Back then, I was heading back to Mexico City from San Jose (Costa Rica) by land. It was a bit of a rush as I merely had 1 month during which I spent 1 week in Costa Rica, 1 week in Nicaragua, 1 week in Mexico City and the rest in transportation and San Salvador. Ok, I was a bit afraid. But I realised that:
-If I didn’t go now; I would never go.
-It’s a country I barely know, except for all the bad media coverage. Time to discover the truth.
So heading to San Salvador I was, without any clue of what you could do there! And I did really enjoy the city; it was a nice preview and I wish to come back one day.
San Salvador, in 7 words: urban jungle, chaotic market, disco church, crater hike, all-you-can-eat pupusas, freedom & nights-at-home.
First of all, I love big cities; it felt great to finally stay in a huge urban area (as I didn’t go to Managua) and to blend into the daily life flow. A very good start was to stroll around the chaotic Mercado Central and feel the local vibes; good luck to find your way!
Not far is located the most surprising church I’ve seen so far… and I’ve seen churches! It’s the Iglesia El Rosario, designed by an architect-cum-artist that didn’t want it to look like a church. Job done… as it looks like an abandoned warehouse from the outside and a disco place from the inside!
It was also a nice surprise to leave the Costa Rican & Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto behind and try new things, like the very Salvadorian Quesadilla (nope, doesn’t look like the Mexican one) or Pupusa.
If there is one thing you should remember from this post, it’s pupusa, the national corn or rice paste big crepes that you can fill with basically anything and order everywhere, at any time. They eat it by itself or accompanied with a meal. See it as the equivalent of the French baguette or Mexican tortilla. Below, the only picture of pupusa I have where it’s filled with cheese, as a side dish.
San Salvador is located right in a valley; thus, the city is surrounded by mountains and it’s easy to have a break if you are tired of the urban craziness. So hold on to the back of a local minibus and go for a hike!
I particularly liked Parque El Boquerón: you have a nice view of San Salvador and a hike that takes place inside a volcano’s crater. And it was one of the most difficult hikes I did; no marked path, you are free to wander wherever you want (even if it’s your own responsibility), I needed to implement a “Petit Poucet” strategy not to get lost and sometimes had to climb down trees to continue!
San Salvador is not a hot spot for tourism and you do feel quite special to be there (just met a couple of travellers in my hostel). I was even the first foreigner of the day entering Iglesia El Rosario and it wasn’t that early! So enjoy this special feeling – which is usually not for big cities – and don’t be afraid if people approach because they are curious about you!
Finally, if it can help; I was staying at Hostal Cumbres del Volcan in a very safe area, with a nice staff and amazing dorm buddies. One thing I disliked a bit – and that I couldn’t really check deeply if it was necessary – is feeling forced to stay at home after sunset. It was a recommendation of the hostel staff and other travellers.
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