El Salvador’s topography will have its visitors straining their necks trying to take in its magnificent mountainous regions splattered with a few volcanoes – 23 to be exact. That is, twenty-three active volcanoes. That’s an astonishing amount for such a small country the size of the state of Massachusetts.
The last eruption was recorded in 2013 when the most active volcano, Chaparrastique (San Miguel), spewed out a massive cloud of black smoke and ash approximately 5 kilometers high. It’s interesting to note that most, if not all, of the names of the volcanoes in El Salvador originate from Nahuatl, an ancient now endangered language which was spoken by indigenous tribes.
I’ve seen a few volcanoes throughout my travels and each time I stand at the edge of the menacing, smoke-producing craters like that of the mouth of a mythical dragon, I feel transfixed and incredibly vulnerable. While I only had the chance to visit one of the volcanoes, it, nonetheless, brought me closer to deep within the belly of El Salvador.
QUEZALTEPEQUE (SAN SALVADOR) VOLCANO
Parque El Boquerón is located at the top of the Quezaltepeque (San Salvador) Volcano rendering it one of the most fertile volcanoes brimming with native plants and lush vegetation. Well-marked and well-maintained trails indicate the way up to the volcano. I climbed up using the series of sturdy stairs which made it a little less strenuous.
Once at the summit, I caught my breath, wiped my sweaty brow and, as I stood on the rim of this massive beast, I contemplated its potential calamity. I was humbled and well aware of my smallness in the face of Quezaltepeque.
Apparently there used to be a lake inside the crater but the last eruption completely evaporated it creating el boquerón (big mouth) – a smaller crater within Quezaltepeque.
Elevation: 1867 meters / 6125 feet above sea level
Diameter: 1.5 kilometers / 1 mile
Last eruption: 1917
Along the highway, volcanic rock from the 1917 eruption remains untouched covering a large part of the surrounding area of the San Salvador Volcano. The Joyas Negras viewpoint allows visitors to witness up close the incredible strength and power of the volcano that caused irreparable damage and left a permanent scar on the landscape.
Though technically not a volcano anymore, Lake Coatepeque is a volcanic caldera located on the Eastern side of the Ilamatepec (Santa Ana) Volcano. The pristine sparkling blue water attracts vacationers from the nearby hectic capital city of San Salvador. Several private beach houses speckle the shores of the lake making this an ideal weekend getaway for city dwellers.
Nestled in one of the corners of the lake is Teopan Island where the Quiches lineage descending from Mayan ancestors chose to settle hundreds of years ago. Legend has it they chose this remote island to seek safety from their enemy, the Xibalbhans who had a fear of water.
Today Teopan Island has become an exclusive vacation spot for wealthy Salvadorians.
With so many volcanoes, it’s normal to come across a few while driving along the serpentine roads. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of these two but it just goes to show how much volcanoes dominate the landscape in El Salvador.
Read all about my travels in El Salvador!
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Do you enjoy visiting volcanoes? Do you have a favorite one?