Ahuachapan is a small city in the western highlands of El Salvador. With its scenic colonial center and range of services for the traveler, it is a popular stop on the country's Ruta de las Flores, a well-known tourism route through mountainous small towns.

Kiosk in Parque Concordia

Understand edit

The city of Ahuachapan has a population of just over 38,000 people (2012). As the principal city of its region, it has a wide range of businesses that support travelers, including bus stops, hotels, and restaurants.

Get in edit

Map of Ahuachapan

Chicken buses leave every 10 minutes throughout the day from San Salvador to Ahuachapan via Santa Ana. Route 202 is San Salvador - Ahuachapan. The trip takes 2-1/4 hours and costs about US$2. You could also start from Santa Ana, in which case, you would use the Route 210 bus to Ahuachapan. The 1-hour trip between Santa Ana and Ahuachapan costs US$1.

There is not a central bus terminal in Ahuachapan and to catch a chicken bus you need to look at a map and see which road they will use to get to the destination you want to reach. You can ask a local where to catch the bus, or you can wave down a passing bus once you're on the right road, facing the right direction. (It sounds uncertain, but in practice it's easy and reliable.)

Buses coming into Ahuachapan end their routes on CA 8 (Ruta de las Flores) near the Hospicio de Varones. This is also where you can catch buses to Santa Ana and scenic small towns along the Ruta de las Flores. The 202 bus back to San Salvador stops a bit down the road (ask a local or take a moto taxi to the bus stop).

  • 1 Hospicio de Varones (bus stop), highway CA-8 (Ruta de las Flores). Convent and school that's a useful landmark for travelers because Chicken buses stop on the busy Ruta de las Flores, en route to Santa Ana, San Salvador, and the small towns along the popular tourism route. Ask locals if you are unsure which bus to take to whereever you want to go. Note that buses to Guatemala and some other nearby towns can be found elsewhere in town (ask locals).

Get around edit

The central downtown area is compact and a joy to walk, with colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and street vendors with a dizzying selection of things you don't really need. Moto taxis are common, especially for short trips, though regular taxis (most small Nissan sedans) can be found at sitios near downtown parks and can also be called to your hotel. Assuming you are comfortable with Spanish, you can negotiate a daily rate if you'd like a driver to take you around on a custom sightseeing tour (usually very cheap). If you don't know where something is, take one of the moto taxis (tuc-tuc).

See edit

Fumarole near Ahuachapan
  • 1 Parque la Concordia (Zocalo). The town's main square is a peaceful and scenic urban space with towering shade trees, immaculate landscaping, walking paths, park benches and a central kiosk. Locals come to walk their dogs and enjoy Sunday walks with their kids. The town's main church is here along with several small shops, restaurants, cafes, and guest houses. Walk along the outer perimeter and see some of the town's famed mosaic murals.
  • 2 Los Ausoles, Calle Geotermica. Ahuachapan sits atop an active geological zone with several steam vents (fumaroles) on the eastern side of town. A large geothermal power plant harnesses some of this energy to produce environmentally clean energy. Los Ausoles is a publicly open park where you can see small geysers and several open fumaroles, with clouds of billowing steam coming out of the earth. Use caution around the vents.
  • 3 Arco Duran. Historical archway built as a memorial to a historic battle near Laguna Espino between Spaniard Pedro de Alvarado and his men, who faced off against the indigenous leader Atonal.
  • 4 Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption Church), 2A Avenida sur. The town's oldest and most impressive colonial-era church sits next to the zocalo. It is an austere neo-classic style church with heavy wood and wrought iron doors and a nave covered in natural woods. A serene and beautiful place.

Do edit

Salto de Malacatiupan
  • Salto de Malacatiupan (Hot spring waterfalls), La Coyotera (a short taxi ride north of Ahuachapan). Beautiful waterfalls and natural pools with steaming hot mineral waters, fresh from the region's many hot water springs and geysers. Hike the trails and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy by the beautiful waterfalls. Signs prohibit swimming and diving, which locals and tourists alike did frequently until a couple people died diving into waters they didn't check beforehand and others died swimming beneath the lower series of falls where a powerful hydraulic pulls swimmers under water. You sometimes find cattle swimming in the warm river currents (cows are notorious scofflaws, ignoring signs with impunity).
  • 1 Termales Santa Teresa, +503 7293 6666. 8am - 10pm. Hot water geysers and pools with an on-site restaurant and comprehensive spa services. There are 14 geothermically heated mineral water pools to choose from, the coolest with 30 degree Celsius water, the hottest with 38 degree water.
  • 2 Laguna del Espino. Large natural lake on the north side of town, once a popular swimming hole, the water is now considered too dirty for swimming. Several popular restaurants are located on the lakeshore providing scenic views while you enjoy regional cuisine.

Festivals edit

  • Día de los Farolitos (Day of the Lanterns), takes place annually on 7 September. Festivities include a parade through downtown and a celebration honoring the birth of the Virgin Mary. Locals make small lanterns from reeds that light the town in the evening. The festival has been celebrated for more than 170 years and in recent decades, the festival has spread to the nearby town of Concepción de Ataco.

Buy edit

Eat edit

  • 1 Pupuseria La Choza, CA 8, +503 7677 2200. Daily 12:30-00:00. Casual outdoor restaurant serving handmade pupusas and homemade curtido. Large portions, cold drinks, hot sauce available.
  • 2 Brisas de Santa Monica, Col el Carmen km100, +503 7045 8725. Daily 09:00-18:00. Lakeside restaurant offering views and activities along with food and drink. Swimming pool and boat rides available. Serves chicken, ribs, seafood, and ceviche.
  • 3 Malibu, CA 8. Mixed menu with a lot of Mexican dishes (tortilla soup, Mexican style carne asada). $1 beer on Thursdays. Music and dancing in the evening.

Drink edit

Sleep edit

A wider selection of accomodations (especially upscale boutique hotels) is in the nearby town of Concepción de Ataco.

  • 1 Hotel Santa Teresa, C. Gerardo Barrios Pte, +503 2413 1816. Pleasant traditional downtown hotel. Modern furnishings with lots of sculptures and wall paintings. Rooms are comfortable and clean. Free breakfast included in room rate, also free passes to the termales (hot springs).
  • 2 La Casa de Mamapan, Parque La Concordia, 2A Avenida sur, +503 2413 4747. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Traditional hotel next to main plaza. Rooms are spacious and clean but minimally furnished. Breakfast at on-site restaurant. Parking available next to hotel.

Connect edit

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This city travel guide to Ahuachapan is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.