Things to do in El Salvador + Bus to Antigua

El Salvador is a country in Central America on the Pacific Ring of Fire.  The capital city is San Salvador and things to do in El Salvador include;

  • Plaza Morazan and San Salvador Cathedral
  • National Palace
  • Site Joya de Ceren (UNESCO World heritage site)
  • San Salvador Volcano
  • Tours to Izalco Volcano
  • Tours to Lake Coatepeque (Crater lake)
  • Tazumal and San Andres

San Salvador is full of good hotels, restaurants and shopping malls therefore it makes a good base for day trips.

Plaza Morazan

Things to do in El Salvador - Plaza Morazon

Plaza Morazan is a must see in central San Salvador.  It’s the main plaza of the city and surrounded by the National Theater, San Salvador Cathedral as well as several majestic buildings.  The centerpiece of the plaza is the Divine Savior to the World Monument.  For this reason, I recommend you stay in this part of the city.


National Palace

Things to do in El Salvador - National Palace

Arguably the most majestic building in San Salvador is the National Palace.  It’s located a short walk from Plaza Morazan in central San Salvador.  The El Salvador government work in this palace including the president.  An interesting fact is that the money raised to build it was from coffee exportation.  Lastly, if you’re worried about security in San Salvador, I recommend an organised city tour.

Site Joya de Ceren (UNESCO World heritage site)

Things to do in El Salvador - Site Joya de Ceren

Sita Joya de Ceren is the only UNESCO site in El Salvador but what is it?  It is in fact a 2000 year old pre hispanic farming village preserved under volcanic ash.  Sita Joya de Ceren is the El Salvadorian equivalent to Pompeii in Italy which was also preserved under volcanic ash.  Finally, the easiest way to visit Joya de Ceren is on an organised day trip from San Salvador which is combined with a visit to San Andres pyramid.

San Salvador Volcano

Things to do in El Salvador - San Salvador Volcano

San Salvador volcano is visible from central San Salvador, hence the name.  In actual fact, it’s even closer to San Salvador than Vesuvius is to Naples.  The altitude of San Salvador volcano is almost 2000 meters and it last erupted approximately 100 years ago.

Izalco Volcano

Things to do in El Salvador - Izalco Volcano

Izalco volcano is located in Cerro Verde National Park which is an hours drive from San Salvador.  I took a day trip which included Izalco volcano, Lake Coatepeque (crater lake) as well as a walk around the extinct Cerro Verde volcano.  Izalco is a stratovolcano which is a perfect cone shape and was born in 1770.  As a result it’s the youngest volcano in El Salvador.  There are a few different viewing platforms so you can take photos of it from various angles.

Did you know the youngest volcano in the world is Paricutin in Mexico?  In addition, it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world.


Cerro Verde National Park and Volcano

Things to do in El Salvador - A lizard in Cerro Verde national park

You probably won’t even realise that Cerro Verde volcano is actually a volcano or even an extinct volcano.  It looks like a hill with a forest on it.  Furthermore, with the beautiful Izalco volcano adjacent to it, you don’t really want to look at a hill!  However, there is a trail around Cerro Verde volcano and you’ll come across some great photo opportunities.  Those of you who are into wildlife, bird or volcano photography will quickly fill up your memory stick.

Lake Coatepeque (Crater lake)

Things to do in El Salvador - Lake Coatepeque - Crater Lake

Lake Coatepeque is often referred to as the crater lake of El Salvador.  It doesn’t quite take your breath away as the crater lake in Oregon does but it’s definitely an amazing place to see.  One of the best things about it is that you will probably be the only tourist there.  It’s a peaceful place therefore I stopped for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake.  Finally, a day trip to Izalco volcano often includes Lake Coatepeque.

Tazumal and San Andres

Things to do in El Salvador - Tazumal

El Salvador has archaeological sites similar to Teotihuacan or Palenque in Mexico but without the tourists.  Firstly, San Andres is a 3000 year old Necropolis with an impressive pyramid.  Secondly, Tazumal features impressive Mayan ruins.  Finally, you can visit both San Andres and Tazumal on a day trip from San Salvador.

How to get from San Salvador to Antigua Guatemala

Bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City, 6 hours, $18, Tica Bus.

Bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City, 6 hours, $18, Tica Bus

My next destination is Antigua, Guatemala, but there are no buses direct from San Salvador.  However Tica bus offer a service to Guatemala City and from the bus station there are share minivans waiting to take passengers to Antigua.  The border crossing was very easy as the company are very organised.  Additionally, the bus driver also wants to get through as quickly as possible.

Antigua to San Cristobal, Chiapas

2019-01-20T12:42:05+00:00December 26th, 2016|Central America, El Salvador|22 Comments


  1. Bryan January 7, 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

    I had no idea there were such amazing sites in El Salvador. Thanks for showing me another side of the country!

  2. Midori January 7, 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

    very interesting post

  3. Romy January 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Have you been to other countries in Central America? Going there next summer, but haven’t decided on which countries. Any favorites? El Salvador definitely looks amazing!

    • James Smith January 15, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Yes, I’ve been to all the countries in Central America, for good value and lots of things to do I recommend Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Speaking Spanish will help you a lot too. Depending on how long you are staying in Central America you could visit all 6 countries. I’d recommend getting around by shared minivan organised in the hostels etc.. or Tica Bus.

  4. Gokul Raj January 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    I personally dont take private tours but in some countries it is better to take them. They are much safer I believe.

  5. Elisabeth January 15, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Great post! I spent 3 years living in Central America, based in Honduras. I’ve traveled around Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, but I didn’t get the chance to visit El Salvador! I’ve heard there’s some amazing surf spots there, so it’s on my list for the next visit! Antigua looks like a fun city as well.

  6. John January 16, 2017 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Lake Coatepeque sounds perfect! It looks beautiful, and sounds like you kind of get the place to yourself! I would live to visit someday!

  7. Ling January 16, 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Being the youngest volcano there, is the Izalco Volcano still active? I didn’t see it as extinct. I’ve always wanted to see an active volcano (though not without some trepidation!). Haven’t been to Central America yet, but san Salvador looks pretty beautiful.

  8. Lisa January 17, 2017 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    What an interesting and beautiful place, lovely views. I think having a guide there would be a great benefit and take you to less touristy areas as well. Would love to see the volcano even if it is extinct!

  9. Joseph January 20, 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I didn’t realise that El Salvador was so mountainous and had volcanos. Lake Coatepeque reminded me of Crater Lake in Oregon as well but maybe not as big.

  10. Bruce Schinkel January 21, 2017 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Looks like some great volcanic views there! I always like finding hidden gems like the crater lake and extinct volcano you describe above. Definitely worth a visit!

  11. Brown Gal Trekker January 23, 2017 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Nice, I’m a big fan of Guatemala. Never did make it to El Salvador. It seems it also has its own hidden gems like its neighbor.

  12. Christine May 5, 2017 at 2:10 am - Reply

    Have not had El Salvador on my travel list but the crater lake and the volcano you describe are beautiful. Loved the narrative and the photos and could truly picture a nice vacation there. Your photo of the Izalco volcano is stunning.

  13. Christine Krzyszton May 5, 2017 at 2:12 am - Reply

    Have not had El Salvador on my travel list but the crater lake and the volcano you describe are beautiful. Loved the narrative and the photos and could truly picture a nice vacation there. Your photo of the Izalco volcano is stunning.

  14. Lauren May 5, 2017 at 3:15 am - Reply

    This is a really intersting post about two places that I really want to visit in the near future and I’m glad to know your border crossing between the two was nice and smooth! In fact, I’m planning on going to Guatemala this August, so I’ll be checking out if you have more posts about that 🙂 I also noticed in your bio that you’re from Yorkshire, which is crazy because I am too — whereabouts are you from??

  15. Abhinav Singh May 5, 2017 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    El Salvador looks like a place which is rich in great outdoors. A day trip to Izalco volcano, Lake Coatepeque and the extinct cerro verde volcano sounds awesome. I would love to repeat your experience.

  16. Natalie May 5, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    The colors in your photos are amazing! What a stunningly beautiful place. As an English as a Second Language teacher here in the states, I’ve had many students from San Salvador and would love to visit their lovely country!

  17. Cat May 5, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    I do not know El Salvador is such a gorgeous place! You’ve got a great view of Lake Coatepeque. And it’s amazing how you got a shot of Izalco Volcano so close!

  18. Bhusha May 6, 2017 at 9:52 am - Reply

    The crater lake and volcano would be my places to see if I ever make it to El Salvador. Its amazing how nature transforms itself after a volcanic eruption to create a beauty within itself!

  19. Sandy N Vyjay May 6, 2017 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Cool! youngest volcano. Heard El Salvador being a destination for some celebrities. I know the reason why just by looking at your incredible photos. I’m sure this place has a lot of hidden treasures in store.

  20. Riely May 7, 2017 at 4:44 am - Reply

    El Salvador really has some great outdoor experiences and plenty of opportunities to capture some great shots. Lake Coatepeque seems like a pleasant spot to explore especially since there are less crowds there. I have yet to trek up an extinct volcano or even come close to an active volcano. That would be a neat experience. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Tatum Skipper May 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    There is so much to do here it’s incredible! And the colors all around are amazing. I have only been to a few places in Central America but plan on visiting again next year!

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