Volcanoes in El Salvador. Explore These Iconic Beauties

Volcanoes in El Salvador
Izalco Volcano El Salvador. Photo by El Salvador Travel

The volcanoes in El Salvador range from towering stratovolcanoes such as Izalco, Santa Ana, San Vicente, and Chaparrastique; to eroded volcanoes resembling a mountain such as Guazapa and Cerro Verde.

El Salvador is called the land of volcanoes because it has 170 volcanoes in its territory and lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the areas with the most seismic and volcanic activity on the planet.

Santa Ana volcano
The Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador

How Many Volcanoes are in El Salvador?

There are 170 volcanoes in El Salvador scattered in a territory of 21,041 square kilometers. El Salvador is a small nation; but a very volcanically active country; in fact, 90% of its area has volcanic materials.

According to some geological studies, most of these volcanoes were formed by a collision of tectonic plates over 10,000 years ago. But, some volcanoes have been created more recently from holes in the slopes of other volcanoes.

Surfing in El Salvador x
Surfing in El Salvador

According to MARN volcanologists, the emergence of volcanoes in El Salvador was facilitated by its close location to two tectonic plates.

The Cocos tectonic plate is 50 kilometers off the Salvadoran coast and collides with the Caribbean plate. El Salvador is in the collision zone of both plates; this facilitates the formation of volcanoes.

Active Volcanoes in El Salvador

El Salvador has 23 active volcanoes, six of which are frequently monitored for seismic activity. They are the volcanoes Santa Ana, Izalco, San Salvador, San Vicente, Chaparrastique, and the Ilopango Caldera.

A division of the Ministry of the Environment (MARN) is the governmental agency overseeing the monitoring of these active volcanoes.

6 Monitored Active Salvadoran Volcanoes

Name Type
Altitute
Location Last
Eruption
1 Santa Ana Stratovolcano
2,382
Santa Ana 2005
2 Izalco Stratovolcano
1,965
Sonsonate 1966
3 San Salvador Stratovolcano
1,867
San Salvador 1917
4 San Vicente Stratovolcano
2,173
San Vicente N/A
5 Chaparrastique Stratovolcano
2,130
San Miguel 1976
6 Burnt Islands
Ilopango
Lava Dome
450
San Salvador 1879
1880
Ilopango Caldera
438
San Salvador 429 AD

Salvadoran Volcanoes Last Eruptions

The last two Volcanic eruptions in El Salvador wore the Chaparrastique volcano in 2013 and the Santa Ana volcano in 2005.

On December 29, 2013, the San Miguel or Chaparrastique volcano erupted for one day. Some 2,000 residents were evacuated from the volcano’s vicinity.

The eruption didn’t produce a lava flow; however, an eruptive column of gases and ash rose approximately 5 to 10 kilometers and dispersed. It was reported that the ash fell as far as San Salvador, 150 kilometers away.

On October 1, 2005, there was an explosion in which the Santa Ana volcano expelled ash and rocks through the skies.

The eruption created an avalanche of hot water emanating from the volcano’s crater. The volcanic event killed at least two people and forced the evacuation of the nearby San Blas area.

Volcano’s Importance to El Salvador

The Volcanoes in El Salvador have always been of great importance to the county. Volcanoes have been part of the cultural history of the country since pre-colonial times.

In the 21st century, Salvadoran volcanoes help produce clean energy, increase tourism, and help the coffee industry.

Geothermal Energy

El Salvador has two geothermal plants that produce about 21.8% percent of the total energy produced in El Salvador.

Geothermal energy, or heat from the earth, is a natural phenomenon associated with active volcanic systems. It uses the heat vented from volcanoes to create energy.

These geothermal fields are found throughout the volcanic chain that crosses the country, from the Ahuachapán area to the Conchagua volcano in the Gulf of Fonseca.

In 2021, the Nayib Bukele administration is using Volcan Geothermal energy for mining Bitcoins.

Tourism

Volcanoes are a large part of the Salvadoran tourism industry. Every year, thousands of local and foreign tourists visit these volcanoes or the areas around them.

Some of the most significant volcanoes to the tourist industry are the Santa Ana, Izalco, Cerro Verde, Conchagua, and San Salvador volcanoes.

All of the volcanoes in El Salvador offer unique qualities that tourists can see and enjoy.

Coffee Production

El Salvador coffee production is a big part of the Salvadoran economy. It has also been part of the country’s history.

The best Salvadoran coffee beans come from lands around volcanoes. Volcanic soils are a big reason why Salvadoran coffee beans are well-known worldwide.

Best Way to Explore Salvadoran Volcanoes

There are two ways that these Salvadoran volcanoes can be appreciated and explored. One is to hike them, and the other one is to enjoy them from afar.

Hiking to the Summit

Hiking to the summit is the best way to explore and appreciate the beauty of these volcanoes; it is not an easy thing to do; but, it’s worth the effort to get it done.

The most accessible volcanoes, with ideal trails to reach the summit, are El Boqueron, Santa Ana, and Izalco.

On the other hand, if you want a more challenging hike, try either the San Vicente or Chaparrastique volcanoes; these volcanoes have no official trails to the summit.

The trails leading up to the summit are dangerous and challenging. Therefore, the hikes are done in groups and led by a professional guide.

Appreciating the volcanoes from Afar

If hiking is not your thing; but, you still want to get a closer look at the phenomenal volcanoes.

You can visit parks like El Boqueron or Los Volcanoes national park; these national parks have open areas with great views of the volcanoes.

El Boqueron and Los Volcanoes National park are not the only ones that have these lookout areas.

Each volcano has different ways that you can appreciate its beauty without having to reach the summit.So, depending on your location, the volcano near you might offer different activities or ways to view them.

The best way to decide what volcano to visit is to speak to a tour company in El Salvador and see what they recommend.

Volcanoes in El Salvador
The San Miguel Volcano. Photo by @MedioAmbienteSV

The most popular Salvadoran volcanoes with local and foreign tourists are the Santa Ana, The Izalco, The Cerro Verde, and the San Salvador volcano.

The following are ten Salvadoran volcanoes worth visiting and exploring.

1. Santa Ana or Ilamatepec Volcano

The Santa Ana or Ilamatepec volcano is the tallest in El Salvador; it stands 2,382 meters above sea level. Santa Ana’s last eruptions happened in 1904, 1920, and 2005.

This active volcano is and one of the most visited in the country. It is located at the Cerro Verde National Park near the city of Santa Ana.

The Santa Ana volcano is popular with local and foreign tourists. Hiking to the summit is one of the most popular tourist activities. Yet, hiking Santa Ana is not for everyone; the trails are narrow and challenging.

Anyone that reaches the top will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the other two volcanoes in the park, the crater lake inside the volcano, the Coatepeque lake, the Pacific Ocean, and a 360-degree unobstructed view of the entire region.

Visitors don’t need to hike to the summit to appreciate this volcano; they can simply visit the Cerro Verde National Park and enjoy the view from one of the many lookout points.

The Santa Ana volcano is located in the Apaneca mountain range, within a tropical mountainous cloud forest, over a coffee-growing area.

Ilamatepec volcano
Santa Ana Volcano.

2. Izalco Volcano

Izalco is one of the youngest volcanoes on the American Continent; it is an iconic stratovolcano located at the Cerro Verde National Park.

This volcano is also called the lighthouse of the Pacific. It got the nickname from the flaring eruptions and the lava coming out. This flaring event was visible from the Pacific Ocean, therefore looking like a lighthouse in the distance.

This volcano, just like Santa Ana, is a popular destination for those looking to hike a volcano all the way to the summit.

The hike is challenging, even for experienced hikers; nevertheless, once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the entire area.

The Izalco volcano has no vegetation; therefore, the perfect volcano cone is visible from afar. One of the best locations to see this fantastic stratovolcano is from the viewpoints at the Cerro Verde National park.

Izalco Volcano El Salvador
Izalco Volcano, the lighthouse of the Pacific.

3. The San Salvador Volcano

The San Salvador volcano, also known as Quezalatepeque volcano, is a stratovolcano located in the municipalities of Quezaltepeque, San Juan Opico, Colon, Nejapa y Nueva San Salvador in La Libertad department.

The San Salvador volcano is located about eleven kilometers from San Salvador, the nation’s capital. It sits at an elevation of 1,667 meters above sea level.

This volcano last erupted in 1917. This eruption caused the extinction of the volcano crater lake. The now-empty volcano crater called El Boqueron is one of the main attractions of the volcano.

The volcano is near heavily populated areas; therefore, it gets plenty of visitors; most of them visit through the El Boqueron National Park.

El Boqueron National Park is located within the stratovolcano; it has well-marked trails that take visitors to the top and see the famous El Boqueron crater and El Boqueroncito.

The main volcanic crater at El Boqueron is about 1.5 km in width and about 500 meters deep; El Boqueroncito is located inside the main volcano crater.

Volcanoes in El Salvador
El Boqueron National Park in El Salvador. Photo by: @MITURElSalvador

4. Chaparrastique or San Miguel Volcano

The Chaparrastique volcano or volcano of San Miguel is located in the eastern part of the country. This massive stratovolcano is visible from many lookout points near the volcano or from the city of San Miguel.

If you are adventurous enough to want to hike Chaparrastique, keep in mind that this volcano is not protected by any national park or has official trails to follow; the volcano is there for anyone with the courage to explore it.

Salvadoran Volcano
Chaparrastique Volcano in San Miguel.

Keep in mind that this fierce-looking volcano is one of the most active in the country; the last big eruption was in 1976. However, in 2013, there was an ash eruption that forced the evacuation of the area.

5. San Vicente or Chinchontepec Volcano

The San Vicente or Chichontepec volcano is the second tallest in the country. This massive twin-peaked volcano, just like Chaparrastique, is not suitable for everyone to explore or hike.

The volcano is surrounded by dense vegetation; therefore, getting to the summit or high up is the best and only way to see the areas around it.

Getting to the top is challenging as the trails are not accurately maintained or marked. Nonetheless, if you reach the summit or high up, you will get some great views of the area.

Salvadoran Volcanoes
San Vicente Volcano.

On a clear day from the San Vicente volcano summit, you can see the other two large volcanos in the distance, Chaparrastique in San Miguel and Santa Ana.

6. Ilopango Caldera

Ilopango volcano is an active volcano Caldera lake; it is a popular destination for tourists. Diving is an excellent option at this caldera.

The Ilopango Caldera is one of the six volcanoes that is monitored by the Salvadoran Government.

Ilopango was the location of one of the most catastrophic eruptions in the world. 1,500 years ago, it erupted and released up to 84 cubic kilometers of volcanic material.

El Salvador Volcanoes.
Burn Islets in Ilopango lake.

7. Conchagua Volcano

Conchagua volcano is a stratovolcano located in southeastern El Salvador, near La Union city; it overlooks the Gulf of Fonseca.

The volcano is surrounded by dense vegetation; nevertheless, there are plenty of trails for visitors to explore and enjoy the local flora and fauna.

Furthermore, you can go camping in the area.
This volcano is clearly visible from many of the La Union beaches and the Gulf of Fonseca.

This volcano is not as attractive or popular as other volcanoes in the country, mainly because it’s located farther away from the larger cities.

8. Cerro Verde Volcano

Cerro Verde is an extinct and eroded volcano located at the volcanoes national park. This extinct volcano is the easiest to hike and explore; it looks more like a mountain than a volcano.

Most visitors use Cerro Verde as a stepping stone to either the Izalco volcano or the Santa Ana volcano.

The top activity at the Cerro Verde volcano is hiking; the trails here are more accessible and easier to navigate.

From this volcano, visitors get some astonishing views of the other two volcanoes in the park, Izalco and Santa Ana.

9. Guazapa Volcano

Guazapa volcano is on this list because of the civil war of the ’80s. This mountain volcano is not the highest or the best looking in the country; but, it was an instrumental location during the armed conflict.

While hiking the Guazapa’s trails, visitors will see trenches, encampments, and cemeteries dug by guerilla fighters.

Most travelers go to Guazapa from Suchitoto; it’s a great way to see a colonial town, hike a volcano, and learn about the armed conflict of the ’80s.

10. The Tecapa Volcano

The Tecapa volcano sits in the municipality of Alegria in the department of Usulutan. The volcano is a tourist attraction, mainly because of the Alegria lagoon that is surrounded by hot springs and fumaroles.

El Salvador Volcanoes
Guazapa Volcano in El Salvador. Photo by Sergio Cordova

23 Salvadoran Volcanoes

Name Type Altitude
MASL
Location
1 Santa Ana Stratovolcano 2,382 Santa Ana
2 Izalco Stratovolcano 1,965 Sonsonate
3 San Salvador Stratovolcano 1,867 San Salvador
4 San Vicente Stratovolcano 2,173 San Vicente
5 Chaparrastique Stratovolcano 2,130 San Miguel
6 6a- Burnt Islands
6b- Ilopango
Lava Dome
Caldera
450
438
San Salvador
San Salvador
7 San Marcellino Cinder Cone 1,480 Sonsonate
8 El Playon Cinder Cone 660 San Salvador
9 Conchaguita Stratovolcano 550 Fonseca Gulf
10 Coatepeque Caldera 746 Santa Ana
11 Tecapa Stratovolcano 1,592 Usulutan
12 Conchagua Stratovolcano 1,250 La Union
13 Cuyanausul Stratovolcano 1,840 Ahuachapan
14 El Pacayal Stratovolcano 1,200 San Miguel
15 Limbo Cinder Cone 1,373 San Miguel
16 Las Ranas Hill Stratovolcano 1,958 Sonsonate
17 Green Lagoon Stratovolcano 1,829 Ahuachapan
18 Las Ninfas Hill Stratovolcano 1,760 Ahuachapan
19 Chingo Stratovolcano 1,777 Santa Ana
20 Los Naranjos Hill Stratovolcano 1,960 Sonsonate
21 Chambala Hill Stratovolcano 600 San Miguel
22 Usulutan Stratovolcano 1,450 Usulutan
23 Taburete Hill Stratovolcano 1,172 Usulutan

The Salvadoran Volcanoes

Obviously, there are other volcanoes in El Salvador, great for exploring. In the above list, I added the ten most well-known and popular.

The three volcanoes at Los Volcanos National Park and El Boqueron are by far the most popular destinations. They are near big popular cities like Santa Ana, San Salvador, and Santa Tecla.

Also, these volcanos have excellent trails and local guides ready to assist visitors with whatever they might need.

The Volcanoes at San Miguel, San Vicente, and La Union are for individuals who want a more challenging journey. These volcanoes are not easy to explore, and the trails are not well kept.

To sum up, exploring the volcanos in El Salvador is one of the top things to do while visiting the country.