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Culture & Unexplored Highlands of El Salvador
Get ready for something new all you culture junkies. This vacation is designed to let you in on some of El Salvador’s fascinating secrets. On this trip you will see a true convergence of the old and new, traditional and modern, with colonial villages, world class art museums and galleries, indigenous highland villages, Mayan ruins, mystical healing traditions and rituals, and have the chance to join in with an indigenous music group on hand-crafted native instruments. You will also get the chance to learn about coffee farming, visit with locals in their home, and get some relaxing beach time in on the Pacific ocean. Be one of the first to get to know El Salvador on a different level.
Day 1: Arrive in San SalvadorOvernight at Hotel Arbol del Fuego, a nature-inspired guesthouse close to everything in the city center.
Day 2: San Salvador CultureImmerse yourself in the cultural institutions of San Salvador, their world class museum of art, extensive anthropology museum, cathedral, national theater and an outing to view the city from the high point vista of Volcan San Salvador. [BL]
Day 3: Mayan ruins & Indigenous healing traditions of IzalcoContrast yesterday’s present with today’s past at the ruins of Joya de Ceren, the Pompeii of the Maya world, where the remains of a Mayan village including a shaman’s hut are fully preserved. The only commoners’ village on view anywhere in Mundo Maya.
Travel to the colonial city of Izalco, completely off the tourist map. Historically, Izalco represents the largest indigenous community of the region. Today, Izalco has a mystical allure. The town has retained its indigenous healing traditions and rituals that the Spanish conquerors once referred to as witchcraft. Visit the La Vega family’s historic hacienda in the center of the colonial village. Learn about their family’s centuries old roots in the village and the ancient traditions of Izalco. Take a short walking tour of the colonial town with the La Vegas, see its two historic plazas. Try out the famous El Salvadoran “pupusa” after your walk, cooked here over wood fired adobe ovens. Sample the native hot chocolate.
Visit neighbors of the La Vegas and learn about the ancient Pipil musical traditions, and play along with this family’s own folk group on hand made instruments in the native tradition. Stay at a country lodge nearby – Granja San Bernardo, in your own private cabin in view of Volcano Izalco. [BL]
Day 4: Colonial Caluco and Shutecath home visitVisit Caluco. This colorful colonial town is criss-crossed by quiet streets where everyone knows their neighbor and children play happily in the afternoons. See one of the main attractions of Caluco, Shutecath, an abundant, crystal clear thermal river pumping volcanically-heated waters through the village’s outskirts year round. Here you will find several small restaurants, all owned and operated by local women, that specialize in preparing the town’s most famous dish, Sopa de Gallina India – or Free Range Chicken soup. Chat with the ladies and sample the variety of local cuisine and snacks they have to offer.
In the afternoon, visit a private home along the Shutecath River and take a dip in the thermal waters while relaxing on the patio or in the verdant garden. (Bring your suit!) Sip refreshing local drinks.
Return to the Granja San Bernardo for dinner. [BLD]
Day 5: Indigenous VillagesDepart from the Granja San Bernardo for the coffee highlands. Tour Nahuilzalco – where the Nahuat peoples have produced fine handicrafts and furniture for centuries. A special city tour, led by local people, will allow you to meet local artisans in their shops, and learn about local traditions first hand. Lunch at a beautifully preserved coffee farm restaurant, Los Patios in Salcoatitan and wander by foot through two fine art galleries in this artistic village. Stop by a local bakery for dessert! Stay at Santa Leticia in Apaneca – a village in the coffee highlands. Here houses are still adorned with orange clay shingles, cobblestone streets stretch in every direction, and the market is loaded with fresh produce and flowers. [BL]
Day 6: Coffee and Archeaology!Discover coffee’s secrets, from farm to cup on a tour of a coffee farm and taste the local harvest! Meet members of a local organization seeking to preserve their culture by building their ecotourism entrepreneurship abilities.
Visit Santa Leticia Archaeological Site. This hidden treasure had been covered by vegetation until it was rediscovered in 1968 by the farm’s owner. At this site, you’ll find three unique monoliths with human characteristics carved into them, each weighing between 6,350-10,890 kg (14,000-24,000 pounds). This site is over 2,600 years old and is surrounded by waterfalls and a variety of beautiful flora and fauna. It is the country’s first private archaeological park that offers lodging and other outdoor activities for your enjoyment.
Relax at Santa Leticia mountain resort, a quaint lodge in the hills. Dinner and shopping on your own in Apaneca. Apaneca is known for having a variety of beautiful restaurants, each uniquely decorated with antiques, local art and other rustic materials. These restaurants serve delicious local cuisine (comida típica) and other international up-scale gourmet dishes. [BL]
Day 7: Highland hacienda culture & Laguna Verde crater lakeVisit a local family in the coffee highlands and learn about hacienda life. Discover how changes in coffee prices are transforming this region, and how local people are adapting.
Visit Laguna Verde - a crater lake formed from an extinct volcano at 5000 feet. It is surrounded by cypress forest where you can wander around amidst fern and orchids and other high altitude plants and trees.
Depart for Hotel Oasis de Salinitas by the beach. Dinner included with local musical combo. Oasis Salinitas is a collection of 2 and 4 bedroom luxury Lodges set in tropical gardens, on a private beach with stunning sunset views. [BLD]