What to Do in El Salvador

El Salvador has plenty to keep visitors busy for a long vacation, regardless of their interests. For a small country still recovering from a civil war, there’s a surprising number of good art galleries and museums, and a number of historic sites documenting the war. Most visitors will want to explore the country’s great outdoors, whether at its national parks, its volcanos, or its beaches—or all three.

San Salvador, El Salvador
From the outside, it’s hard to imagine that the interior of Iglesia Rosario is anything special, but just wait; once you’re inside you may well agree with the numerous travel writers who have called this the most beautiful contemporary church in Latin America. An arched roof with inlaid stained glass creates a constantly changing light show, a multi-colored gilding of an otherwise simple scene.
Calle Gerardo Barrios
The country’s original Palacio Nacional burned down in 1889; the one standing today was rebuilt between 1905 and 1911. It’s said that the structure was paid for by levying a sort of tax on coffee exports: one colón for every 100 pounds of coffee. Visitors may be disappointed that they can’t access most of the interior rooms, but they can walk through the beautiful courtyard and learn more about the building’s history with museum exhibits in English and Spanish.
Avenida Jerusalen, San Salvador, El Salvador
True, the dance and music forms known as bachata and salsa didn’t originate in El Salvador, but that doesn’t mean you can’t perfect your own moves while on a vacation here. The Balaré Academy in San Salvador offers bargain-priced classes for people of all skill levels; most are held in the evening.
El Salvador
Trogons, motmots, kingfishers, and emerald toucanets are among the hundreds of avians that can be spotted in El Salvador, which attracts migratory birds, too, thanks to its climate. The varied geography of the country also ensures a variety of birds, from tropical toucans to mountain-loving raptors and other large birds of prey. The nature group SalvaNatura operates bird-watching tours to two of the country’s national parks.
Calle Israel Ayala
The Monsignor Romero Center, located on the grounds of the Central American University, has a museum that honors the victims and heroes of the Salvadoran civil war. While much of the material—including albums full of disturbing photos—may not be appropriate for children, the center, when considered alongside other historical sites that remember this era, helps adult visitors understand part of the bigger picture of El Salvador’s recent past.
Avenida Manuel Enrique Arujo, San Salvador, El Salvador
Shopping at local markets is always a highlight of travel in Latin America, where you can often learn about the crafts and items for sale from the vendors—many of whom are the same artisans or craftspeople who made those objects. At the National Handcrafts Market in San Salvador, textiles, pottery, paintings, and musical instruments are just some of the items for sale, reflecting the typical arts and crafts of El Salvador and neighboring countries.
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