The Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador or Ilamatepec Volcano

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Nov 3rd, 2022
Santa Ana Volcano El SalvadorImage by @ISTUSV

The Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador is an active stratovolcano located in the department of Santa Ana; it is the highest in the country at about 7812 feet above sea level.

The Santa Ana stratovolcano is located about 43 kilometers from the city of Santa Ana and about 65 kilometers from downtown San Salvador.

This volcano is one of the main attractions at the Cerro Verde National Park. The park has three volcanoes, Santa Ana, Izalco, and Cerro Verde.

Ilamatepec Volcano El Salvador
Ilamatepec Volcano El Salvador.

The majestic Santa Ana volcano, also called Ilamatepec Volcano, is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the eastern part of the country.

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

Santa Ana Volcano Eruptions

Santa Ana is an active volcano. It is frequently monitored for seismic activity by a division of the Ministry of the Environment (MARN)

The Ilamatepec volcano’s last eruption was in October 2005; it killed at least two people and forced the evacuation of the nearby areas.

The volcanic eruption sent ash and rocks through the skies into the surrounding areas. Also, it created an avalanche of hot water originating from the volcano’s crater.

The previous major eruption of Santa Ana happened in 1904. This eruption lasted for two weeks and ejected ash into the air and lava into the area.

There have been numerous seismic activities at this stratovolcano besides the two listed above. For instance, in August 2007, volcanic activity caused the evaporation of the crater lagoon, reducing it by 85%.

Santa Ana Volcano
Santa Ana volcano crater lagoon.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador’s Ecotourism. 10 Incredible Salvadoran Natural Parks Worth Exploring!

Visit the MARN website to know more about all of Santa Ana’s seismic activity.

Ilamatepec Volcano Tourism

El Salvador has 170 volcanoes in its territory, and it sits in the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the areas with massive seismic and volcanic activity.

Many of these impressive Salvadoran volcanoes are used to attract local and foreign tourists. Each volcano has unique characteristics that help them attract visitors.

However, one of the most attractive to visit and explore is the Santa Ana or Ilamatepec volcano.

Every year, local and foreign tourists visit and explore this massive stratovolcano. The most popular activity for most visitors is to hike to the volcano’s summit.

Why Hike the Santa Ana Volcano?

The most popular reasons to hike the Santa Ana volcano are the accessibility to the summit, the fantastic panoramic views, and the beautiful volcano crater with the lagoon.

Accessibility to the summit

The Santa Ana volcano is one of the easiest to hike in the country. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is one of the easiest, but it is not easy.

To reach the top, visitors need to have a basic fitness level. Even though the trail to the summit is marked, it is still challenging as it is rocky with steep climbs.

As you climb towards the summit, the terrain will change from mountain vegetation to a deserted area with grey and black rocks near the top.

From the main office at the volcano base, it will take you about 45 minutes to about 1.5 hours to reach the top; it will all depend on the pace of the group and the trail conditions.

Now, if you start your trip at the Cerro Verde National Park entrance, you will probably need to add an extra 30 to 45 minutes to the trip.

Undoubtedly, getting to the summit of this volcano is more manageable than many of the other stratovolcanoes in the country.

The Fantastic Panoramic Views

The panoramic views from this volcano are a top reason why hiking this volcano is a top tourist attraction.

During your hike, either up or down, you will get extraordinary views of the area. However, at the summit, the scenic views are even better.

Santa Ana Volcano
View from the Santa Ana Volcano Summit. Photo by Sivar Cultura

From this volcano, visitors can see the pacific ocean in the distance, the Izalco volcano, the Cerro Verde volcano, the astonishing Coatepeque Lake, and the valleys around the volcano.

Once visitors reach the summit and see the panoramic views, they will feel that the hike was worth the effort.

The Volcano Crater with the Lagoon

The scenic views from the top are one of the main reasons to hike this volcano; but, the stunning turquoise sulfur lagoon in the center of the crater is also attractive.

Santa Ana volcano is active; therefore, the crater lake regularly releases Sulphur volcanic fumes. The fumes don’t smell that good but add to the attractiveness of hiking an active volcano.

The rim around the crater has many visible layers that have been created over time due to massive eruptions.

Hiking the Santa Ana Volcano

Getting to the top of this volcano is a popular thing to do by tourists visiting the area. The following information might be of use when planning a trip to this volcano.

Where does the hike start?

The hike to the summit starts at the main touristic office located at the base of Santa Ana Volcano. Here, local guides of the ministry of tourism give safety instructions and explain the hike.

Now, there are two ways that visitors can get to the Santa Ana volcano base.

The first option is to drive to the base of the volcano and go from there. There might be an extra minimal charge as you will have to pay a parking fee.

The second option is to start your hike at the base of Cerro Verde National Park. This route is longer as you will have to first get to the volcano base and then hike to the summit.

Some people like the second route because Cerro Verde National Park has plenty of flora and fauna that you can see on your hike.

Nonetheless, it will be up to you to decide which route to take on your journey to Santa Ana’s summit.

How difficult is it to reach the summit?

The hike is not that difficult, but it’s not easy either. So, to make it, you need to have a basic level of fitness; the trail to the summit is rocky with steep climbs.

It can take from 45 minutes to about 1.5 hours to reach the top of the volcano from the main office at the volcano base. The time it takes will depend on the pace of the group and trail conditions.

How safe is the hike?

The Santa Ana hike is relatively safe; but, visitors still need to pay attention and be careful. The trip to the summit gets done at each person’s pace. Therefore, each hiker needs to look out for themselves.

Every hiking group has a police escort and guides provided by the Salvadoran Institute of Tourism or ISTU.

The guides are there just in case something happens; they are not there to help you reach the top or look out for you. The police escort is there as a precaution and to assist any hiker that may need help.

Normal Hiking Schedule

The hike to the summit at Santa Ana Volcano has to be done as a group and with guides provided by the Salvadoran Institute of Tourism or ISTU.

The following is the most common hiking schedule followed when hiking the Santa Ana volcano.

  • The hike starts at the official entrance of the Santa Ana volcano; the hiking groups depart the base from 11 to 11.30 am.
  • By 1 pm, visitors should be at the summit enjoying the panoramic view and everything else. Most hiking groups spend about 30-45 minutes at the top of the volcano.
  • Around 1.30 to 2 pm, visitors start their descent to the bottom of the Santa Ana Volcano.

Visitors can hike this volcano at other hours; however, they first need to obtain a permit to do it.

Hiking the Santa Ana Volcano at Night

Hiking the Santa Ana volcano at night is another option. This activity is done by those who enjoy off-the-beaten-path adventures.

To do this hike at night, you will need a guide and the proper permits. Most Salvadoran tour companies can schedule this night hike for you and get you permission to do it.

Hiking the Ilamatepec volcano at night allows you to greet the sunrise from the summit of the tallest volcano in El Salvador.

The hike usually begins at 3 am and is done on the weekends. It is a favorite outdoor thing to do for those who like extreme hiking.

Items to Bring for the Hike

These are some of the things that you should bring on this hike. Some of them might seem obvious; nonetheless, it’s important to mention them.

  • Use hiking boots instead of tennis shoes, the path is full of sharp rocks.
  • Carry a jacket, at the top, it gets windy and sometimes gets very chilly.
  • Bring a hat or cap as it can get hot during the hike.
  • Always bring plenty of water, you might need it.
  • Bring something light to eat that will give you energy.

These are some of the basic things that you will need for your hike to the summit.


The vast majority of visitors to Santa Ana volcano do it on day trips. Most visitors stay in cities such as Santa Ana, San Salvador, or Juayua.

However, accommodations are available near the volcano for those looking to spend more than a day in the area. Some of them are Bosques del Tibet, Cabañas Campo Bello, and Hotel de Montaña Cerro Verde.

Furthermore, there are camping areas available in the area. So, finding accommodations will not be an issue.

Cerro Verde Volcano Hotel
View from Hotel de Montaña Cerro Verde.

Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador

No question, visiting this volcano and hiking to the summit is the top thing to do in El Salvador. Do not miss the opportunity of making it to the top of this large stratovolcano.

The hike to the top may seem like a hard thing to do, and it may as well be; however, once you reach the top and get to see the view, you will be glad you did it.