Lake Ilopango, volcanic caldera in El Salvador.

Lake Ilopango in El Salvador is a fantastic crater volcano located just outside the capital city of San Salvador. This exceptional lake is an excellent place for sailing, kayaking, diving, fishing, windsurfing, swimming, enjoying any water sport, and many other activities. Furthermore, this lake is one of the top touristic destinations in the country.

About Lake Ilopango El Salvador

Ilopango lake sits between the departments of San Salvador, Cuscatlán and La Paz. And just in case you didn’t know, the name Ilopango in Nahuat means “Valley of the Jiquilotes” or place of the corn goddess.

Lake Ilopango

This volcanic lake area is about 72 square kilometers, and it has a depth of about 248 meters; these dimensions help make this lake one of the most popular and most visited in the country.

Things to do at Ilopango lake

Generally, the top things to do at Ilopango lake include swimming, diving, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, boat tours, playing water sports, or spending time at the Amapulapa touristic center. Here is a breakdown of the most popular things to do at this lake.



Lake Ilopango boat tours.

Taking boat tours deep into the lake is a popular activity; boat tours are available from many different points along the shore, but the most popular spot, to catch a boat, is near the Apulo touristic park.

Obviously, in a boat ride, you can view up close the burnt islands located in the middle of the lake. Additionally, you can also view the flora and fauna that surrounds the caldera.

Water sports.

Ilopango lake is an ideal spot to spend time playing water sports; sailing, kayaking, or windsurfing are among the most popular.

Apulo touristic center.

The touristic center sits on the banks of the lake, it has 34 cabins, a picnic area, a soccer field, changing rooms, small restaurants, and much more.

On the weekends and nationals holidays, people from all over the country visit this caldera, so if you don’t like crowds, avoid those days.

Lake Ilopango diving

Certainly, for those of you looking for more extreme adventures, diving is an excellent option at this caldera; the lake has warm water and exceptional diving locations. Undeniably, one of the best diving spots is where you can observe the volcanic activity.



However, there is no diving school at the lake, so prior diving arrangements need to be made; El Salvador divers is a well known diving company in the country that offers diving at Ilopango Lake.

Ilopango Lake El Salvador
Ilopango Lake Photo By: randreu, CC BY 3.0,

Lake Ilopango history and eruptions.

Lake Ilopango or Ilopango caldera is a result of massive volcanic eruptions that occurred thousands of years ago. The outburst that occurred between 410 and 535 AD desolated Mayan cities in the area.

The Smithsonian channel produced this video, it describes the eruption of Ilopango’s Lake and the effects it had on the world’s climate at that time.

The eruptions of 1879 to 1880 formed the group of islands located in the center of the lake, these islands are called “burnt islands.” They serve as a reminder of the history this lake carries with it.

El Salvador’s Lake Ilopango, near the capital city of San Salvador, is known for boating, diving and the rugged, scenic beauty of its 100 meter-tall cliffs — the lip of the caldera that holds the lake. However, 1,500 years ago, it may have been the site of one of the most horrific natural disasters in the world. It may also be the long-sought cause of the extreme climate cooling and crop failures of A.D. 535-536.

Additionally, in 2016, researches from the UK published a report saying that they found evidence that a pool of magma is building up beneath Ilopango’s lake. Of course, this evidence suggests that San Salvador, the capital might be at risk for a future volcanic eruption. It’s an interesting read, click here to read the research’s article.



Lake Ilopango hotels

Lake Ilopango is not a destination where people spend the night, most visitors go to Ilopango on day trips. I am not saying that accommodations do not exist; but, I was not able to find any that I can recommend or suggest.

This caldera is near popular tourist destinations such as Suchitoto and San Salvador; visitors stay at these locations and take a day to visit this caldera.


To sum up, Ilopango Lake in El Salvador is a fantastic area to spend the day exploring, the caldera has plenty of activities that can be done in a day.

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