The name El Salvador evokes memories from the chaotic civil war fought from 1980 until 1992.But the war has been over a few years now and this small country  is doing its best to distance itself from its past.

The landscape remains the most turbulent aspect of El Salvador and it’s a kind of place where you let yourself go with the flow. I had only two weeks to spend in this country. So as soon as I crossed the border and met an old farmer, I asked him what he would do if he had only two weeks in El Salvador. As it turned out, all of his suggestions were excellent.

My first stop was San Salvador, the busy, dusty capital. After a couple of crazy nights partying in the Zona Rossa, one of the nicest party streets of the few worthwhile attractions of the meaningless capital, Dimitris (one of my best friends from childhood) and I got together to go to Lago de Coatepeque, a long way from the coast. The Pacific coast didn’t really appeal to me so we spent only a few days in small villages and then we headed to Coatepeque Lake. On the eastern slope of the volcano of Santa Anna, the lake is a clean, sparkling blue volcanic crater lake, 6km wide and 120m deep, surrounded by green slopes. Here the old man’s suggestion proved to be true. “Hermano -my brother, as he called me- don’t bother about the rest. Go straight to Coatepeque” he said. We ended up staying one week at a beautiful wooden hostel built on pillars at the edge of the lake, with our small patio facing the whole lake. It’s a really special place in this beautiful world of ours. Here we had the experience of an earthquake outside our own country. Maybe not as strong and that was the good part of it because it gave us the opportunity to take a beautiful walk around the two nearby volcanoes of Santa Anna and Izako. All great memories added to the already beautiful trip.

El Salvador isn’t as great for backpack tourism as its neighboring countries but a trip there affords the experience of watching a country redefine itself. Don’t come here for a relaxing vacation. Come only if you want to know how people in Central America live.

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