I love flowers; that is why the Ruta de Las Flores (Route of Flowers) in El Salvador appealed to me. But I didn’t see that many flowers along the route but it is a beautiful string of villages in amazing volcanic surroundings. Each town has its own charm and mix of colonial architecture and indigenous building. The small villages are perfect for souvenir shopping and drink a wonderful cup of coffee. El Salvadoran coffee is renowned one of the best in the world!! Next to coffee lovers, nature and waterfall lovers will love this place too; the area is packed with trails and you can jump into a refreshing natural shower!!
I arrived in El Salvador from Copán, Honduras. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning 5:30AM a shuttle leaves for 40US$ from Copán to El Tunco, El Salvador. I wanted to go to Juayúa first and thereafter to El Zonte; the shuttle dropped me of in Santa Ana (strange enough for the same price….). I was dropped off at the popular and high rated Hostel Casa Verde, because around the station of Santa Ana there is too much traffic. I walked for 10-15 min to the terminal to catch the bus 238 at 11.45AM and arrived 1,5 hour later in Juayúa for only 0,75$ one way. The 238 bus leaves the Santa Ana terminal to Juayúa normally at 9:50AM, 11:45AM, 1:45PM, 3:45PM, 5:00PM and 6:30PM from Monday to Saturday.
Tip: Check the CentroCoasting Website for updated bus schedules.
Next destination is El Zonte and El Tunco at La Costa del Bálsamo. From Juayúa the chicken bus number 249 runs every 15 min to Sonsonate in ±45 min for 0,45$. At the station of Sonsonate take the 287 bus to La Libertad; one leaving at 6:00AM and the other at 15:30PM directly to the pacific coast (±2 hours). Tell the driver you where you need to get out and they will help you. The road is beautiful and great to see the ocean and cliffs of the El Salvador coast. An alternative route is to go to San Salvador first and then to the coast; this service runs more frequently but is longer with more changing buses in the capital city which was not my favorite option…
Tip: With the Maps.me the off-line map App, you can see where you are and remind the driver/helper to stop the bus in time.
To visit all the villages on the Ruta de las Flores, take the 249 bus; it travels through Juayúa, Salcoatitán, Apeaneca and Ataco villages. Next to these main long distance buses, you can take the smaller shuttles to bring you from one village to the other; this way you can take the bus more frequently.
Tip: Start in furthest village on the route Ataco and go back in via several stops (see below) back to Juayúa.
Juayúa pronounce like why-ooh-ah; is the most visited village on Ruta de las Flores. And I totally understand why; I will try to explain below. Juayúa is known for the food festivals every weekend; but I visited the place during the week unfortunately.
Tip: Plan your trip to visit this place during the weekend for the food festival, but if you can’t, like me, it is still worth to visit Juayúa.
My base on the route was Juayúa, for three nights I stayed in the lovely recommended accommodation: Hotel Anáhuac. Most of the flowers I saw on the route where in the backyard of this small and intimate hotel! My private room (20US$) was very comfortable and perfectly styled, you can order breakfast (not included) and consume it in the sunny garden. The place has bunk beds too; for every traveler an sleeping option. The location is perfect at the corner of 1 Calle Pte and 5 Av Norte; but Juayúa is not too big anyway and everything walkable.
Occalli Café: I love this place, I came here every day sometimes twice!! Very friendly staff, great coffee and the toast breakfast was the best; I came back in the afternoon for a sparking Jamaica! A big recommendation for a chill hangout with good vibe, company music and Wi-Fi at 6 Av Sur!
Tip: If you need a guide to the waterfalls, ask Oscar from Occalli. He will walk with you, if he has a day off from making coffee of course.
R&R: This restaurant was top pick and highly recommended and for a reason. The food is different and tasted great; really something different. The atmosphere is a bit dark and colorful at the same time; when I was there on a Wednesday it not very busy. Located at RN12W between Av Norte 3 and 5.
Pupuseria La Esmeralda: My guide brought me to this local favorite place. Pupusa is a very El Salvadorian dish, simple but sooooo tasty and cheap!!! You can order them in many flavors, but the basis is cheese and dough and add fish, vegetables or meat to it. This colorful and popular place is located a bit outside the city center at Av Daniel Cordon Norte and 5 Calle Oriente.
There are many more restaurants and local vendors in Juayúa, like the Mexican Taqueria La Guandalupana. Juayúa is perfect to stroll across the market, visit the Plaza Central in front of the church and mingle among the locals and have a coffee. But the best thing to do here in Juayúa is to visit the waterfalls of Chorros de la Calera.
Waterfalls of Chorros de la Calera
It is recommended to walk to the Chorros waterfalls with a guide; the place is remote and safer to have a local person besides you. I heard people walking by themselves, but I felt more comfortable someone knowing the route and pointing out the highlights during the 40-45 minutes’ walk.
Tip: Take your walking shoes with you, the road could be slippery and are very dusty!
The surroundings are amazing; jungle feeling, butterflies everywhere, birds flying around and you hear the water falling off the cliffs. The water of the waterfalls are collected in a man-made reservoir; this creates a pool where you can cool off after your jungle walk. Bring your bathing gear and towel, so you can hang out here at one of the waterfalls; swim, make awesome pictures, enjoy the scenery and prepare mentally for the walk back.
Tip: In the weekends the waterfalls could get crowded with locals and kids; I had the place all for myself on a Wednesday morning.
There are more tours offered in and around Ruta de las Flores; walk with the seven waterfalls, visit to a crater Laguna Verde, zip-lining and coffee tours. Keep in mind that El Salvador is not as touristic and busy as other Central American countries and more difficult to get organized transport and tours.
This was my first stop on the route after Juayúa which was my basis on the Ruta de las Flores. Take the 249 bus all the way to Ataco; which is approx. 45 min (0,75$) ride through the winding landscape and mountain range and spotting volcanos from the bus window. I wanted to take a picture during the trip but that was too difficult; so just enjoy and take mental pictures!!
I arrived in the morning and it was not that busy in this colorful town. It has a lot of wall paintings and decorated houses. The streets are made of cobblestone and including the old buildings it gives it an ancient and colonial atmosphere. There are a lot of artisan markets and souvenirs shops. Spotted some nice restaurants and coffee shops. I walked all the way up to the Hotel Misión de Angeles; went in to see the garden and watched the terrific view. From this hill you have a great overview of Ataco; the other side of town the Mirador de La Cruz is another viewpoint.
After strolling through the village of Ataco and drinking a coffee at one of the nice cafes in town and I walked a little outside town to the El Carmen Coffee Farm. I wanted to do a tour, but that was not possible; walked around a bit up the hill and explored the premises. In Colombia and Panama I did already coffee tours so I was not too disappointed; more time to explore the rest of the Ruta de Las Flores.
Between Ataco and Apaneca
Next stop El Jardin de Celeste for lunch; I took the shuttle to Apaneca and dropped off at El Jardin. This restaurant is highly recommended and top pick in Lonely Planet. The garden is very beautiful and the food was good. I expected to have a nice view over the mountain range but that was not the case.
If you want a cool and original place to have a good and well prepared coffee you have to go to TaYua Bosque. This place is on the Ruta de las Flores, get off at the gas station El Rosario between Ataco and Apaneca and walk the RW15S uphill in the pine woods. This place is perfect to get a special prepared coffee; one where they weight the amount and temperature of the water. Very interesting process to see!! During my visit is was a bit misty and due to that mysterious. Loved the vibe of this modern place in the woods with good coffee!
Apaneca village is smaller but higher than Ataco and Juayúa; but the location is perfect below the coffee hill. It was quite again, not many tourists in the streets. Was wondering if this was because it’s not a weekend or it’s just El Salvador; less touristy than the rest of Central America so far…… Strolling through the streets and admired the local white church Iglesia San Andres.
Besides the roofed shops in Centro de Atención al Cliente; the hot spot in this lazy town is Axul Café. A trendy with bright white and blue colors café and attached store; where they sell all local fabricated products. Worth a visit and drink another delicious coffee!!
The village before Juayúa is Salcoatitán. I visited this place when it was already dark with my guide and walked around. I concluded that after visiting all the villages on the Ruta de las Flores, I made the right choice to sleep and stay in Juayúa. Ataco would be the second option. In Salcoatitán I went to Telo’s Coffee at the roofed Centre across the Central Park to have my last coffee of my trip at the Ruta de las Flores!!