Following the picturesque Ruta de las Flores (Flower Route) will have you meandering through quaint pueblitos each with its very own unique flare.
The first stop on my tour was the small town of Nahuizalco which gets its nomenclature from Nahuatl, the indigenous language of El Salvador’s ancestors known as the Pipils. Nahuizalco’s savoir faire is handmade straw-woven items such as baskets and bags which could often be seen balancing on women’s heads (or used as a hat for sun protection!).
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Central America if there wasn’t the ubiquitous central market. The market is sure to be bustling with the sound of shuffling feet heading in every direction and the sound of ruffled dollar bills in exchange for goods. As is customary, Sundays are the busiest day of the week; faithful devotees attend mass and then head to the market to check chores off their list: fish bought, bicycle fixed, meat chosen, fruits picked, cheap knock-offs bargained.
¡Arriba, arriba! ¡Ándale, ándale!
I reveled in simply observing the ever-changing scenery unfolding before me; women dressed in their Sunday best leaving a trail of whispered gossip behind them, men with calloused hands wearing baseball caps. To me, markets are the essence of any place, and this small, lively market with its stalls hastily built using rusty corrugated metal panels was no exception.
It might be hard to fathom but tiny El Salvador has a whole town dedicated to food! Juayua, dubbed the gourmet town, is where Salvadorian foodies get their fix on weekends when the famous food festival takes place. Encircling the town square and webbing out into the streets, several stalls serving local delicacies are set up to feed the hungry epicureans armed with their discerning palates.
Needless to say, the Juayua Food Festival is the perfect place to get a taste of everything edible El Salvador has to offer including the traditional dish bearing the cute name pupusas. Pupusas are made with thick, floury dough stuffed with a flavorful filling and topped with curtido – a spicy coleslaw.
Pssst…..After licking your fingers clean, head to the Templo del Señor Juayua in front of the main park where the crucifix of a melanin-rich Jesus is preciously kept. This black Jesus is highly venerated by Salvadorian Christians; a celebration in his honor is held every year from January 1st to January 15th attracting hundreds of believers from all corners of the country.
CONCEPCIÓN DE ATACO
The last town on the itinerary was Concepción de Ataco nestled in the Apaneca mountain range. The inhabitants of Ataco are direct descendants of the indigenous Pipils who founded this pueblito. Many still earn a living by selling their handmade products which are readily available for purchase in the shops.
Knowing it was my last chance to buy souvenirs, I scoured the shops while trying to take as many pictures of this very photogenic town; because what made Concepción de Ataco so endearing was how it was enhanced by colorful, vibrant naive art murals painted on many of the shops and houses.
In the end, the murals won; I didn’t purchase anything but I now have souvenirs that will last a lifetime!
Read all about my travels in El Salvador!
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Which town would be your favorite on this tour?