Small Towns in El Salvador: Experiencing Their Culture, History, Local Flavors, and Hospitality

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Jul 5th, 2023
Best small towns in El SalvadorJuayua in Sonsonate El Salvador.

The small towns in El Salvador offer visitors a combination of modern amenities in a colonial setting that fully displays the country’s history and culture. In these towns, visitors can see glimpses of the country’s past, such as the colonial times and, most recently, the armed conflict of the 1980s.

The best small towns in El Salvador to visit anytime and explore are Juayua, Suchitoto, Alegria, Panchimalco, Concepcion de Ataco, Apaneca, Nahuizalco, Perquin, La Palma, and Salcoatitan.

Surrounded by nature, these small colorful towns offer plenty of options for visitors to enjoy nature, relax, learn about Salvadoran culture, taste the local gastronomy, see the local traditions, and much more.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Tourism: A Journey Through Pristine Beaches, Colorful Towns, and Enchanting Parks

1. Juayua

In the middle of the mountains and with spectacular landscapes is the town of Juayua. This town is a staple in the La Ruta de Las Flores tourist route. Juayua is well known for its fantastic weekend gastronomic festival and the colonial church with the image of Black Jesus.

In the town of Juayua, you will find craft shops, coffee shops, restaurants, nurseries, colorful murals, and much more. You can always venture outside the urban area and explore the Los Chorros de La Calera waterfall or visit one of the many nearby coffee plantations.

2. Suchitoto

The colonial town of Suchitoto offers a priceless cultural and historical wealth of El Salvador; it housed the first capital of the country in 1528. The cobbled streets, the roofs made of clay shingles, and the picturesque houses will transport you into colonial times.

Suchitoto has many cultural centers, galleries, small museums, handicraft shops, and more. You will also have the option to venture into the Los Tercios waterfall and the impressive lake Suchitlan. You can also take a horseback ride into the nearby Guazapa mountains, which played a massive role during the 1980s Salvadoran Civil War.

Suchitoto and Lake Suchitlan.

3. Alegria

The town of Alegria sits at an elevation of over 1,00 meters above sea level, surrounded by green hills. The climate in this colorful town is ideal for relaxation and growing some of the best coffee beans in El Salvador.

You can taste some of the best coffees in the country at the many charming places. Alegria offers some of the best views in El Salvador with excellent hiking trails. Furthermore, the impressive Alegria volcanic lagoon is located near the town.

Alegria Lagoon El Salvador
Alegria Lagoon in Usulutan.

4. Panchimalco

The town of Panchimalco sits surrounded by mountains; it is about 15 kilometers from the capital city, San Salvador. This town offers outstanding natural parks to enjoy with family or friends, such as the Balboa Natural Park, The Family Park, and Los Planes de Renderos.

Kids at the Panchimalco Festival. Photo by @TrazeeTravel

Panchimalco has deep links to Salvadoran indigenous people; here is where the Pipil Indians flew to during the Spanish takeover of San Salvador. The first weekend in May is the best time to visit this town, during their traditional Flowers and Palms festival.

5. Concepcion de Ataco

The town of Concepcion de Ataco is one of the most colorful destinations you can visit in El Salvador; it is part of the La Ruta de Las Flores tourist route. It is located at over 1,200 meters above sea level and is enclosed by impressive hills with dense vegetation and well-known coffee plantations.

Concepcion de Ataco
Town of Concepcion de Ataco El Salvador.

Ataco has cobbled streets, bright murals, crafts, gastronomy, excellent coffee, and a cool climate, which makes it a perfect location to visit. It also has fantastic places for ecotourism, such as spectacular gardens, hot spring pools, waterfalls, and coffee farms.

6. Apaneca

Apaneca is part of the well-known Ruta de Las Flores route; it sits at an altitude of over 1,400 meters above sea level in the Ahuachapan department. It is one coldest destination in the country and one of the best small towns in El Salvador to visit.

The town’s urban area offers a great atmosphere to taste the local gastronomy or a cup of high-quality coffee harvested in the area. Apaneca has cobblestone streets and colorful houses similar to Suchitoto.

Apaneca has plenty of outdoor activities. You can visit the Albania labyrinth with its tasty coffee brand; hike to the Ninfas or Green lagoon, or explore a coffee farm. Additionally, you can go ziplining or rent a boogie cart and explore the area.

Best Small Towns in El Salvador
Town of Apaneca.

7. Nahuizalco

Nahuizalco is another small town part of La Ruta de Las Flores in eastern El Salvador. The town is well known all over the country for its crafts, especially the ones made up of wicker.

This town has a strong indigenous influence; some locals can speak Nahuat, and it is common to see locals wearing traditional Pipil attire.

In Nahuizalco, you can visit one of the many stores and workshops; here, you can see the process of making handicrafts or furniture. However, it is better to shop at night at the local night market. The streets in the market and around the central plaza are lit only by candles.

Nahuizalco El Salvador
Town of Mahuizalco. Image by MITUR

8. Perquin

The town of Perquin is in the Morazan department near the Honduran border. The village, located in a remote area of El Salvador, is part of the peace route. It is a tourist route comprised of municipalities heavily involved during the Salvadoran Civil War.

Perquin houses the Museum of the Salvadoran Revolution. The museum was founded in 1992 by a group of ex-guerilla fighters after the signing of the peace accords. The museum has a collection of objects, documents, and images of the armed conflict.

Here, you can take tours of different fields where heavy combat occurred throughout the 80s between the Salvadoran Army and FMLN guerillas. Perquin was a guerilla stronghold during the civil war. You can also visit the Monument of El Mozote, built to pay respect to the victims of one of the worst massacres in Salvadoran history.

Perquin Morazan
Perquin’s landscape.

9. La Palma

La Palma is located high up in the Chalatenango mountains near El Pital hill, the highest point in El Salvador. The town is well-known for its arts and crafts and for being the place where the first peace accord meeting between the government and guerillas took place in 1984.

The colorful small town is known for its handcrafted objects made of wood or Copinol Seeds. These crafts are made in numerous shops all over La Palma and are sold all over the country. La Palma is home to Naif art created by Fernando Llort, perhaps El Salvador’s most renowned painter and craftsman. Llort’s artwork is visible in the mosaic adorning the San Salvador Cathedral.

La Palma Chalatenango
Town of La Palma El Salvador. Image by Karolina

10. Salcoatitan

Salcoatitan is located about 75 kilometers from San Salvador. It is on the Ilamatepec mountain range, at a high altitude of over 1,000 meters above sea level. This colorful town is part of the La Ruta de las Flores touristic route.

A popular attraction in Salcoatitan is the La Ceiba tree, which is estimated to be over 400 years old and is of significant importance to the indigenous culture of the area. You can also enjoy the local gastronomy, especially during the weekend food festivals. The colonial church, which is one of the oldest in El Salvador, is also a top tourist attraction.

Salcoatitan El Salvador
Old and new church in Salcoatitan.

Best small towns in El Salvador to visit

The ten towns listed above are some of the most popular destinations in the country for locals and foreigners. They have rich traditions that date back to colonial times. They also have plenty of fun activities for visitors to experience and enjoy.

El Salvador has plenty of other small towns, not listed here, with plenty to offer visitors, such as gastronomy, ecotourism, and more. Visit one of them, try the tasty local cuisine or the excellent street foods, and get to know everything these colorful towns offer.