Most interesting landmarks in El Salvador are the numerous prehistoric cities (ruins of cities) scattered all over the country. Nearly unique is Joya de Cerén - prehistoric city buried under thick layer of volcanic ash not unlike Pompeii.
Somewhat less known are the caves with traces of prehistoric settlement, with drawings and petroglyhs on the walls.
Country has high biological diversity and active volcanism but nevertheless here are few natural landmarks of international fame.
- Agua Agria - San Vicente. Geothermal field on the flank of San Vicente volcano. Here are located hot springs, fumaroles and small mud fountains.
- Chorros De La Calera - Sonsonate, Juayúa. Picturesque, wide waterfalls with many smaller streams flowing down along nearly vertical cliff.
Man made landmarks
Caves of archaeological importance
Many caves in El Salvador contain interesting heritage of Pre-Columbian cultures, here are mentioned just three:
- Gruta del Espíritu Santo - Morazán. Grotto with numerous interesting petroglyphs which were created by Lenca culture sometimes around 900 - 400 BC, or even earlier. According to the legends here was living forefather of all Lenca people. Most images show people, some drawings show animals and birds. Different techniques and colors are used.
- Unamá Cave - Morazán. Grotto with colorful petroglyphs - one of ceremonial centres for ancient Cacaopera people whose descendants still live in this area.
- Xualaka Cave - Morazán. Central site of ancient Cacaopera culture.
- Cara Sucia - Ahuachapán. Ruins of ancient city which was abandoned sometimes around 900 AD. City was founded by people who spoke in the precursor of Mayan languages. In the site are located several enormous, grass covered mounds which are not explored. Ruins of ball courts, temples, houses.
- Cihuatán - San Salvador. One of major Mayan centres of late Classic period. Ruins of important buildings are grouped in the Western Ceremonial Center and Eastern Ceremonial Center, but the city extends in larger area, with different neighborhoods.
- El Cambio - La Libertad. Prehistoric settlement, last inhabited in 650 - 900 AD. Contains five pyramids which are up to 12 m high.
- El Carmen - Ahuachapán. Prehistorical settlement where have been found the oldest ceramics in El Salvador. Established sometimes around 1590 BC. Contains approximately 3 m high and 60 by 50 m large mound.
- Joya de Cerén - La Libertad. Maya settlement, buried under 4 - 8 m thick layer of volcanic ash which was erupted by Loma crater sometimes around 610 - 670 AD. Buildings and home untensils have been preserved in exceptionally good condition and provide valuable information about the daily lives of people in this community. Even cultivated fields of maize, agave and other herbs have been preserved.
- Las Marías - La Libertad. Prehistoric city with several pyramids up to 8 - 9 m high. The only prehistoric settlement with ancient road which is similar to Mayan sacbé.
- Quelepa - San Miguel. Site of prehistoric settlement, most likely founded by Lenca people around 400 BC. Includes up to 10 m tall pyramids, ballcourt. Abandoned sometimes around 1000 AD. Interesting is Jaguar Altar - large, carved monolith.
- San Andrés - La Libertad. Ruins of old settlement which was inhabited already at 900 BC. Served as a regional centre of Maya in 600 - 900 AD. Impressive is Acropolis - group of ceremonial and administrative buildings above the old city.
- Tehuacán - San Vicente. Prehistoric settlement which was inhabited sometimes around 600 - 1400 AD. Contains large, 20 m tall pyramid.
- Villa Rosita - Santa Ana. Prehistoric settlement, once important centre. Abandoned sometimes around 250 AD after the eruption of Ilopango. Contains 13 m tall, circular pyramid, another 10 m tall pyramid and other structures.
Pre-Columbian ceremonial centres
- Casa Blanca in Chalchuapa - Santa Ana. Ruins of ceremonial complex which consists of 6 structures. Largest pyramid is 15 m tall.
- Tazumal - Santa Ana, Chalchuapa. Impressive, 23 m tall pyramidal structure, built by Pok'omame culture. In vicinities of this structure are located other prehistoric monuments, including the 2.65 m tall monolithic carving named "Estela de Tazumal". This carving is adorned by undeciphered hieroglyphical writings.
- Conchagua Church - La Unión. Interesting church in Renaissance and Baroque styles, constructed in 1693.
- Dolores de Izalco Church - Sonsonate. Old church in Renaissance style, built in 1569.
- San Pedro Church in Metapán - Santa Ana. Small, ornate church in Baroque style, constructed in 1736 - 1743.
- Santa Ana Cathedral - Santa Ana. Impressive cathedral in Neo-Gothic style, with ornate marble facade. Constructed in 1906 - 1959.
Other man made landmarks
- Ciudad Vieja - Cuscatlán. Ruins of the first capital of Salvador, the original location of San Salvador. City was established in 1528 and abandoned in 1545. Here have been preserved ruins of buildings, cobbled streets.
- Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo - San Salvador. Iconic national monument with statue of Jesus standing on the globe.
- National Palace - San Salvador. Large public building in Neo-Classicism style, built in 1905 - 1911. Building has 105 rooms. Four rooms are used for the official receptions and each has distinct color scheme - red (for president and ambassadors), yellow (for president), pink (for Ministry of Defence) and blue.
List of described attractions by departments
El Salvador is divided into 14 departments.
|Joya de Cerén||Abandoned cities and towns|
Map of El Salvador
Featured: Joya de Cerén
Many centuries ago the Mayan village, now called Joya de Cerén, experienced sudden disaster - the eruption of nearby Loma volcano covered the village with a thick layer of ash. Calamity of Mayan farmers turned into luck of contemporary archaeologists - this Mayan Pompeii has provided us with valuable knowledge about the daily lives of those ancient people.
El Salvador's roads are less traveled compared to other Central American countries, making for a destination which retains that elusive quality travelers often look for: adventure. From dramatic volcanic landscapes to blue-green lagoons, the bustle of San Salvador to the quiet wilderness of El Imposible National Park, this guidebook will help you make the most of your visit to this spectacular country.
Moon Handbooks give you the tools to make your own choices:
- Can't-miss sights, activities, restaurants, and accommodations, marked with M;
- Essential info on San Salvador, El Salvador's resilient urban heart;
- Suggestions on how to plan a trip that's perfect for you.