Chriss Moss, The Daily Telegraph, January 02, 2013
Why? Travel that confounds expectations is always deeply satisfying. El Salvador is Central America’s smallest country and is best known elsewhere in the world for its 1979-92 civil war, its gangs (in the US and at home) and for not being quite as “Mayan” as Guatemala, its neighbour. It is also one of the world’s unsung wonders, with a chain of perfect cone-shaped volcanoes and huge lakes inside craters, an established surfing scene and some fine beaches, a modern, tree-filled capital and a northern flank of pine-forested mountains – and it has Mayan sites, such as the Unesco-listed Joya de Cerén.
Suchitoto is El Salvador’s prettiest colonial-era town – and a great first base. Thanks to its mansion setting, art, antiques, its Franco-Salvadorean fusion restaurant and its general opulence, Los Almendros de San Lorenzo is a genuine “destination hotel” – and all for the price of a Costa Rican b&b. Perquin, in the hills of the Oriente region is one of the places where the memory of the 1980s war between government and guerrillas has been turned into something approaching a “tourist” experience. This simply means that you can be guided around the monuments and the hillsides by former combatants – on the guerrilla side – and visit Perquin’s Museo de la Revolución with people who know what they’re talking about. In the west, El Imposible is El Salvador’s wonderfully named, beautifully mountainous national park. You can see Guatemala’s volcanoes from the peaks here, but don’t forget to look back at El Salvador’s – they are magnificent, unphotographed, and very close.
How to go: Journey Latin America can organise visits to El Salvador that combine El Imposible and Suchitoto with the Mayan site at Copán in Honduras, starting from £1,322 per person plus flights.
More on Central America
Panama Canal: happy birthday to the 'big ditch'
The world's most remote hotels
Mexico: a date with mystical Mayan time lords
El Salvador: war and peace
Guatemala: finding peace in the volcano’s shadow
Belize: living the righteous life