Today we made the highly recommended trip to Suchitoto and Lago Illopango. Bloggers recommend it, travel sites recommend it, friends recommend it, and we wanted to see Whats Up in Suchitoto, El Salvador!
I thought the drive there was pleasant, once we got out of the wild of buses at the east end of the city. We got there in about an hour, and with no difficulty at all. Driving in El Salvador is all about getting in the flow.
On the way, we drove through San Martin, which in and of itself looked like an interesting city, but we did not stop. We saw colorful chalk paintings on the streets. (I remembered having read about them in another blog), some very good anime style grafitti-art, and lots of interesting commerce though. I promise to go back!
When we arrived I was surprised to see how mellow the very well known tourist town was on a sunny Saturday. I saw two small groups of international tourists, a few small groups of Central American visitors, but the pretty little town was definitely not crowded. One of the great things about travel to El Salvador is that you get to enjoy it without too many crowds.
There were stands for merchants selling crafts, art, jewelry, clothing and decorations. I was pleased to see that some of the shops located slightly away from the square held work that was not purchased for sale in the tourist town. Some of the shop owners are aspiring or accomplished artists or craftspeople making unique pieces. I have been to places where the local crafts are purchased in large quantity from outside the country, and though it may be practical, it ruins your illusions!
We chose to eat at a small restaurant right on the square. After ordering we waited a full hour before the food was delivered. I cannot complain about the food itself, but the price was high, and there was one unfortunate lady running around the kitchen not accomplishing enough. I won’t eat there again, but I also wont give the place´s name because I’m not sure it is a typical problem.
I found the shop keepers to be very friendly and very low pressure. I did not haggle with anyone, every price quoted seemed fair enough for the article (note that I am not afraid to haggle, and buy very few trinkets, if any on most trips).
I bought a few nicely made wire based ear-rings from a little shop called “espresso galleria artesinas”, I liked the items he displayed, and he was proud to have some of his own paintings up for display on the walls. He told me some of the smaller clay items he had in the shop were Pre-Colombian, but I passed on that whole conversation (grrr).
The town has several nice looking, reasonably prices hotels, plenty of good food at a range of prices, galleries, crafts-people and a little tourist center on the square. We felt very safe and at home there. I’m sure everyone who travels occasionally has the sense they are in the wrong place, We never felt that way. There were a few places selling coffee but we opted for fruit smoothies and minutas instead.
In the early afternoon we headed to the lake and found the little port friendly. At the lake there are boats to rent or hire, there are several hotels and restaurants. The area is a nice contradiction, in that there are a couple mansions on the lake, along with many small cinder block and corrugated steel houses. There are cows and horses grazing and chickens and pigs running around. This is some of the contrast I´ve found interesting to enjoy in life in El Salvador as it makes for a more intense experience by far. I’m sure there is alot more to the contrast than an interesting visual, but this a blog about a tourist trip, nothing more. Although El Salvador Beaches are amazing for sure!
We rented a boat for $25.00 for a 50 minute ride.
The boat operator took us for a nice ride around the lake, and explained some of the history. He showed us some fishing holes, and a place where you can climb up and view a very nice panorama. I was surprised at how dramatically the level of the lake changes from the rainy to the dry season, by the region’s violent history, and by the presence of Asian Carp in the lake. the boatman said the Carp arrived about three years ago and are causing problems already.
I recommend both the town and the lake if you have a few dollars to spend on a weekend away. The trip will not break your bank. Depending on your requirements you could do it very inexpensively, and enjoy yourself just as much as a more flashy spot.