San Salvador is the capital city of El Salvador and a great vacation stop off.

The rebels assembled in this town square by th...
Image via Wikipedia

San Salvador [1] is the capital city of El Salvador, approximately in the center of the country in a valley near the base of the San Salvador volcano. The city has a long history, with origins dating back to the Spanish conquest of the Pipil tribes.

coat-of-arms and flag of San Salvador 

coat-of-arms and flag of San Salvador

 

 

Understand

San Salvador lies in the “Valle de las Hamacas” (literally “Valley of the hammocks”, as it was called by the Pipil, due to its intense earthquake activity) at the foot of the San Salvador volcano. It covers an area of 600 square km and is home to nearly 2 million people. It is home to one-third of El Salvador’s population and one-half of the country’s wealth. The downtown area is filled with shops and modern buildings, but unfortunately earthquakes have damaged or destroyed many of the city’s historic buildings.

The new National Cathedral, facing Plaza Barrios in the city centre 

The new National Cathedral, facing Plaza Barrios in the city centre

 

 

The people of San Salvador are generally friendly, though as in any large city, less inclined to engage in conversations with strangers on the street as opposed to other parts of the country. The wealthy live in exclusive suburbs behind tall security walls or luxury condominium buildings. Wealthier areas such as San Benito, Colonia Escalon, Colonia San Francisco, Colonia Maquilishuat, Santa Elena (where the US embassy is located) and Ciudad Merliot have tree-lined avenues, the biggest malls in Central America, bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, luxury hotels, modern high-rise buildings, plazas, boutiques, cafes, luxury salons, jewelry stores, etc. Some of these neighborhoods are located in the hills surrounding the city and have breathtaking views. A number of new gated housing communities complete with parks, swimming pools, fitness facilities and tight security are popular with middle class families. Most of the city’s hotels can be found in these suburbs.

There are middle class neighborhoods and residential areas close to the wealthy neighborhoods. Poorer areas are located in the northern and eastern districts, along with an abundance of shanty towns sprawling along the city’s fringes.

San Salvador’s climate is tropical, although the weather can vary; the nights may be cool (especially in December), however, most of the time it is sunny and warm. Wearing t-shirts, jeans, and possibly a light rain jacket is usually sufficient.

Whilst not on most tourists’ “to do” list in El Salvador, the capital provides a good base for exploring the rest of the country as it’s a transportation hub, with most major roads running through it due to its central location. Spending a few days exporing this cosmopolitan and internationally-conscious city can be a rewarding experience. Whilst parts can seem like a maze of confusion, rich vs poor, modern vs dilapitaded, cars vs pedestrians, the city has played a major role in defining and shaping the rest of this small yet intruiging country, once at the forefront of the Cold War. To understand this polarized country, it is essential to understand its political, cultural and social headquarters.

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