El Salvador


Capital: San Salvador

Size: 20,752 km²

Population: 6.1m

Currency: US dollar

Language: Spanish

Visas: Not required for UK nationals.

Food: Try pupusas, stuffed tortillas made of corn or ricemeal.

Drink: Coffee makes an excellent souvenir and is good value.

Festivals: There are many artisan fairs, for example at San Sebastián and San Vicente.

Lively and incredibly friendly; packed with volcanoes, rich forests and craggy mountains; fringed by golden beaches and first class waves which would satisfy the most adventurous surfer and sun-worshippers: El Salvador is a perfect one-stop destination.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with the capital San Salvador; it retains the charm of the Spanish era - one of the first European cities of the New World - but this crumbling metropolis sits in a pollution-filled valley and holes left by natural disasters have been filled with incongruous modern structures.

But beyond the city there are many compelling reasons for a visit. The northern hills around El Poy and Perquín are a haven for trekkers; Parque Nacional Cerro Verde offers dramatic, horizon-filling landscapes filled with hot springs and countless waterfalls; a challenging scrabble across the smoking cinder cone of Izalco volcano is rewarded by beautiful views over Lago de Coatepeque; and who could resist the draw of a national park called El Imposible?

To the south, long sandy beaches prized by surfers for decades stretch along the Costa del Sol to the Gulf of Fonseca, dotted with islets and bays to explore. In the west, wander through coffee plantations, soak up the beauty of the Ruta de las Flores or simply laze around, watching the daily display of Pacific sunsets.

The devastating earthquakes of early 2001 literally brought the country to its knees and a visit now to this beautiful country will make a valuable contribution to its revival.

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Getting there