Sitting between Guatemala and Honduras on Central America's western coast, El Salvador is the region's smallest and least visited country. Ravaged by civil war throughout the 1980s, El Salvador fared little better during the 90s, when a spate of gang violence gripped the country. However despite its unfortunate recent history, El Salvador is slowly gaining tourists' trust, and rightly so. Like Guatemala, El Salvador encompasses the best of Central America in a compact area. From towering volcanoes and rugged mountains to lush lowlands and superb surfing beaches, El Salvador's natural beauty is criminally underrated.
El Salvador's small size means transfer times are short, making it easy to see the country's top attractions. The stunning coastal town of Barra de Santiago set on a peninsula in the north east, is little known to tourists but well worth a visit to enjoy a delightfully empty beach and a variety of water sports available on the estuary. If you're looking to make the most of some of the world's best and least known surf spots, head to La Libertad, a rustic fishing town where experts can be seen taking on the world-famous Punta Roca surf break in the early mornings and evenings.
Inland, Parque Nacional Los Volcanes, El Salvador's national treasure, is a major bird sanctuary which also offers great guided climbing on one of three volcanoes or hiking along an extensive network of trails. An hour away, the Ruta de las Flores takes you to the heart of the country's coffee region where a tour of a plantation is a must, and the friendly locals are sure to give you a warm welcome as you wander through the brightly painted colonial villages and pick up some authentic arts and crafts.
Some of the country's finest examples of colonial architecture, as well as excellent restaurants and bars, line cobblestone streets in Suchitoto, El Salvador's answer to Antigua before the tourists arrived. This quaint town is especially worth visiting in February when it plays host to a world renowned arts and culture festival.