El Salvador? Where’s that? As the smallest country in Central America, it’s also the most densely populated and many consider it to be the most beautiful. Lonely Planet, they of the guide books, named El Salvador as the #1 place to visit in 2010. If you’re driving, the roads are the best in Central America, the gas stations new, large and clean. If you’re flying in, the airport is 45 minutes out of San Salvador, the bright and shiny capital city, with some of the best nightlife in all of Central America.
The country has had its share of bad press and unpleasant memories, as does most of Central America. The new president, Mario Funes, has taken a firm grip on the media and his opponents: El Salvador is starting to look like it’s on the path to stability and if the city and the highways are any indication, the country is in good hands. There’d been concern about the President’s affiliation with the left-wing FMLA, Frente Marti Liberation Nacional, but he’s managed to assuage the fears of the long-time right-wing power brokers and the wheels of progress are slowly turning.
As with most of Central America, there are two seasons: the wet and the dry periods: June through October will see the afternoon clouds roll in and showers at night. It can get slightly chilly in January through March, especially in the higher altitudes if you’re near the volcanoes. The geography consists of a series of volcanic cones, running east to west, with the higher plateaus inland. The land slopes to the south, where the magnificent black sand beaches and world-class surfing is found. Are the volcano’s going to erupt? Maybe: El Salvador’s nickname is the Land of Volcanos, with the last major eruption occurring in December of 2005 when the Santa Ana volcano in western El Salvador blew rocks, smoke and ash almost ten thousand feet in the sky. Only three of the 21 volcanos in the country are considered to be active, so your odds are good for avoiding making an ash of yourself.
Do not miss the capital, San Salvador: there are superb restaurants, an exuberant night life and the largest shopping malls in Central America. The city has more than its share of excellent museums, ranging from modern art to Maya artifacts. The Guzman Museum is a perfect example of a well displayed assortment of dazzling ceramics, jade artifacts and a pictorial of early El Salvadorean life. If there’s time, take a tour of the Pompeii of Central America, the Maya remains known as Joya de Cera: it will raise more questions than you can imagine.