El Volcán de San Salvador
Written by Kelly Montes
The magic comes without the crowds
Many Salvadorans know El Volcán de San Salvador for its proximity to the capital. Just look up from almost anywhere in the city and there it is, dominating the landscape with lush green slopes and silently beckoning you to visit.
The Volcano of San Salvador is a community with a soul. The charm of this destination is waiting for you. The ribbon of road, which winds up one coffee-growing side of the volcano and down the other, is an official tourist destination named Ruta Boqueron, the route to the crater of the volcano. Calle Antigua al Boquerón (coming up from Plaza Merliot) was quickly built in response to the devastation left behind in Los Chorros after the earthquakes of 2001.
In the haste of it all, neither sidewalks nor shoulders for pedestrians were considered. Needless to say, the community spills out into the street, which actually enhances this beautiful destination. Wind slowly through the small villages with the same attention you might give a fine piece of art displayed in a museum. The multitude of different shades of earth tones in the dramatic landscape, the pure country scenery and the crisp mountain air invite everyone to admire nature at her very best. You are now a million miles and a hundred years from the hustle and bustle of the city, which is only 20 minutes away.
The crater (El Boquerón), which last erupted in 1917, has a steep wall, 1.5 kilometers wide and about 500 meters deep. The volcano made news recently when Tourism Minister Rubén Rochi dedicated the newly paved road and viewing installations. El Picacho is the prominent peak of the volcano at 1,960 meters. The gardens surrounding the crater are beautiful, as are the local women who sell berries and flowers in a small market for visitors. The Ministry of Tourism manages the crater and the surrounding gardens.
The volcano’s charm can be enjoyed from any one of the four restaurants located here, each as unique as the destination itself and all off the main road. Just before the corner where you turn off to El Boquerón sits Café El Volcán (Km 20). This is a beautiful restaurant on a large property of manicured gardens. The menu is designed with something for everyone. You may want to start off with the gourmet pupusas. Arugula and tomatoes, mushrooms or asparagus, prepared in the traditional style with cheese, are just delicious. Open Tues-Sun., 9am-6:30pm, tel: 2306-2001.
Café San Fernando, a converted finca house (Km 24), will remind you of an old-fashioned beer garden. The picnic tables are arranged on a dramatic slope so that everyone gets a breathtaking view and a refreshing breeze. The menu offers traditional grilled meats and chicken with delicious side dishes as well as seafood. Open Wed-Sun, tel: 2288-2285.
From this point you are now on the north side of the volcano, and there are some major differences such as its own distinctive climate. You can enjoy listening to the distant thunder of a rainstorm from the south side and be drenched in sun on this side. From this vantage you can clearly see Cerro de Nejapa, Cerro de Guazapa and the thin, shiny strip of Río Lempa. On a crisp day you can be awed by the mountain ridges of Honduras.
A great place to check out the panoramic view is the oldest establishment, Café Miranda. Built in the late 1800s, the main structures were open to the public in 2001. Café Miranda (Km 25) has beautiful gardens, a plant nursery and seating areas (indoors and outdoors) and prepares a delicious Churrasco Boquerón. If you’re an early riser, make a date for breakfast, the eggs benedict, accompanied by breathtaking views, is worth getting up early for. Open Wed-Thurs., 11:30am-5pm, Fri-Sun., 8am-7pm, tel: 2298-4577 & 7886-9700.
Two kilometers farther is Las Orquideas, (Km 27) a destination with a purpose. Privately owned and designed for small private, concerts to support the local arts, Las Orquideas now offers lunch amid a lush, 10-manzana organic coffee forest. Tour the organic herb garden and lemon orchard, walk the extensive trails or sip a chilled glass of wine while enjoying the weekend’s live music venue. Everything is about the enjoyment of the great outdoors, with emphasis on fresh specials prepared by culinary artists using the finest ingredients (most grown on the property). A portion of the proceeds is always dedicated back to the community. Open Sat-Sun., 11am-4pm, tel: 7930-7435.