Ruta de las Flores – El Salvador's Cultural Gem
The Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador is an area that is famous for having many flowers in the Spring. We didn’t go in Spring, but still loved the area and was surprised at how much there was to do and see. In this blog, we will tell you why you should also stop in what we think is El Salvador’s cultural gem, as well as all of the essential travel information.
Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador
One of the most important things I realized after visiting the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador is that there is much more to do than what meets the eye, seeing flowers is just the start (I barely saw any).
I was fortunate enough to arrive on a weekend and quickly found out how lucky I was when I saw the weekly weekend food festival! This, along with beautiful waterfalls, cute towns, and some very interesting murals made Juayua one lovely place to spend a few days – oh and I saw a few thousand massive spiders!
This is my guide to El Salvador’s beautiful region, the Rute de las Flores based on my own experience traveling there.
What is the Ruta de las Flores?
The Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador is essentially a region connected by one very scenic road. The road passes by 5 towns: Juayua, Salcoatitan and Nahuizalco to the south of Juayua, as well as Apaneca and Concepcion de Ataco to the north of Juayua. The region is located inland in the north-west area of El Salvador.
The road between the towns is covered with flowers usually from October to February. Unfortunately, when I was there (September) not many flowers were blooming and the weather was really cloudy. If you are going for flowers, then make sure you choose the right time of year!
Besides the flowers, these small towns offer a few other things to do (check out our list of things to do at the bottom of this page). Since El Salvador is less traveled than many other Central American countries, we found that the Ruta de las Flores offered tourists the chance to interact with locals and observe the culture,
It felt like an authentic area in comparison with the touristic beachside destinations most people only visit in El Salvador.
Where to stay along the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador
There are a total of 5 towns along the Ruta de las Flores so picking which one to stay in can be a difficult decision. However, I recommend staying in the town called Juayua.
Located in the middle of the Ruta de las Flores, Juayua has some amazing markets and is the closest to the start of the Seven Waterfalls Hike. It is also the most central location for checking out the other towns and has some good budget accommodation options.
As far as hostels go, there isn’t too much to choose from. I stayed at a place called Casa Mazeta. The location was great, the facilities were good, and the quiet hostel has all the information you could ever need.
A few other options of where to stay in Juayua include:
- Hostal Deyluwin – This hostel offers budget private rooms for 2-4 people. Although it is more of a guesthouse, it has amazing reviews and the owner goes above and beyond to ensure guests are taken care of. It has an ideal location and a beautiful garden.
- Hostal Doña Mercedes – My sister stayed here when she was recently in town and loved it. With affordable private rooms and dorm bed as cheap as $10 USD this hostel has a central location and offers an amazing included breakfast!
- Vista Los Volcanes Hotel y Restaurante – For a larger more luxurious hotel this is your best option. There isn’t much for “luxury” in Juayua but this place offers really nice facilities, rooms with amazing views, and there is a restaurant and bar onsite.
Where to Eat in the Ruta de las Flores?
Food is generally very affordable in the Ruts de las Flores region. Street food is the best option for those on a budget.
If you are there on the weekend, there will be dozens of street food vendors to choose from (keep reading for details on the weekend food festival.) During the weekdays there will still be a selection of Empanadas and Pupusas for sale on most corners.
Pupusas are a common food item in El Salvador that I loved! They are flat, pancake-like, and stuffed with ingredients of your choice. The most common combinations are pork and beans, cheese, chili, cheese, or chicken. They are served with a variety of sauces and some salad. One Pupusa costs between $0.20 and $1.oo USD depending on the stuffing ingredients, where you buy it, and how many you get. It is common to order a few for an entire meal for one person.
if you want to sit down for a cheap meal, we found a really nice local restaurant called Comedor Y Pupuseria Tita. A main meal with rice, salad one choice meat with 2 tortillas was $1.50. It was in Juayua on the street called Calle Daniel Gordon Nte near the intersection with Calle Merceditas Caceres Poniente. There was a big sign out the front saying”Tita”, you can’t miss it.
Getting to Juayua
El Tunco to Juayua
The cheapest and easiest way is by chicken bus. First, you will need to get to Sonsanate and then change buses to get to Juayua. Below is the steps required.
1. The buses to Sonsanate leave at either 6am or 1:30pm and the total journey takes 2.5 hours. To catch the bus you will need to walk to the main road called Carretera el Lateral (the highway) and wait for bus 287 (the number is marked in large print on the front).
The best place to wait is at the intersection with Carretera d Tamanique, this is where the bus stops to pick the locals up as well. This is a popular bus so you will see locals waiting around on the side of the road as an indicator of the correct place to wait. If unsure, just ask anyone, all of the locals know this route well.
Cost – $1.50 USD
2. Once you arrive at Sonsanate station you will need to find bus bay 249 (it is located next to where bus 287 dropped us off). The terminal has large signs indicating the bus numbers just in case you get lost.
3. Line up straight away once you find bus bay 249 (the bus heading to Ahuachapan) as it was extremely busy when we were there and hard to get a seat. Also, our bags had to be placed at the back of the bus so it could be smart to head around the people lining up and head to the back of the bus. Once you are on, the journey is 30 minutes and you will be dropped right in the town of Juayua.
Cost- $0.50 USD
Of course, if you aren’t feeling up to the adventure of taking the chicken buses, there are shuttles that make the trip in about 2 hours. However, they are priced at over $50 USD for up to four people.
From Santa Ana
Juayua is only 1.5 hours from Santa Ana.
Bus number 238 heads straight there and picks up in the location marked below on the map.
Bus times are 8:40am, 11:45am, 12:40pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm.
Cost – $0.80
If you are coming from Guatemala then you just need to get the bus from the border to Sonsonate. At Sonsonate change buses to get on the one to Juayua. Border crossings on chicken buses can be a bit more complicated so shuttles are a good option for this route.
Getting around the area
Getting around the Ruta de las Flores region is easy. Chicken bus number 249 from Sensonate to Ahuachapan does the route between all five towns in the area.
From Juayua you can either catch bus 249 north towards Ahuachapan or south towards Sensonate. The bus picks up from the Scotiabank on the outside of town in Juayua, just check with the driver which way he is going.
The bus leaves every 30 minutes, starting at 4:50 am with the last bus at 6:35 pm. However, the last bus from Ataco (the furthest town to the north on the Ruta de las Flores) heading back to Juayua leaves at 6:10 pm and same goes from Nahuizalco (furthest to the south).
I spent some time on chicken buses on this route and can’t say they wouldn’t be the best way to enjoy the flowers as the bumpy ride isn’t nice. Renting a car or motorbike would be the best option if you want to enjoy the flowers. For me, since there were no flowers when I was there, the chicken bus was sufficient purely as a means of transport from one town to the next.
3 Must-Do Things in the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador
1. Visit the Weekend Food Markets
When visiting Juayua or any of the other towns on the Ruta de Flores, the weekend food festival and markets are a must! We visited both the Juayua food festival and the Ataco food festival and both were amazing!
The markets are full of incredible food including Pupusas, pizza, seafood, steak, coffee and much more. There are many local dishes on offer and my favorite included giant prawns, chicken, beef with a giant salad, rice, and veggies. All of that set me back only $6 USD (be sure to shop around as prices and portions vary.)
Visiting Juayua on the weekend is a great way to get the most out of your trip as the markets are a must (especially if you love food as much as I do.)
2. Visit the surrounding Towns
Along the Ruta de la Flores there are many small towns that offer their own unique touch. Due to the weather, I only made it to Ataco. Surprisingly, the small town still had a lot to offer. In Ataco, I visited many beautiful murals and got some fantastic shots. I hiked up to the lookout over the town and surrounding mountains and tasted some amazing food.
On the way up to the lookout I made the mistake of looking up and what I saw was shocking – hundreds of spiders clung to their webs above us, some of them were the size of my hand! So one tip, if you don’t like spiders, don’t look up!
The murals in Ataco are some of the best I have seen and walking around after a few coffees is well worth it.
With better weather, you could visit all of the towns in one day and find some more unique things to see and do!
Getting there – Getting to the towns is the same bus as visiting the Ruta de las Flores, bus 249. The bus costs $0.50 USD per trip.
3. Visit the Seven Waterfalls/Los Chorros de la Calera
There seems to be some confusion online surrounding the waterfalls, so let me clear it up.
The Seven Waterfalls is a hike that takes you through seven different waterfalls. The hike takes 6 hours and requires a guide with ropes for safety. Hostel Casa Mazeta offers this hike for $20 USD per person.
The waterfall in all the pictures on Tripadvisor or advertised with tour companies is called “Los Chorros de la Calera“. This waterfall is 20 minutes walking from town and is visited LAST on the Seven Waterfalls Tour/Hike. However, if you only want to see this one particular waterfall you don’t need a tour.
Currently, it is recommended that you take a local guide/security guard to escort you on this short walk there and back as there have been robberies in the area. The guide can be organized through Hostel Casa Mazeta and costs $2.50 per person. They bring dogs or a machete and will give you some information (in Spanish) on the plants and land around you on the hike. This is definitely the cheapest option for those who want to see the famous waterfall, but not spend $20.
I didn’t do the Seven Waterfalls Hike as the weather didn’t permit it, in heavy rain rock slides are common. I have heard nothing but great things from people who did it though!
Regardless of the weather, Los Chorros de la Calera is a really nice way to spend the afternoon. The hike there took us through some coffee farms where our guide explained a little about the plantations as well as gave us some local knowledge of the flora and fauna. It was raining when I was there but I still really enjoyed the trip.
Where to go next?
There are some other really fantastic places to check near the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador. Some of my favorites are:
Overall, the Ruta de las Flores area really surprised me. There is plenty to see and do and anyone who loves art, the great outdoors, coffee, or great food will enjoy their stay. I love all of the above, so for me, I loved Juayua and the Ruta de las Flores!
September 28, 2017