Time isn’t always on our side when we travel. It’s a big world out there and we need to carefully pick and choose how to spend our time on the road. Thankfully, this one week El Salvador itinerary can help you make the most of that limited time.
A lot of visitors tend to stop over for a few weeks while trekking their way across Central America. And you can easily spend a lot of time in El Salvador. But this isn’t the reality for everyone, unfortunately. And if you’re one of those travellers who want to get a taste for this emerging destination but doesn’t have the time to dig too deep, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together the perfect one week El Salvador itinerary to showcase some of the highlights of this incredible country. Even if you’re tight on time, you’ll still be able to indulge in a little of everything El Salvador has to offer.
Highlights of El Salvador in One Week
Experience of San Salvador – 1 Day
Begin your week in El Salvador by getting an overall feel for the country. The sprawling and occasionally chaotic capital city is the perfect way to dive right in.
Here you’ll find parks to wander, like Parque Cuscatlán with elevated walkways and a moving memorial to those lost in the civil war. Explore the local markets like the wonderfully chaotic and authentic Mercado Central. Try some local cuisine fresh from the source.
Check out the historic churches like Metropolitan Cathedral, the burial place of Saint Oscar Romero. And you must not miss the awe-inspiring Iglesias Rosario, part church, part work of psychedelic art.
All of these activities can easily be done on your own with public transport or Uber. However, given time restraints, your best option would be to take a tour through one of these companies.
We’ve done the EC free walking tour on two separate occasions and it never fails as a great way to cover a lot of ground in a compact window.
Hike an Active Volcano – 1 Day
Next, you’ll make your way to the base of an active volcano. Today you’re going to hike to the edge of the crater.
You have two options here. You can make this journey from San Salvador or you can base yourself from Santa Ana, depending on your preference.
Whether you rent a car and drive yourself, hire a driver or take a shuttle, you’ll need to get yourself to Cerro Verde National Park. Once at the park, simply follow the steps from our detailed guide and enjoy the hike!
Depending on how you organized your way to the volcano, you can either return to San Salvador or head onward to Santa Ana for the evening.
Note: The Santa Ana volcano is roughly half way between San Salvador and Santa Ana. The biggest issue you’ll need to factor into your plans is how to store your luggage. The volcano hike takes several hours, so leaving personal belongings in your car might be a concern. The best option would be to keep anything you don’t need on the hike back at your accommodation in San Salvador or Santa Ana.
Visit the Ruta de las Flores – 2 Days
It’s time to explore one of the prettiest parts of El Salvador, the aptly named route of flowers.
The Ruta de las Flores is a 40-kilometre road that winds through a landscape of rolling green hills, coffee plantations and jungle. During the months of November through February, the entire region pops with the bloom of colourful flowers that line the road.
Along the Ruta are five small towns, each with its own distinct vibes and experiences. For the sake of maximizing your precious time, we suggest exploring the northern section around Ataco and Apaneca on the first day. On the second day, head to Juayua to hike to the famous Seven Waterfalls.
If you’re able to plan it, try to be in Juayua on Saturday for their incredible weekly food festival.
Beach Life at El Tunco and El Zonte – 3 Days
From the highlands to the famous El Salvador coast. There couldn’t be a better way to wind down your visit.
These towns are grouped here because you have a little freedom here to adjust to your tastes. El Tunco and El Zonte are a mere 20 minutes apart and are two of the most famous El Salvador beach towns. While it’s definitely worth spending some time in both, due to proximity you can easily base yourself in one and not have to move accommodation to see the other.
El Tunco is the livelier of the two beach towns and has been long-established as a backpacker hotspot. And with it, more of an upbeat nightlife scene — at least as far as beach towns go. It’s also the larger of the two towns, with ATMs, shopping, and other necessities.
On the other hand, El Zonte is much more laid back. It has everything you’d want in a sleepy beach town with just enough conveniences to make it easy. And while there are no ATMs in El Zonte, the town was an early adopter of Bitcoin. So load up your digital wallet before heading down.
Playa El Zonte
See the Guide
Take some surfing lessons, help release baby sea turtles, jump from waterfalls, explore the sea caves or simply sit back and sip a cold beer while watching the epic Salvadoran sunsets.
This itinerary could be done in the reverse order, depending on how quickly you want to get to the beach. But we highly recommend hitting the coast last as you’ll likely not want to leave.
Your one-week El Salvador experience has now come to an end. Hopefully it teased you enough to either extend your trip or make you want to return.