Poco a poco se va lejos.
"'One Man's Love Affair with El Salvador & Guatemala"
One Man's Love Affair Between El Salvador and Guatemala
Originally I come from the U.S. but I have lived in Latin America since
the mid-1980's. I first visited El Salvador in the late 1960's and fell in
love with the Salvadorian coastal town, Puerto de La Libertad, because it
reminded me of my birthplace, the coastal resort town of Bar Harbor,
Maine. I am also completely enamored with La Antigua, Guatemala, the
restored colonial Capital City of Central America, because it reminds me
of the town where I was raised - Colonial Williamsburg. I should have
known even then, that I was destined to return.
I attended University in Boston and New York but found the academic world
and the turbulence surrounding it on the late 1960's didn't suit my fancy,
so I began an odyssey of working and traveling abroad in the 70's. I
visited both Europe and Latin America, which broadened my perspective and
my linguistic skills as I learned to be conversational in German, Spanish,
Portuguese and Polish. I’ve put my language skills to work translating
websites based in Latin America with a company called the ’Polyglots’.
After a long absence in Latin America, I returned to Guatemala from the
United States in 1986. Eight years later, the Peace Treaty that eliminated
Civil Conflict was signed in El Salvador. This restored tranquility to the
land making it, once again, an attractive place to live. Motivated by
family ties and the memory of its scenic beauty, I moved to El Salvador.
I worked as Tour Guide, Travel Writer and Trade and Travel Consultant
throughout Central America, much of it in the "Pre-Internet" era. And
while there seems to be no lack of modern amenities here I still love the
“other side” of Central America. The side dappled with colonial villages,
where time has stood still and oxcarts still ply narrow roads. Uncrowded
and exotic hidden coves, beaches, bays and mangroves lay in wait to
overwhelm you with their beauty. Coconut and coffee plantations color the
country side with their abundance. And Mayan ruins are scattered
carelessly by histories hand, including Joya de Ceren in El Salvador,
which is the "Pompeii of the Americas." A typical Mayan Village buried
beneath Volcanic Ash for 1400 years; the only site of kind in the
Americas. The Copan Ruins in neighboring Honduras is considered the 'Jewel
of the Mayan World'. These are a few of my favorite places…
Towns and villages dedicated to the elaboration of arts and crafts are
spread all over the Central American Isthmus. I know of towns located less
than a couple hours drive from San Salvador's bustling boulevards where
horses and oxcarts often outnumber vehicles! And for adventurers there are
Volcanoes, Volcanoes and more Volcanoes. With the exception of Honduras,
you will be able to spy their cones in every Central American country and
a few are still active!
Many tourists come to El Salvador hoping to add to their list of sites to
see “their idea” of indigenous people, i.e. “Indians.” Instead they find
that the population is made up of “mestizos” or mixed-race people. I was
once hired to drive a woman from El Salvador to Guatemala. She wanted me
to drive down San Salvador’s Boulevard de los Heroes which is known for
its hustle and bustle and always filled with Salvadorians so that she
could take in the sites, so to speak. As we drove, I noticed that she was
becoming more and more agitate. When I gave her a questioning look she
shouted in desperation "But where are the Indians?!?" I merely answered
"Be patient and I'll take you to them tomorrow out in Panchimalco.”
Patience was obviously not this woman’s strong suite because she proceeded
to borrow my guidebook, and I later found out that she took off to Costa
Rica that afternoon on her own, taking my trusted guidebook with her.
Which of course, I never saw again...so finally, with a sense of humor; a
lesson in life: "Take it or leave it, but never lend it!"
About the Author
David Bloom, a US Citizen and Ex Pat resident in Central America since 1986
is a Trade and Travel Consultant for all things Latin American.
At present David is developing another travel
site specializing in Latin Travel and requires your feedback if you have
"been there and done that" or planning to return again. Of course, If you
are a first time traveler "newbie" to the region do not hesitate to ask
Donald a question - Business or Pleasure Travel...anywhere in Central America....
so you may then....
"Discover the Undiscovered El Salvador" - Central America's best kept secret until now!
EL SALVADOR...DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED CENTRAL AMERICA
AN EXOTIC AND SUPRISE DESTINATION.......
The following suggestions are put together for anyone traveling to El Salvador, whether it be to visit friends or relatives, for business or just for a visit of the country. How to Pack El Salvador is hot and humid any time of the year. Rainy season begins usually at the beginning of May and runs through October, so plan accordingly. Bring light weight clothing, but appropriate clothing. In many rural areas it is still inappropriate for women to wear pants and especially shorts so be sure to pack some skirts, sisters, just in case! You’ll see few bikinis on El Salvador’s public beaches as in the resort areas of Costa Rica and Mexico. In the modern cities of San Salvador and San Miguel as well as in Santa Ana you will find the modern “MetroCentro” malls boasting everything from supermarkets to tattoo parlors where the young imitate US dress and styles, chatting endlessly on the cellular phones! Good shoes. Please bring comfortable shoes. Even if you hire us to transport you or rent a car in El Salvador some hiking and walking will be required to explore off the beaten path, and it won't always be down paved sidewalks, more often mountain trails, so bring some good, sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes. Leave all your valuables at home. No flashy jewelry, no fancy watches, nothing that will make you stand out in the humble villages you are bound to with us! Remember, the contents of your luggage could contain more than a humble person may possess in a lifetime.
There are several flights daily into San Salvador from the US Gateways of Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, New York, and Miami (as well as from Montreal and Toronto and other Central and South American cities, Flights direct from Europe into Cancun & Mexico City, Guatemala and San Jose, Costa Rica)). Shop around and start early and you may actually find a good deal. Don't rule out the national airline, Grupo Taca. View: www.taca.com Their international service is now at a par with the US carriers, often even they usually run a little cheaper. Our organization works specifically with travel direct to El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central America. If you notify us at least a month in advance of your departure we will assist you in booking a consolidated airfare, especially if travelling in a group. There is also a website, skyauction.com, that generally has a couple of tickets to San Salvador up for auction, but we cannot vouch for their service, reliability, etc... we have only seen that they offer cheap rates. Read the fine print and study before making any purchases. US and Canadian Citizens no longer need to purchase a $10.00 tourist card when they arrive in El Salvador unless wishing to stay 90 days, and the airport departure tax leaving El Salvador is $27.00 (not included in the price of your ticket usually). Remember that the airport for El Salvador is actually 45 kms. from San Salvador (about a 45 minute ride to the capitol). I have local associate tour operators and transportation companies who will arrange in advance to pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your Beach, San Salvador city or Countryside lodging place, or when travelling by first class or luxury bus services from either Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua/Costa Rica at the appropriate international bus terminal direct to your lodging place.
Where to Stay San Salvador
There are several unique places to stay in and around San Salvador. If you are a business person looking for first class hotels with world business class service try the Hotel Princess, El Presidente, Raddisson, or Holiday Inn. Now exist in El Salvador as well some excellent 3 -4 star hotels such as the Hotel Siesta offering discounts with advance reservations..have no fear we’ll handle all the detail work FOR you in advance, and save you a bundle off the rack rate! All these horels are located in or near the Zona Rosa, a trendy area with expensive boutiques and restaurants.. It is quiet and very safe in the surrounding areas by day. The Holiday Inn is the newest large hotel in San Salvador. It is in the neighborhood of Santa Elena, just 3 blocks away from the U.S. Embassy. It is at the edge of town and will allow you to leave San Salvador for the western part of the country without having to fight the traffic of the capital city. Prices in these hotels range from $65-$100+ per night rack rate depending on how many occupants you will be traveling with. Book ahead with us for single, double or group discounts. No doubt, if you are an independent traveller you are looking for something nice but less ritzy, try one of the many unique lodging places, bed and breakfasts and guest houses associated with us in and around San Salvador. They have private rooms and bathrooms, but are not as large as the hotels, generally with less than 15 rooms. Prices for the bed and breakfasts/guest houses range from $30-$75 per night depending the establishment and on how many beds you want. Cheaper accomodations can be found at some of the smaller hotels closer into town and around the National University area, which boasts a thriving “Bohemian” style nightlife. Most of these small hotels and guest houses offer excellent basic services for our travellers, especially those who wish to mix and socialize with natives and other travellers and of course, do not mind taking a cold shower in the early morning! Prices range from $4.00 per person in dorm rooms to $25.00 double in some small guest houses offering breakfast, cable tv and hot water! Whether you travel as a “Backpacker” or as a “Billionare” we will book your accomodations in advance for you $4.00 a night or $400 a night..we cater to the “Budget Traveller with Champagne Taste!” Please make all travel arrangements with us in advance, after you have confirmed any travel arrangements with either our organization or any of our associate travel providers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua you may always feel free to contact us via e mail, instant messenger or telephone (we soon plan to place a direct toll free number from US/Canada to El Salvador for your convenience) 24 hours, 7 days a week, in case of emergency or change in plans. In El Salvador we are able to offer you security on all day tours at no extra charge with our personell on call 24 hours a day in case any problem arises. I am always accomodating however **I am unable to make detailed travel plans and iteneraries for everyone who visits the site or travel posts nor are we able at this time to provide free room and board at this time for anyone who wishes to stay on in El Salvador for atime and either work or volunteer in one of the ongoing releif projects or in humanitarian aid, however after arrival we are willing and able to assist you in finding home stay or long term room or apartment rentals from $60 month+. Home stay with native families for our Indingenous Studies (Nahuat) and Spanish Language programs is recommended and arrangements may be made on a weekly or monthly basis.
Transport - Public Transportation
The buses in El Salvador are a thrill for those who have never experienced our “guanaco” mode of transport. If you enjoy a thrill, feel free to use the public bus system on your free time to get around. It can be slow at times, but it is extremely cheap. Even if you choose not to use the public transportation, you should take one bus ride just for the experience. There's nothing quite like it... believe us! All of our organized tours are in insured vehicles with driver for your comfort and safety..and ours as well! Taxis within the city of San Salvador are reliable. Do not walk nor take public transport after 8PM within San Salvador. Simply flag one down on the street and determine a price before you get in the cab. There are also dispatch services that you can call and have pick you up. Avoid the “taxistas” at the luxury hotels, and always have a native negociate price for you if possible. Our organization will arrange for our clients safe and sound city nightlife trips if desired: casas de arte, gallery showings, theatres, bars and restaurants with either a Salvadorian or international flavor, in the countryside there exists little “night life” but the “right life” with our native guides introducing you to our culture and customs. Rental Cars We contract all of our transportation which is insured, with a local driver who knows the conditions and terrain, however for certain specialized archaeological and ecological trips it may be necessary for your group to rent a 4WD vehicle and Carlos, one of our native guides is able to conduct you. Remember that rental car companies in Central America offer you two insurance options: 1. Basic with a $1,200 deductible on your Credit Card at approx. $17 per day or 2. Full insurance, including all collision damages, fire and theft at approx. $60 per day, if I were you, venturing to remote areas with rough terrain I would choose full insurance, a friend of mine recently did so in Nicaragua and saved $1,200! Again, I am able to handle all reservations for you in advance and car and driver shall be awaiting you at airport upon your arrival. economic car, $50-$55 for a four door sedan, $75-$100 for a large pickup or SUV. What to see n' do There are a few things you shouldn't miss while you are in El Salvador. Here are a few activities that you could do with your guide. **El Salvador National Tourist Police escorts or your native guides provide security for you on all organized tours, 2 or more persons. All arrangements must be made in advance.
Some Off the Beaten Path treks...
Chorros de Juayua
The Chorros de Juayua are a set of waterfalls outside of the town of Juayua. The hike down is not difficult, but the path is not easy to traverse. It is definitely worth it, though. The secenery around the waterfalls is beautiful and the hike down is also very scenic. **Ask the local police in Juayua if they would be willing to provide an escort as local thieves occassionally hide out along the trail. If you do encounter a thief, however, simply give him some money and be on your way. They are usually local teens that do not intend to harm anyone, but are looking for an easy buck.
Cerro Verde and Lake Coatepeque
These two sites are beautiful. Cerro Verde National Park is a lush verdant park on a summit soaring above the lake with the famous view of Izalco’s Volcano and its still smoking cone. The lodge, where you may stay overnight, with volcano or lake view rooms, is run by the national tourist commission, reservations required. We obtain your permits to enter the park. The lake is very scenic with boat trips with local fishermen to the small island “Teopan” in the middle that is a holiday and weekend retreat for wealthy Salvadorians. Most of the island is a nature preserve and hiking on the trails is allowed, thousands of Monarch Butterflies in mating season and a bird sanctuary. Coatepeque is a volcanic crater lake and there is a nice hotel and some small restaurants along the lake edge.
Montecristo Cloud Forest This is one of the most beautiful hikes in all of Central America from the summit, which is reached by 4WD, coaster or minibus (standard vehicle not recommended) by winding dirt road 23Km. above the town of Metapan, located 35 Km. north of Santa Ana, near the Guatemalan frontier, a 1.5 hour drive from San Salvador. One of the few remaining cloud forests in Central America, Montecristo winds to the top where Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are all visible from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Orchid Gardens near to the Camping grounds…our organization provides camping and equipment on all our organized tours for those able, others may opt for country hotels. We obtain your permits and arrange all in advnce for you..The park is administered by an NGO from the EU.
Ocean Highway - Calle Litoral from La Libertad to Acajutla
This coastal highway runs along the ocean front for seventy or eighty kilometers. It is a beautiful drive that winds along the hills and through a set of five tunnels. Take time to snap some photos and have lunch in La Libertad or Sonsonate. If you're eating in La Libertad try La Curva one of the nicer oceanside restaurants with a great view and wonderful food. Acajutla is a thriving port city and the nearby Los Cobanos Beach offers the adventure traveller deep sea fishing and diving excursions.
Ruta de Las Flores - Carreterra from Sonsonate to Ahuachapan
Stop off in Nahuizalco and buy a few wicker souvenirs. The nahuizalqueños set up their shops right along the highway, but if you have time, go into the small town and visit some of the shops. The handicrafts are worth a few minutes of your time as is the market. Drive through Salcoatitan and take the detour into Juayua. If you're driving through on a weekend, they often have a market with traditional dishes set up around the central plaza. These are generally very clean and safe to eat. After Juayua visit Apaneca where you can have a bite to eat at the Cabañas de Apaneca and take in the view of the coffee fields and surrounding mountains. Continue to escape the heat by passing through Ataco on your way down to Ahuachapan. Mayan Ruins at San Andres and Joyas de Cerén San Andres and Joyas de Cerén are two Mayan ruin sites. San Andres has a new museum that is excellent and offers free tours before examining the pyramids. If you have seen the majestic temple ruins in Copan, Mexico or Guatemala, don't expect much in “size” from these ruins, but more in “quality” Our native guides are experts in every aspect of our Maya-Pipil culture.. Joya de Cerén is the only “non royal” Mayan site existing in MesoAmerica, an ordinary village buried under volcanic ash some 1400 years ago after an eruption of the nearby volcano, Joya de Cerén is referred to as the “Pompeii of the Americas”. It is a very interesting site for academics and a “must see” for visitors who wish to understand fully our pre-Hispanic culture! with some displays explaining what has been unearthed, but is not completely finished yet..We also escort you to Cihuatan, a ruins north of San Salvador still under excavation, “The City of Women”…. Cathedral and Theater in the Central Plaza of Santa Ana The catedral in Santa Ana is famous throughout El Salvador for its classic gothic design. Be prepared for the pigeons and local photographers trying to snap your photo and sell you a picture. The theater on the other side of the park is a rare work of art in El Salvador. They are attempting to restore it, and it seems very "out of place" for Santa Ana with its classic design and architecture. There is a nominal fee (less than 50¢) to get in, but it is an interesting stop if you are in Santa Ana. Guatemala We have associate native guides, hotels and lodging places and tour operators in Guatemala, only 4 hours by vehicle from San Salvador. Antigua, where most travellers choose to base, is only 45 minutes southwest of Guatemala City (42 Km.) by paved divided highway. For complete Guatemala information and reservations contact us. Also Honduras and Nicaragua… With reservations and assistance if travelling onward to Costa Rica. Whatever you have planned……. It will probably be of great importance for you… our organization exists to serve you, the client..so that you and your friends or family.
Do not plan JUST for a“vacation”. Plan for AN UNFORGETTABLE CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE! Do not bring expensive gifts to give out to beggars or street children... This sets up false expectations for other families and trravelers when they come to visit in the area. Many of the people you visit will be extremely poor, but the best thing to do is not to give them money, ESPECIALLY STREET CHILDREN, if you wish to donate, arrange to do so quietly with your native guide and a village leader or priest. Please do not offer anyone promises of visas or work in the United States, etc... Always respect local culture and customs, never become argumentative nor critical and always have your native guide smooth out any disputes that arise.. Do not try to plan elaborate trips and details that require us to do a lot of preliminary work in El Salvador and Central America before you go. Do everything possible to make all your own arrangements leaving from the United States, Canada, etc. and not burden us with those little minute travel details that you should be able to handle on your own. If I do not know the answer to a question I shall try and find out.so Let's Go Amigo!…
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Montréal, Copenhagen, Brussels, Berlin, Warsaw, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, Cerro verde National Park, El Salvador, Montecristo cloud Forest, El Salvador, Masaya, Nicaragua