With a name translated to the 'Republic of the Saviour,' you expect an impressive land. Luckily, El Salvador delivers.
On the west coast of Central America, nestled against the Pacific Ocean, El Salvador has been inhabited by Mesoamerican peoples for centuries. Surrounded by Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador was inhabited by similar cultures to its neighbours such as the Mayan people. While not as famous as the structures found in Tikal or Copan, Tazumal is none the less considered an important pre-columbian site. A well preserved ball court as well as ceramics are clear indications of the Mayan culture, however, the presence of metal artifacts which are among the oldest found in Mesoamerican areas indicate that Tazumal once engaged in far reaching trade across the region.
Another site worthy of a stop during El Salvador tours, is the San Andres pyramid complex which was found beneath an important indigo farm from colonial times. The site displays artifacts from the Mayans dominance in the area around the 9th century AD, but also have evidence that the land had been inhabited by pre-colombian peoples since 900 BC.
Prior to the Mayans, several other Mesoamerican civilizations thrived in the fertile lands as most on El Salvador tours will discover. Joya de Ceren is an ancient site that is often dubbed the Pompeii of El Salvador. Following a volcanic eruption by the Laguna Caldera volcano 1,400 years ago, an entire farming village was buried and remarkably preserved.
Another thriving culture from the area are the Pipil people. Descending from the Toltecs of Mexico, the Pipils likely arrived in present day El Salvador around 1000 AD. For centuries the indigenous population thrived due to the wealthy cacao trade, however, after the Spanish arrived in the 16th century the Pipils were virtually wiped out.
Retreating from San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador that used be to called Cuscatlan, the Pipils fled to the mountains. It is still possible to visit historical Pipil villages, including the cobblestone streets lined with lanterns in towns such as Concepcion de Ataco. The former 16th century capital Suchitoto may seem now to be a quaint colonial town with fantastic views of the Lake Suchitlan and Volcan Guazapa, but it too was established by the Pipil peoples.
While under Spanish rule many of the indigenous populations were devastated. Interested in the indigo plant which was easily traded in Europe for the textile industry, the Spanish ruled over El Salvador for nearly 300 years from their seat in Mexico. Other traditional cultivations that have lasted from prior to Spanish rule, are tulle and wicker which can be found in handicraft markets along the Ruta de las flores. In terms of more recent agricultural crops, coffee plantations continue today to be an important part of the El Salvador economy.
El Salvador is a country that sees very few tourists due to political instability and civil wars that plagued much of the 20th century. However, as an underrated travel destination anyone who joins one of our El Salvador tours will likely find this to be their favourite region in all of Central America.