Santa Ana, El Salvador

Days: 144-145

Total distance travelled: 31,210.5 kilometres (19,385.4 miles)

Although we always assumed that we’d have a bit of a look around Santa Ana, this was a city that was really only ever slated to be a hub, a base from which we’d pursue other avenues of exploration.

In fact, such was our haste when we first arrived early on a Sunday morning, we were quite happy to book ourselves a room at hostal Casa Verde, and no sooner than having done so, finding ourselves the next bus out of town.

This probably sounds a little more disrespectful to both the hostal and the city, so let me explain a little.

Santa Ana is an ideal location from which to take a half day trip to Ruinas de Tazumal, the most important Mayan ruins in El Salvador. The only catch is, they are not open on Mondays, and given we had little desire to linger too long here, we intended to make sure we visited on the Sunday giving us the freedom to choose our next destination on the Monday!

Had we known what we were headed for, our urgency probably would have slackened somewhat.

These ruins are small, damn small. So small in fact you could take them all in within a half an hour, and not really have rushed!

To reach the ruins, we jumped on a bus for the town of Chalchuapa, before making the stroll to the ruins which sit on the edge of town, and on the fringes of a cemetery.

There was time to grab a quick brunch of Pupusas, which became our first order of business after entering the ruins.

Locating a shaded bench, we made ourselves comfortable before indulging in our now cool enough to consume fare.

Ruinas de Tazumal: Small, but important to El Salvador and not a bad place for a picnic…

Ruinas de Tazumal: Small, but important to El Salvador and not a bad place for a picnic…

As I’ve already noted, the site is pretty small, but in their defence, the suspicion is that the site is actually rather expansive, the reason little further excavations have been conducted being that it would require that much of the currently existing town be demolished, including the adjacent cemetery.

The situation as it stands however, means that other than a couple of stepped pyramids, there really isn’t too much to see.

A small part of Tazumal that does not lie buried beneath the present town of Chalchuapa

A small part of Tazumal that does not lie buried beneath the present town of Chalchuapa

The adjacent and very colourful cemetery

The adjacent (and very colourful) cemetery

The most eventful part of our mornings’ excursion to Chalchuapa occurred as we made our way back through the town to where a bus could ferry us back to Santa Ana.

An excitable local approached us, intent in serenading us with his own English version of the Oasis song ‘Wonderwall’ and inviting us back to his house rather than board our bus.

He seemed harmless enough, although very persistent. I have my doubts however that the lyrics were supposed to say “And baby, you’re gonna’ go and have my babies…”

Still, Sarah is an attractive woman and he is only human after all!

It didn’t however convince us to go and visit his house.

A brief amount of time at the ruins also meant we were back in Santa Ana with plenty of time for some exploration of both the town and for lunch options.

Now Sundays are rarely fun days when it comes to dining options in Latin America. For such religious cultures there is a huge portion of the population who don’t work on their Sabbath, and for many it is in fact their only day without work for the week.

What this means as a traveller is, there are simply fewer dining options, especially of an evening. It also meant that for our Sunday lunch it was hardly a gourmet dining affair, with Sarah and I sharing a large sized Jamon y Pina (Ham and Pineapple) pizza.

At least one positive was to come from it, as there was ample leftover for us to keep the remaining slices for the following mornings’ breakfast!

Now like any good remnant from a Spanish colonial past, the best bits of Santa Ana seem clustered around its central plaza, where if casting ones gaze 360 degrees, you can quickly take in the government palace, main theatre and of course the towns grand cathedral.

Santa Ana’s stately theatre

Santa Ana’s stately theatre

…and metres away sits their mighty cathedral

…and metres away sits their mighty cathedral

A couple of bustling, if slightly pricier (at least compared to our $5.00 pizza) restaurants and cafes also abut this public place, but if you wander much further you won’t find much more in the way of sights, and as for eating…

Well I hope you’re fond of pizza or fried chicken!

Despite the dearth of things to see and do in the city itself, something of a surprise was our lodging, Casa Verde.

Translated as ‘Green House’, this hostel would have to be one of the most well equipped and well set-up places we’ve stayed in during the whole trip!

In dormitory rooms where they could easily accommodate more guests simply by using bunks, they’ve made the comfort of the guests paramount and used singles (each with its own bedside lamp).

There are storage racks for backpacks, and although we’ve seen bigger lockers in our travels, theirs are still a decent size, each equipped with a power point and multiple USB charging points!

It is home to the best equipped kitchen we’ve ever seen in a hostel. A working oven and stove top with 6 burners, ample pots, pans, utensils and a spice cupboard free for guests to use.

But just when I was still trying to pull my jaw off the floor, I discovered there is not just one, but two equally well equipped kitchens!

There is a modern (and clean swimming pool), great Wi-Fi that works in both common areas as well as in the dorms (and a computer available for use should you not bring your own device).

If this hostel sat right on the backpacker highway (rather than in El Salvador which many travellers seem to skip), I have little doubt it would be permanently full!



* To get to Santa Ana, an hours bus ride from Juayua at $0.75 US per person did the trick.

* Ruinas de Tazumal sits in the town of Chalchuapa, and as well as the $3.00 US entrance fee, a 50 minute, $0.30 US bus ride from Santa Ana was required.

* The wonderful Casa Verde hostal can be found here

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8 Responses to Santa Ana, El Salvador

  1. Cemeteries in the tropics can certainly be colourful, can’t they? Love your pic! And the cathedral looks awesome as well. I’ve never been to El Salvador and don’t know anyone else besides you who has been. Thx for sharing your travels with us.

    • Chris says:

      Always nice to be able to show off a different country to people.

      There certainly is often plenty of colour and celebration in Latin American cemeteries! 🙂

  2. Rachel says:

    Stops like this that you don’t expect to enjoy are the icing on the cake. That theatre looks wonderful.

  3. traciehowe says:

    It’s always a bummer when your expectations aren’t quite met, but it’s nice when you can enjoy an unexpected surprise like a fancy hostel or a cool cemetery. That cathedral is pretty impressive too!

  4. loveandroad says:

    Great Photos!
    I´m a big fan of cemeteries (sounds creepy, I know :-D). It´s so interesting to see how people and culture deal with death in different ways. A walk around a cemetery is always a surprising lesson.
    Safe travels!

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