El Salvador

El Salvador

A little country with a big impression!

My first traveling  experience in El Salvador was in October of 2015 when I attended the El Salvador Travel Mart in San Salvador. As a  travel specialist in Latin America, I am quite familiar with Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala so I felt this trip was a  great opportunity to broaden my knowledge of Latin America by visiting and connecting with tourism partners in El Salvador.

To be truthful, I had very little knowledge of what El Salvador was all about. All I had ever known was that it was a country that was victimized by a long standing civil war in the 1980’s as well as it’s reputation for having significant omnipresent gang violence. That being said, knowing it’s location between Nicaragua and Honduras, I knew that the geography of the country had to be beautiful because everywhere I’ve been in Central America has impressed me. What I needed to experience for myself was the “vibe” that El Salvador put off to me. I needed to meet its people, walk it’s streets, eat it’s food and sleep in its hotels for me to feel secure enough to send clients to this country that has had such a tarnished reputation over the years.

During my stay in El Salvador the first time, I was fortunate to travel throughout the country and visit some of it’s highlighted tourist routes and towns. We traveled to some quaint colonial towns such as Ataco, Suchitoto, Apaneca as well as the iconic beach town of El Tunco experiencing what tourists ( as we were) would experience on their future trips to El Salvador.

What struck me most of my travels through El Salvador was this:

  1. It’s people. Never in my life have I met people so gracious and excited to not only meet me but to engage with me. Granted I speak Spanish so it was a bit easier to communicate, but from truck loads of people going to church to a passersby on the street, every single person looked me in the eye and greeted me with a warm smile. There was never a feeling of “us” versus “them” ~ it was more of a communal and welcoming connectedness.
  2. The scenery. 7 volcanoes make El Salvador it’s home as well as many mountain ranges creating an incredibly impressive backdrop to rolling countrysides, it’s metropolis of San Salvador and all of the towns around El Salvador. There is no where you go in El Salvador that doesn’t offer you a breathtaking and inspiring view. I can’t talk about the scenery without talking about it’s coastline. El Salvador is a surfer’s paradise with it’s multiple hot spots for surfing, including Punta Roca in La Libertad, El Tunco, El Sunzal as well as Las Flores. The beaches in El Salvador range from  black volcanic sand beaches to rocky cove like beaches to long stretches of what seem like untouched territory. Warm ocean waters, beautiful sunsets and diverse beach settings left me wanting to stay for much longer than I was able to!
  3. The food. Pupusas specifically. I became aware of Pupusas here in United States as a client of mine from El Salvador would make them for me when I would visit her. Upon getting pregnant with my second son, Pupusa’s were a mainstay in my pregnancy diet. Pupusas are like cornmeal pancakes stuffed with cheese, pork, beans and a variety of other tasty things and then fried and served with “curtido” which is a cabbage slaw soaked in vinegar. Pupusas in El Salvador are VERY affordable, three for a $1.00 in most places. I was in heaven. Also to mention,  El Salvador sits on the coast so seafood is plentiful and delicious anywhere you go.
  4. It’s culture. When I speak of culture, I am referring to the general cultural of its people, their way of being and doing life, not specifying its Mayan heritage or other religious backgrounds, which is equally as important,  but it’s general cultural vibe as a country .Given the fact that El Salvador and it’s people had to weather the storm of a horrific civil war in the 1980’s, a myriad of earthquakes, and a number of other political and social issues that could have easily swallowed up the country, the people of El Salvador are as strong and as steadfast as ever. The sentiment among most people in El Salvador is that they will persevere, no matter what and that they love their country, their neighbors, their family and anyone else who is interested in knowing their their little slice of heaven.

El Salvador impressed me with it’s every corner of it’s being. The quaint colonial towns with cobblestone streets, lined with brightly painted murals and smelling of fresh baked bread and coffee entices anyone and everyone who visits to sit down, have a cup of coffee and just breath it all in enjoying the quiet simpleness that is colonial El Salvador.

I knew upon leaving El Salvador the first time that it would not be my first nor my last visit and that I would return to this little country that stole my heart and inspired my very own being. So, this past November, I returned back to El Salvador. This time, I set my sights on relaxing at the beach for a couple of days and trying  my hand at surfing again. I planted myself at the AST hotel in La Libertad where I spent three days staring into waves crashing against the rocky shore line, surfing, and meandering the streets with fellow hotel guests who were new to El Salvador. I spent a great deal of time just existing in El Salvador and embracing the vibe of everyday life.

Since I had been to El Salvador before, I was familiar with the vibe of the country (which I loved!) but as a travel agent, I was incredibly curious to pick the brains of fellow travelers new to El Salvador. As I spoke to a group of men varying in ages from 33-57 who came to surf, I asked them what they thought of their experience thus far. Their response elicited nothing less than pure smiles and rave reviews of “how nice the people are” and how rustically simple everything is yet how it feels so “peaceful”. Time and time again, the people I met with who were traveling throughout El Salvador for the first time said the same thing, “ I love it here, I don’t want to go home.” I think those declarations speak for themselves.

As an owner of a travel agency, Viva la Vida Travel, I am always on the lookout for great new experiences and destinations that will give travelers an experience of a lifetime, one that not only offers the rewards of beautiful hotels, scenery and food but one that offers clients  the opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually through culturally immersive experiences. El Salvador offers all of that and then some. So, to the traveler wanting more out of their next vacation, I definitely encourage them to explore El Salvador. As has been proven by myself, you can’t go to El Salvador just once in your life because it will continue to call you back long after you’ve left.

 

Viva la Vida Travel

Carmen Schaffer