away from the city searching for a healthier, quieter life—Mauricio and Claudia to work together to promote Ecuador’s diverse cuisine. 

img 16

How to get to Mindo?

Mindo lies on the route from Quito to Esmeralda. The bus leaves from near El Ejido and costs about 2,50$ and takes 2,5hrs. There are one or two buses from Mindo to Quito per day. Just ask your host a day in advance.

img 17

Best places to stay in Mindo:

 

Baños – natural baths, rafting, and more

Baños de Agua Santa is a small town located in central Ecuador. It is situated in a valley at the base of the active volcano, Tungurahua. Baños is known for its waterfalls, rivers, and thermal pools, as well as outdoor activities such as paragliding and mountain climbing. Baños means “baths of the holy water” in Spanish, and the town lives up to its name with its numerous natural hot springs. Baños is a popular tourist destination for Ecuadorians and foreigners, and it is easy to see why. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are endless opportunities for adventure. So whether you want to relax in the hot springs or challenge yourself with some extreme sports, Baños has something for everyone.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
img 12

Things to do in Banos, Ecuador:

Casa de Arbol

For many, casa Arbol is the main reason to visit Baños. You’ll find a giant swing. Because it was raining (as so often) at Lauri’s visit, she didn’t get to swing high across the mountains.

Climb a volcano

Organizing a tour of the mighty volcanos Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are easy. However, the hikes can get pretty cold and challenging. So make sure to come prepared!

img 16

How to get to Baños?

From Quito, take the bus from the Terrestre Quitumbe terminal. The trip takes about 3-4 hours and costs about $4. Bus travel is super easy. Just go to the terminal and ask for the next bus to Baños, there are regular connections, so there is no need to book a ticket in advance.

img 17

Best places to stay in Baños

Amazonas adventures

Ready to explore the Amazonian rainforest? You’ll find plenty of tour operators in Banos who will take you on a jungle day trip to Puyo and Lago Agrio. Make sure the trip goes as far as the lower Rio Napo so that you can experience the Amazonas’ biodiversity.

Go rafting

One of the highlights in Baños is rafting on the Rio Pastaza. Unfortunately, rafting is not cheap and costs about $30 for a half-day tour and about $100 for a full day. Transport, guide, equipment, and instruction are included in the price. If you want a little less action, try canyoning!

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: market

The Quilotoa Loop – A hikers' haven

The Andean villages around the Quilota loop make you feel like you have arrived at the world’s end. The highlands are super quiet and peaceful. Most accommodations are owner-occupied, so don’t expect too much comfort or hot water. This is little fun considering the mountain’s cold climate, but the beautiful scenery and the turquoise lagoon make up for it. The Quota Lagoon crater lake lies in the middle of a caldera. You can either descend the crater or circle it completely. The walk downwards takes about 3 hours; the circular route takes about six hours. The lush landscape around the crater lake, grazing alpacas, and sometimes even a view up to the snow-covered peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano create spectacular scenery. Although many travelers and trekking enthusiasts have already discovered Quilotoa, the area maintains its genuine charm and tranquility. You can hike yourself if you don’t like joining a tour.

img 12

How to get to Quilotoa?

Buses to Quilota leave from Quito’s Quitumbe bus terminal. You can buy the ticket on the day of your departure. For approx. 3 $ it goes then in 2 h only to Latacunga. Here you have to change buses and take a bus to one of the Andean communities around the Quilotoa Loop. The closest to the Quilotoa Lagoon is Zumbahua.

img 16

The best time to hike Quilota crater

The temperatures in Quilotoa are almost constant throughout the year. It’s cold and has an average of 10 degrees. It feels a lot colder, though! Expect lots of rainfall, too!

The best time to travel is from June to August. The summer months see the fewest rainfalls (about ten days per month). During the rest of the year, expect up to 22 rainy days per month.

img 17

Best places to stay around Quilotoa

Get ready to travel to Ecuador

Best time to travel to Ecuador:

The days are sunniest during June to September, but Ecuador is really an all year destination. 

Money

Exchange enough cash and always have cash on hand before you head out of Quito.

Safety in Ecuador

Ecuador is a pretty safe place to travel around. However, pay caution after sunset anywhere. make sure to have a copy of your passport on you. 

Tap water

You can not drink tap water in Ecuador. So make sure to bring your Lifestraw Go to enjoy cool water while avoiding having to buy plastic bottles. 

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Sunscreen: Protect marine life by wearing reef-friendly sunscreen.

 Trash: Bring your Lifestraw Go to keep your water cold, and avoid buying bottled water. A foldable food container and cutlery will go a long way, too!

Photography: The Indigenious communities are somewhat susceptible to photography, so be extra sensitive.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Santa Ana – a volcanic crater lake and colonial charm

Santa Ana – a volcanic crater lake and colonial charm

SANTA ANA

El Salvador
Santa Itinerary

The most amazing volcano experience in El Salvador

Duration: at least FIVE days

Stay:  Hostal Casa Verde

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 saw the turquoise crater lake. Despite stunning landscapes, Santa Ana offers a perfect base for travelers seeking to get to know the El Salvadorian culture and traditions. Yet, the charming colonial city maintains its authentic vibe, and you are unlikely to spot other travelers on the streets.

  • Activities 100% 100%
  • Authentic City Life 75% 75%
  • Culture 80% 80%
  • Adventure 75% 75%

Santa Ana, El Salvador’s second-largest city, marked the end of our travels. So naturally, we were slightly wistful once we got there. It took us one hour from Ataco to Santa Ana. However, our melancholy quickly faded when we met Rosi, our host, who picked us up from the city center. To be closer to the volcano, we decided to stay outside the city. As soon as we passed the gates of Rosi’s house, we were overwhelmed by the luxurious estate. Rosi’s son and best friend, Mario, greeted us warmly, and we quickly felt right at home.

The colonial city center

There are a handful of impressive colonial buildings in Santa Ana’s center. Admits them a gorgeous national theatre and an elaborate white cathedral. The side walls of the cathedral are decorated with delicate carvings. You’ll be able to spot the two buildings from Parque Central. Opposite the cathedral, you’ll find a nice restaurant that affords you a view over Parque Central.

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Hang out at Parque Colon and Mercado Colon

After enjoying the friendly atmosphere at Parque Central, we wandered towards the Parque Colon. Amongst your way, you’ll be able to spot colonial “ruins,” which inherit a charm of their own. Just be aware that you are strolling Santa Ana’s most notorious neighborhood. However, the area is rebuilt to allow for more social activities to prevent violence and other crimes. Mercado Colon is an excellent place to hang out, observe, or indulge in a bit of shopping spring. The market is lively, diverse, and cheap. But, because Santa Ana’s biggest market is super crowded at times, watch out for pickpocketers.

Cerro Verde National Park's breathtaking view

We enjoyed the city of Santa Ana, but to be honest, the region is prone to outdoor activities. After a couple of days in the city, we hopped on a bus and arrived and reached Cero Verde National Park within an hour’s journey. The park afforded us fascinating views over volcanoes Santa Ana, Izalco, and Cerro Verde. On top of that, we could spot Lago Coatepeque with its pristine, deep blue water. Together, these natural phenomena make up one of El Salvador’s most impressive landscapes.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Volcano Cerro Verde

The Cerro Verde National Park offers several hikes around the volcano and the park. The area is lush and green and a haven for nature lovers. You can choose between easy and challenging hikes. Several lookout platforms afford you breathtaking views of Lago Coatepeque. The caldera was formed thousands of years ago. If you are up for a swim, a little diving, or water skiing, Lago Coatepeque is the place for you. Just be aware that the lake is a favorite amongst El Salvador’s most affluent. Hence many restaurants and hotels are on the pricey side. 

Volcano Izalco

It’s a lot harder to climb volcano Izalco than volcano Santa Ana. The way up is steep, and the slippery slopes will lead you up before leading you down again. Zigzagging your way up, the hike takes a little longer than the Santa Ana hike.

Unfortunately, it’s only possible to visit volcano Izalco if sufficient people sign up for a tour. Santa Ana’s volcanic crater lake El Salvador’s highest volcano is called Illamatepec. We started our guided tour at 11 am. The hike up was a lot more challenging than we expected. Starting in a forest area, the beginning of your walk is pretty unimpressive.

As we got higher, the flora changed drastically. Colorful lava rocks from beige to orange and red are home to some absurdly impressive plants. The hike took us about two hours, and it’s steep sometimes. It’s pretty windy on top of the volcano, so bring a windbreaker! If the hike didn’t leave you breathless, the view over the volcano crater will most certainly. The turquoise sulphuric lake looks surreal. It’s so stunning that it seems impossible to take your eyes off the crater lake. As we continued to walk around the crater, we were rewarded with stunning views of Lago Coatepeque, too. It’s an impressive panorama, with Lago Coatepeque on one side and the mesmerizing sulphuric crater lake on the other. For obvious reasons, this hike highlights many travelers coming to El Salvador.

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Ruta de las Flores El Salvador 7

Lago Coatepeque

If you are up for a swim, a little diving, or water skiing, Lago Coatepeque is the place for you. Just be aware that the lake is a favorite amongst El Salvador’s most affluent. Hence many restaurants and hotels are on the pricey side.
Nonetheless, the lake is not as popular with international tourists as Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua.

Discover Mayan culture in Tazumal

Since we were headed to the ruins of Copan in Honduras, we skipped the trip to Tazumal. However, the historical site is one of the most important and impressive pre-Columbian sites in El Salvador. Excavated ruins cover an area of 10 km² and make up the most significant Mayan temple in El Salvador. If you didn’t get a chance to learn about the Mayan culture on your trip through Central America, Tazumal offers the perfect opportunity. You’ll find the ruins only 15 km from Santa Ana. A half-hour bus ride (bus line 218 towards Chalchuapa) from Santa Ana will take you almost to the entrance gate. Just let the bus driver know where you want to get off. They are super friendly and eager to help.

Santa Ana 1

Get ready to travel El Salvador

How to get to Santa Ana:

Bus 201 connects San Salvador and Santa Ana. The trip takes about 1,5 hours and costs $1,5. To get to Parque Cerro Verde, take bus 248 from La Vencedora bus terminal in Santa Ana (1.75 hrs, $0.85)

Where to stay in Santa Ana, El Salvador?

It’s pretty tricky to find a local sleeping arrangement in Santa Ana. Most of the hostels seem very large, crowded and owned by foreigners. So it’s worth checking out Airbnb.

Best time to hike to the crater lake

The best time to hike the volcano is in the dry season (from November to April). The sky is cloudless, and the bright blue sky promises the best views.

Hiking Santa Ana volcano

The tour to hike Santa Ana takes at least 5 hours. Usually, there will be two tours: one starting at 9 am and the second at 11 am. The hike was way more challenging than we expected. Bring enough water and sunscreen. There are two points to start the hike—one from the official gate, extending the tour by roughly 30 minutes. The second point to start is a bar at the bottom of the volcano. We wish we had taken this option but only found out too late.

Tap water

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.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Central America

Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure!

Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

Places to visit in El Salvador

Do not skip El Salvador! It’s one of the most amazing countries to visit in Central America!

Copan –  a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

Copan – a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

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.

read more

Ruta de Las Flores – picturesque trip through colorful villages

Ruta de Las Flores – picturesque trip through colorful villages

RUTA DE LAS FLORES

El Salvador
Ruta de las Flores Itinerary

Food markets, volcanos & colorful villages

Duration: at least one week

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 worldwide.

Ruta de las Flores was slowly leading us toward 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 would 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.

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.

Granada, Nicaragua: market

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.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia

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.

Food markets:

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.

Tap water

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.

El Cuco 7 1

Packing List Central America

Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure! Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

Places to visit in El Salvador

Do not skip El Salvador! It’s one of the most amazing countries to visit in Central America!

Copan –  a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

Copan – a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

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.

read more
Suchitoto – the place of flowers and birds

Suchitoto – the place of flowers and birds

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.

read more
San Salvador – a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

San Salvador – a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

San Salvador, El Salvador’s resilient heart. The capital bears deeps scares, many of them still visible at Centro Histórico and in the hearts and memories of its inhabitants. Its heartache was omnipresent, yet the city’s fierce determination for a better future, its hopes and aspirations are infectious and the reason why San Salvador is our favorite capital in Central America.

read more

Suchitoto – the place of flowers and birds

Suchitoto – the place of flowers and birds

SUCHITOTO

El Salvador
Suchitoto Itinerary

The place of flowers and birds

Duration: at least 5 days including a weekend

Stay: The Mayan Grouper or Casa 1800 Suchitoto Boutique

Suchitoto almost feels like a bit of a time and space journey after visiting busy San Salvador. The city’s name originates from the Nahual language and translates into “place of flowers and birds.” As the cultural capital, Suchi’s colorful historic houses are home to art galleries, boutique hostels, and NGOs.

El Salvador’s finest city

The tiny town charms you with its tranquil vibe as you wander around the cobblestone streets. Suchitoto’s affectionately planted and decorated streets and laid-back inhabitants radiate an authentic appeal. Located just 50 km northeast of San Salvador, Suchitoto is often visited on the weekends when streets come alive for arts and food festivals

  • Sight Seeing 85% 85%
  • Culture 95% 95%
  • Activities 100% 100%
  • Nightlife 70% 70%

From a turbulent past to a flourishing future

Guanaco pride is celebrated and lived in Suchitoto. Everyone we met told us affectionately how Suchi must be the best place to live in all of El Salvador. On top of that, little Suchitoto offers exciting surroundings for outdoor and history enthusiasts. El Salvador’s largest artificial lake, Lago Suchitlán, offers relaxing walks and excellent bird watching. The more active and history-interested shouldn’t miss a hike of volcán Guazapa, a former guerrilla stronghold.

Take in the view from a mirador

We arrived shortly before lunch with growling stomachs. We liked Suchitoto from the very first moment. It was challenging to stop for food before exploring the city. We were so eager to see more.
After we asked some locals for recommendations, we ended up at a lovely and delicious Mexican restaurant called Suchimex. As the only visitors, we quickly befriended the staff and heard the first stories about Suchitoto.
It seemed like everyone was fond and proud to live in such a beautiful, quiet town. After we feasted on some tasty burritos, the kind staff showed us a little mirrador from which we could look down on the red roofs of Suchitoto. Ee could even make up Lago Suchitlán in the distance.

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Enjoy the laid-back vibe and stroll around the colonial city

Revitalized from our delicious lunch, we wandered the cobblestone streets and started discovering the city. The roads are seamed with colorful colonial buildings, which automatically brighten your mood.

 

Iglesia Santa Lucia

Iglesia Santa Lucia shines so brightly that it can’t be missed. The church is one of El Salvador’s oldest religious sites and was built when Suchitoto was still a Mayan town. The city’s streets are picturesque, so it’s a lot of fun just strolling around. In addition, there are plenty of artistic boutiques.

 

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Casa de Museo

If you want a deeper understanding of Suchitoto’s role in the civil war and how it escaped destruction we recommend visiting Casa de Museo de Los Recuerdos Alejandro Cotto. Suchitoto’s most famous arts patron played a crucial role in saving the town. Today, the former house is home to a museum.

Go bird watching at Lago Suchitlán

El Salvador’s biggest artificial lake is a haven for bird-watching enthusiasts. Suchitoto’s spectacular backdrop was built in 1973 and now provides electricity to about 500 000 people in El Salvador. In addition, you can easily arrange boat tours at the port. Costs vary from $25 for a 45 minutes tour to the tranquil island of Isla de Ermitano and $30 for a one-hour bird-watching tour. It will take about 1 hour to visit Isla las Pájaros, the island of the waterbirds. ($30) A ferry across the lake also connects Suchitoto and San Francisco de Lempa.

 

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Suchitoto 3

Explore Volcán Guazapa and learn about the guerilla history

The extinct volcano does not only offer beautiful hikes but also provides its visitors with profound insights into El Salvador’s past. During the 1980s, the guerrilla stronghold became a war zone. The national army undertook massive military operations to fight the “Rebel Army.” Due to its strategic location, the rebels referred to Volcáno Guazapa as “a dart in the ribs enemy.” As a result, many families and veterans of the civil war live in this area. Nowadays, ex-guerrillas give visitors an insight into the life of a rebel during the civil war. You’ll see underground tunnels, shelters, and even a hospital as you wander around. It’s profoundly moving to listen to the stories of those who fought and have been fought.

 

Hike Cascada Los Tercios

This hike is super easy to do on your own. You’ll find Cascada Los Treciosis just 1.5 km outside of town. The 10-meter high wall of the waterfall consists of Basalt, which can also be found on the moon. Basalt is packed with tiny quartz crystals which sparkle in the sun and give the waterfall a distinct from-another-world look. Unfortunately, the rushing waterfall is only active from June to November. Usually, there are no security concerns if you want to walk alone, but make sure to ask around beforehand as the situation might change quickly.

Leon, Nicaragua: Central Park

Get ready to travel El Salvador

How to get to Suchitoto by bus

You can comfortably reach Suchitoto by bus from San Salvador’s Terminal de Occidente for $1. Our hostel also offered tours costing around $35. Getting to Suchi is very straightforward. The bus from Suchitoto to San Salvador leaves at the same corner you got off. Once you are back in San Salvador, exit the bus as it circles and will take you right back. Don’t laugh. It almost happened to us…

Food festivals on the weekend

On the weekends, the streets come alive with a food and art festival. In February, the city celebrates the town’s resident artists. As a result, the town becomes especially lively and packed with domestic tourists.
Festival Permanente de Arte y Cultura The festivities take place every February. It celebrates local artists. Little Suchi is bursting with life!

Tap water

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 Go, too.

packing

Packing List Central America

Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure! 

Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

Places to visit in El Salvador

Don’t skip El Salvador – our favorite Central American country <3

Copan –  a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

Copan – a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

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.

read more