Hotspot volcanoes

El Salvador is worth visiting just for its volcanoes

El Salvador is a beautiful Central American country full of great surfing beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, of course, scenic volcanoes. El Salvador sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is subject to significant tectonic activity. There are about 20 potentially active volcanoes in this small country (six of them are actively monitored).

While many of the world’s most spectacular volcanoes are found in Iceland and Hawaii, there are plenty of stunning volcanoes to see elsewhere. El Salvador is sometimes considered the most dangerous country in the world, but there are plenty of ways to stay safe while traveling and enjoying this remarkable country.

El Salvador and its volcanoes

There are 170 volcanoes piled up in El Salvador (and it’s just a small country – the size of New Jersey). It is a very volcanically active country with lots to see.

  • Pacific Ring of Fire: El Salvador sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire
  • Earthquake : The capital, San Salvador, was destroyed by earthquakes in 1756 and 1854

The country has more than twenty volcanoes considered active and two of them – San Miguel and Izalco – have been active in recent years. El Salvador has a long history of volcanism. In the 5th century AD, the Ilopango volcano erupted and subsequent pyroclastic flows destroyed Mayan cities in the area.

Izalco – The “Lighthouse of the Pacific”

Izalco is an active stratovolcano located on the flank of the Santa Ana Volcano in western El Salvador. It was in near concurrent state from the eruption of 1770 (when it first formed) until 1958 and has been dubbed the “Lighthouse of the Pacific”.

  • Shape: 1770
  • Rash: From 1770 to 1956
  • Nickname: Pacific Lighthouse

During an eruption in 1926, the village of Matazano was buried and some 56 people lost their lives. The volcano destroyed valuable land that had been used to grow coffee, cocoa and sugar cane.

Today, Izalco is a popular destination for tourists and has become a national icon (featured on the old 10 colón banknote. The volcano is quiet for now but could erupt again.

Izalco is located in El Salvador’s Cerro Verde National Park (Parque Nacional Cerro Verde). This is one of the toughest treks in the parks and it takes about 3 hours (one way) to reach the top (only 1,952 meters).

  • Summit: 6,404 feet, 1,952 meters
  • Hiking: About 3 hours
  • Crater: 820 feet and 250 meters wide crater

While compared to other volcanoes in the region it is a virtual baby, it is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world. Its almost perfect cone remains lunar and without vegetation.

Related: You’d Never Know These Countries Are Dangerous From These Stunning Photos

Santa Ana Volcano

Perhaps the most popular volcano in El Salvador to explore is Santa Ana Volcano (or Ilamatepec). It is a large stratovolcano and the highest volcano in the country.

  • Height: 7,812 feet or 2,381 meters

The summit collapsed at the end of the Pleistocene in an event that produced a massive avalanche of debris that would have reached the Pacific Ocean (it formed the Acafutla Peninsula. But that was not the end of history for the volcano, subsequent eruptions have rebuilt the volcano.Today, four nested calderas and volcanic craters are present at the summit of Santa Ana.

  • Eruption of 1722: The San Marcelino de Santa Ana vents erupted in 1722, destroying the village of San Juan Tecpan.

Elsewhere in the country, San Miguel is another notable volcano. It is a stratovolcano in the central-eastern part of the country. The last time it erupted was on December 29, 2013, and it spewed ash and smoke into the sky, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people around the volcano.

Santa Ana Volcano Hike + Coatepeque Lake Tour

This tour takes you to the top of Santa Ana Volcano – the highest peak in El Salvador. The tour includes a full day moderate hike in Cerro Verde National Park. The hike to Santa Ana takes about 4 hours of medium difficulty. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of Izalco (the aforementioned “Lighthouse of the Pacific”), Coatepeque Lake, Cerro Verde, the ocean, and the scenic Santa Ana Crate.

  • Peak: 7,822 feet or 2,384 meters
  • Duration: About 9 hours
  • Tongue: English
  • Included: Pick up from selected hotels, lunch
  • Price: From $75.00

Point: Upgrade to have a private guide

Related: Ever wanted to see the inside of a volcano? This Icelandic volcano tour makes it a reality

Combo Tour: Volcanoes, Lake and Mayan Sites including Joya de Ceren

You can also mix visits to volcanoes with visits to Mayan sites in the country. This mixed tour offers hotel pickup and a full day exploring El Salvador’s volcanoes, lakes, and ancient Mayan sites.

We will see Izalco, Santa Ana and Cerro Verde and their unique ecosystems. See beautiful Lake Coatepeque before exploring the Mayan-era archaeological site “Joya de Ceren” and the pre-Columbian town of San Andrés.

  • Duration: About 9 hours
  • Joya of Ceren: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Price: From $99.00

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