El Salvador – The Forgotten Country of Central America
Often forgotten, El Salvador is but a speck clinging to the Pacific Ocean in Central America but you might be surprised to know that this tiny country is big on diversity, though it remains humble about it. No less than 23 active volcanoes are dispersed throughout the tiny country. Its ancestors and cultural heritage are made up of ancient civilizations such as Pipils, descendants of the Mayans who migrated from Mexico.
After a twelve-year civil war ending in 1992, El Salvador was once again politically stable and benefited from a surge of travelers who flocked to its coffee-colored beaches. But in the past few years, this mountainous country has unfortunately suffered from negative headlines in the media; the number of intrepid travelers started to dwindle considerably. Gang and drug violence have increased at an alarming rate inciting travelers to bypass this volcanic land altogether and opting instead to visit surrounding countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua or Costa Rica.
It seems that El Salvador has become the forgotten country of Central America.
When I went to El Salvador, I stayed at an all-inclusive resort and although violence and crime weren’t as rampant as today, heavily-armed guards were never too far away. The helmet-topped men smartly dressed in their army fatigues always accompanied vacationers on excursions and were vigilantly on alert on the bus from the airport (which was about a 2-hour drive from San Salvador to the beach resort in Sonsonate).
While wandering around alone (veering away from the group) in the quaint towns, I never felt threatened and I was never hassled by vendors (or touts) trying to sell me something. This might not be the case in the hectic capital of San Salvador but I didn’t go so I can’t really say. I joined group tours when venturing outside the resort as it wasn’t recommended to go alone. This could’ve been true or it could’ve been a way to sell excursions or both but, in all fairness, the beach resort was rather isolated so getting around wasn’t easy.
I found the people of El Salvador to have a shy demeanor and to be somewhat reserved in regards to foreigners but, true to their Latin warmth and natural hospitality, they always returned a smile or greeted me with a friendly hola. The official (and only) currency in El Salvador is U.S. dollars but everything is quite cheap as in most countries in Central America. The best time to go to El Salvador is during the dry season which extends from November to April (I went in March). During this time, the sun and heat are at their prime turning sun-dwellers into shade-seekers; as one guide said: “Every day people ask me what the weather will be but here in El Salvador, it’s always either hot or very hot.”
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