San Salvador is the capital of El Salvador in more than just name as the city is home to one-third of the country’s population and half of its total wealth. It is set in a basin surrounded by volcanoes, sometimes lending it an out-of-this-world feel, though anyone arriving in San Salvador will be well-advised to give their visit plenty of time. Not only is it the biggest city in San Salvador, it is the second largest in all of Central America so there is a lot to it.
However, there is more to San Salvador than the amenities of a metropolis. It is also a place that celebrates its long history. Don’t expect to find many buildings dating back to the furthest reaches of its existence. The city has had to deal with more than its fair share of catastrophe in the form of destructive earthquakes and the most recent of these levelled much of the city in 1854. Nevertheless, there are still many landmarks in existence to attract visitors including the Teatro Nacional de El Salvador – one of the grandest theatres in Central America, the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Presidential House.
The San Salvador climate is tropical but the key thing to remember is that there are only two seasons here: rainy and, well, not rainy. The former starts in May and carries on through the traditional Northern Hemisphere summer months until November.
The most popular time to visit San Salvador is during the dry season – i.e. between November and April. The most popular times within that window are the start and end of the season when many local events and festivities take place. Among these is Holy Week, or Semana Santa, which starts on Palm Sunday and continues through to Easter Sunday and features carnival-style fiestas throughout San Salvador and indeed El Salvador.
In addition to the precipitation that is to be expected during the San Salvador rainy season, hurricanes, floods and landslides can also occur at this time, making it an unpopular time to visit despite the reduced hotel and air fares at this time.
Flights to San Salvador arrive at El Salvador International Airport, which is in Comalapa. From here it is advisable to take a taxi or rent a car from one of the many car rental agencies represented at the airport.
Many of the attractions in the city are quite far apart, making walking an unlikely transportation option. Although domestic bus services are by far the cheapest way of getting about, the service leaves a lot to be desired in terms of organisation. Destinations are rarely displayed and instead it is common for the locals to ask the drivers where their buses are going – this may work for the locals but may pose its own problems for visitors with fledgling language skills.
Driving around San Salvador poses its own problems though many of the major thoroughfares are long and straight even if the smaller streets are not, making local navigation relatively straightforward.
Travellers will need to book flights to El Salvador Intl (SAL) if they wish to fly to San Salvador. The San Salvador airport is 33.0 km from the city centre.