El Salvador is an unexpected beauty in Central America. Not many travellers include this country in their itinerary because of its not so good reputation in terms of safety (Don’t worry, this wasn’t the case for us when we travelled there). I am quite glad we took our time across El Salvador and saw some of its most interesting attractions. After an impressive trip to the Santa Ana volcano and Lake Coatepeque, we headed west to have a closer look at the Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers), a series of coffee-producing towns which feature magnificent coffee flowers in the right season.
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Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers) of El Salvador
In the heart of El Salvador’s coffee region lies the scenic Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers). Ruta de las Flores consists of five small towns along a winding 35 km stretch of highway along the mountains. The name “Ruta de las Flores” was derived from the coffee flower blooms during the month of May. Unfortunately, although it was the first week of May when we were there, we didn’t see many of the white flowers during our visit. (I’m slowly realizing how important it is to travel during the right season but sometimes there isn’t much choice.) No worries, the towns of Ruta de las Flores are interesting enough to spend a few days for some arts, handicrafts, food and of course, coffee.
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The Best Towns of the Ruta de las Flores: Juayua, Apaneca and Ataco
The largest town among the five, Juayua was our base for the Ruta de las Flores. This is the busiest town in the route of the flowers, with an interesting square, a supermarket, some decent restaurants and hotels with views. The main attraction of this town is the Iglesia de Cristo Negro (Black Christ Church) located on the main square – thus named because of the statue’s colour.
If you are into nature and adventure, make sure to visit the waterfalls Los Chorros de la Calera. Some hotels offer coffee plantation tours and include this on the itinerary but it is also possible to do it on your own by tuktuk (We paid about $4 for two people). Our visit to this waterfall was definitely one of the highlights of our time in the Ruta de las Flores!
If you have time, make sure to visit Juayua during the weekend for the Ruta de las Flores’ artisan and food festival. We didn’t have time to do this though. Have you been to this festival? Let us know about your experience.
Apaneca is a quiet little town in Ruta de las Flores – a little too quiet. When we went for a day trip there, it was almost like a ghost town! There isn’t much going on but it’s not completely a waste to spend a few hours to look at the colourful murals on the houses there and to visit the pretty white church. The best thing about this town is the view of the hillside coffee farms. Apparently, zip-line canopy tours are becoming quite popular in the coffee plantations in this area. We saw a few of these coffee farms in this town along the way and they did look pretty impressive.
Dressed in colourful artistic murals, the town of Ataco is a charming mountain town you shouldn’t miss in the Ruta de las Flores. Climb the La Mirador de la Cruz for a view of the whole town. It’s not the most impressive view but the climb is interesting enough as you will pass by some small coffee farms along the way. Since there isn’t really any major attraction in this town, you’ll have plenty of time to stroll around and savour El Salvador’s world renowned coffee in one of the quaint little coffee shops near the main square. The coffee in the Ruta de las Flores is quite underrated!
Getting Around the Ruta de las Flores by Chicken Bus
The Chicken Bus is an iconic mode of transport for most of Central America. Chicken buses were once US school buses modified into colourful, decorated public buses. Bus #249, which goes from Sonsonate to Ahuachapan (and vice versa), will take you around all the small towns of the Ruta de las Flores. Bus fares are less than a dollar.
Local Food in El Salvador’s Ruta de las Flores
Keen to try the local food? Try the pupusa! Pupusa, a traditional dish in El Salvador, is a thick stuffed corn tortilla filled with either cheese, beans, chicken, chicharon (pork crackling), camaron (shrimp) or a combination of these ingredients. We tried the chicken and cheese filled pupusa in the place claimed to serve the best pupusas in Juayua (Pupuseria Esmeralda) – it was surprisingly delicious! We had some more pupusas during our stay in Suchitoto, it was good but it’s not exactly the healthiest of meals!
Make sure to try the coffee when you do the Ruta de las Flores in El Salvador! I’m not a coffee expert (I am a huge fan, though) but I can tell you, it’s pretty good!
Have you been to the Ruta de las Flores? Did you go the other towns in the Ruta de las Flores in El Salvador? Let us know.