This pocket sized Central American nation tucked away between Guatemala and Honduras is beginning to target the North American market more aggressively following the completion last week of its first Travel Market in its cosmopolitan capital, San Salvador. Hosted by the government Tourism Promotion Board (CORSATUR), the event attracted tour operators from the United States, Canada and Europe.
The beaches of El Salvador have been well known for decades among the surfing set as one of the world’s most challenging locales and has been the venue for the Quicksilver surfing events that have attracted thousands. Now, the country is broadening its appeal to attract a wider range of visitors by promoting its cultural heritage, its Mayan sites and its extensive national parks and reserves. Although still not well known as a tourism destination in the U.S., increasing numbers of tour operators are adding specific El Salvador programs or combining visits with Honduras and Guatemala. This pleasant land of volcanoes, rolling hills and warm, friendly people would also appeal to the active traveler with numerous options for hiking, biking, watersports or merely exploring the many charming typical rural villages and indigenous markets.
According to Minister of Tourism Jose Napoleon Duarte, El Salvador is now ready for the spotlight. “The North American market is not just an important one for us, it is a strategic one. Tourism arrivals from the U.S. were up 30 percent in 2012, and we want to see continued growth,” he says. “Visitors should not miss our nice beaches, our impressive Mayan sites, our natural reserves and most importantly, the warmth of our people.”
Local ground operators offer several routes that can be used as day trips from San Salvador or combined with overnight stays. The Flower Route visits several rural villages, including picturesque Ataco. The Volcano Route highlights the Cerro Verde volcano and the colonial town of Santa Ana, while the Archeological Route includes one of El Salvador’s most notable attractions, the fascinating Joya de Ceren, a Mayan village frozen in time by a volcano’s lava around AD 600. For more recent history enthusiasts, there is even a Guerilla Route that traces some of the areas prominent in the country’s civil war in the 70s and 80s.
For more on El Salvador, visit elsalvador.travel.