I’ve spent the last few weeks in El Salvador with my husband visiting his family, and I got this hair-brained idea that teachers might like to participate in a tour specifically for them. The fact that El Salvador doesn’t have much of a tourism infastructure yet, and it’s reputation for gang violence do not make it a student tour destination just yet, but I think it is possible.
I have spent the bulk of my time in western El Salvador, and I have found that the violence is mostly confined to certain neighborhoods in San Salvador. And, like Costa Rica, it is not advisable to go out at night. Another helpful tip is to go with a local resident or guide if traveling to an unfamiliar town.
So this is what my tour would look like:
Day 1: Arrive to San Salvador to stay the night. If time, visit a shopping mall (not very touristy, but safe to visit).
Day 2: Head out for the Ruta de las flores:
Nahuizalco–town with indigenous roots. Watch crafts being made, buy a tule basket and other crafts, visit the tiny museum, have a lunch that includes indigenous foods like tuyuyo.
Salcoatitán–According to the Moon guidebook, there is nothing to see there, but we had a nice coffee at the Museo de la Imprenta. The museum itself is tiny and not that interesting, but it appears they also have a woodworking shop and sell items in a small gift shop. I saw several signs advertising quesadilla artesanales (homemade), which is a sweet bread, not the Mexican kind of quesadilla. There also appears to be art shops, but I will have to return to find that out. There were lovely mosaics on the walls around town.
Juayúa–This would be on a Saturday so that we could visit the Feria Gastronómica for an early dinner. Other options would be a hike to the waterfalls called Las Siete Cascadas, or a coffee plantation tour. We would spend the night in this area.
Day 3: Ruta de las flores
Apaneca–visit the Laguna Verde and Laguna de Las Ninfas. There is also a zip-lining canopy tour available.
Ataco–visit the weekend artisanal market. There is also a coffee farm tour available here is we do not do it the day before.
Ahuachapán–visit the aguas termales and spend the night.
Tazumal–Mayan ruins between Ahuachapán and Santa Ana
Cerro Verde–easy hike up this dormant volcano and enjoy views of Volcán Izalco.
Volcán Santa Ana–another hiking option
Lago Coatepeque–since most of the lakefront is privately owned by wealthy Salvadorans, we would most likely enjoy views from the miradores along the highway above the lake.
Santa Ana–spend the night. There is an organic farm nearly that invites volunteers to work or teach classes at their local school; I think this would add an extra day to the trip.
San Andrés–Mayan ruins
Joya de Cerén–more Maya ruins; called the Pompeii of Central America because a volcanic eruption preserved the daily life of the common people of that era.
head to el Puerto de la Libertad to spend the night
Puerto de la Libertad–day at the beach; optional cacao plantation tour
Day 7 (and maybe Day 8): San Salvador
Catedral Metropolitana y Palacio Nacional
Museo Nacional de la Antropología
Museo de Arte de El Salvador
Museo de Arte Popular
Centro Monseñor Romero
Mercado Nacional de Artesanías
Day 8 or 9: Fly home
So that is my rough idea. I was also thinking that, since it is a group of teachers and we cannot go out much at night, we could do talleres some evenings where we could learn about certains aspects of Salvadoran history and culture in an immersion setting, complete with lesson plan ideas for teachers to take back to their classrooms. Some ideas I have are: making pupusas, coffee, cacao and sugar production, El Salvador’s civil war and Archbishop Romero, something related to the indigenous populations past and present, and Salvadoran authors and artists such as Roque Dalton and Fernando Llort.
I visited a school during my time here, and they were very welcoming, so I think I could arrange such a visit as part of the tour if this would be of interest to teachers. We could have a school tour and a student panel to converse with them about their lives and educational experiences, etc.
One caveat would be that this would be a trip best suited for El Salvador’s summer season from November to April. The winter months from May to September are rainy. This was my experience in Costa Rica on both my trips. We took students in June because that is our summer vacation, but both times we got soaked to the bone during excursions because of the downpours common during that time of year.
I think this trip would be great for El Salvador and it’s tiny and unexploited tourism industry, and a nice way to teachers to learn about this little country.
Update: I just learned of a colonial town named Suchitoto that looks interesting. There are also tours available to visit an indigo plantation to learn how the dye is grown and made. http://www.elgringosuchitoto.com/tours-around-suchitoto/organic-indigo-farm-and-dying-tour