So moving on from Guatemala we had to change our original plans somewhat. Our plan was to do Guatemala > Utila an island off Honduras > Nicaragua. Unfortunately due to the civil unrest and social problems currently happening in Nicaragua we had to give it a miss. Instead we decided to spend a week in El Salvador before flying over to Costa Rica.
The problems in Nicaragua only seem to be getting worse by the day with the President Ortega refusing to address the societal problems and ordering the police to open fire into protestors who are mainly students. In the past week we have seen more and more posts on social media of hostels having to close doors now which is sad to see. We hope the problems stop as soon as possible and that it is once again a great country to go to. The protests started off as a way of protesting against the retirement and benefits reform which was done by presidential decree but is turning into something much bigger and more powerful. A protest against authotarianism and political oppression.
Moving back to where we are up to with our travels. We got a shuttle bus from Antigua to El Tunco beach in El Salvador. The driving time was only 5 hours however it took a full two hours to cross the border. Needless to say organisation was not a priority from either country. The town of El Tunco is very small and on the beach with the backdrop of the jungle on the other side. We stayed at a place called El Tunco Lodge which was pretty nice. Air con in rooms, swimming pool, pool table, ping pong and decently priced food. We spent our entire time here just chilling out after our action packed 3 weeks in Guatemala. We stayed 3 nights before moving onto the next place – Santa Ana.
To get to Santa Ana we had a choice of a private shuttle bus or public buses. The shuttle being $25 each, we got the chicken bus route. We got the first bus to San Salvador for $1.50 which unfortunately didn’t drop us at the bus station we needed to get off at (apparently we just needed to ask the driver), followed by another bus from a different station in San Salvador to Santa Ana. We were expecting the old American school buses but were pleasantly surprised to find coaches. The price of this bus was $1.30 each.
In Santa Ana we booked a place called Casa Verde for 3 nights. We’d heard amazing stories about this place and they turned out to be true. With no exaggeration this was the best place we have stayed at so far and it will take some dislodging. We were booked into a private room at $28 per night (dorm beds were $11 each) and the room was as good as a nice hotel room. The ‘creme de la creme’ was the ensuite bathroom. The best shower ever (better than at home!), lots of storage racks and spacious. The rest of the hostel was just as amazing, there were two fully equip kitchens and by fully equip we are talking about gas hobs, oven, food processors, blenders, grills, all the pots and pans, coffee beans all day and a full fridge shelf to yourself. It was insane! In terms of facilities there was a nice swimming pool, a BBQ, plenty of hammocks and outdoor seating and a well priced beer and wine selection. It was perfect. So perfect we extended our stay to 4 nights.
Without wanting to come across as lazy, we did not do too much during our time here. We blame you Casa Verde!! The place was just so nice we just wanted to stay in, cook loads of food and chill out some more.
On our penultimate day we went on an all day trip to the Volcano Santa Ana and Lake Coatepeque. We went with a tour organised by the hostel as this was the only way of doing the volcano trek and seeing the lake in the same day. Well worth the $15 each. The alternative is getting chicken buses to either the volcano or the lake. There is a very limited service (i.e one bus there in the morning, one back in the afternoon) hence why you cannot do both the trek and the lake in one day without doing a tour. Another bonus is that we left at 9:30 whereas to get the chicken bus you had to leave before 7:30am.
We arrived at the start of the trek and grouped up with everyone who had got the chicken bus that morning. To do the trek you need to go with a guide and two national park police officers so we were introduced to the guide, everyone paid him $1 and we set off. The trek was about an hour long starting through trees and shrubs as we gradually made our way up. About two thirds of the way up the vegetation stopped and we were left with rocky paths overlooking the surrounding areas.
Upon arriving at the summit we were treated to some awesome sights. The crater is huge and lying at the bottom of it is a sulphur mineral lake. As you can see from the photos the colour is incredible with gas smoke rising from the boiling water. The guide informed us that is comprised of 90% sulphur and the rest of gas minerals. The temperature also reaches over 200 degrees Celsius. It really was breath-taking and well worth the walk up. We had a picnic lunch at the top of the volcano then started our climb down to the bottom, accompanied by some mountain dogs.
Once we arrived back down we headed off to the lake with our driver Henry and two other guys from our hostel. We arrived there within 30 minutes had a couple of beers overlooking the lake then decided to hire a boat out for an hour for $6 each. The captain showed us all the mansions surrounding the lake, including the house of the president, the owner of Pollo Campero and the owner of the national newspaper. The houses were unreal with some having their own tennis courts and all having huge boats docked outside.
Stu and the two other guys spent time swimming around in the middle of the lake. The weather was not the best as it was raining quite heavily but the lake water was nice and warm so it still was still fun. The lake is actually a volcanic crater so you are completely surrounded by hillside.
Once out and dried we headed back to the hostel for our last night there. The next day we just chilled in the morning and around 2pm we made our way to San Salvador on the public bus and changed onto another bus that took us close to the airport. As we needed to be at the airport (45km away from San Salvador) we stayed at an airport hotel and just got an uber in the morning to get our flight.
Overall we had a great week in El Salvador. We always felt safe and welcomed contrary to what is said about the country, and would recommend anyone to go there. The people are kind and welcoming, and there are many beautiful places to visit.