Central American countries can have a reputation for being rough around the edges. The gringo trail often avoids areas considered to be too dangerous and difficult to travel in. El Salvador is possibly top of that list, but there is more to it than it’s bad boy reputation will suggest at first glance.
I sat in a restaurant that lives on the side of El Salvador’s volcano Boquerón, sipping an iced diet coke. A middle class Salvadoran family talk loudly at a table nearby, giving occasional looks in my direction. Eventually they approach and ask me who I am and where I am from. They are delighted to see a young foreign woman in El Salvador and intrigued by why I would visit a place with so many problems.
The locals are the first to warn me to be careful travelling in El Salvador. They are also first to smile broadly in my direction and welcome me as I explore their homeland.
San Salvador sprawls out below the volcano with 300,000 people going about their day in the noisy smog of the capital city. It’s easy to forget the reality of life for some people here, when as a traveller I escape to a beautiful a peaceful place like this.
Back home now, I am always reminded of the difficulties this country faces when I read about it. Photo exhibitions focus on the war, or the current gang troubles. If the press cover the country it will include violent death. And it’s not uncommon for American TV dramas to have a bad-guy El Salvadoran.
It’s not that I don’t think it is important to report on this more negative side of the country. Travellers need to be aware that it essential to be safe and careful here. Today I just want to balance things a little and celebrate the beautiful side of El Salvador. It is not just the gangs and troubles, it is a country filled with natural wonders and places of extreme tranquility.
Here’s a little of why I’m glad I thought twice about crossing El Salvador off my Central American itinerary…
I could continue. I’ve not even mentioned the artists markets, street performers, surf lessons, waterfalls, hiking…
What places have you visited that have surprised you in how much you fall for them?