Ruta de las Flores – El Salvador’s Cultural Gem
September 28, 2017
The “Ruta de las Flores” literally translates to “Route of the Flowers” and after hearing great things about this area we decided to check it out. One of the most important things I realized after visiting the Ruta de las Flores is there is much more to do than what meets the eye and 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! Here is my experience and guide to El Salvador’s beautiful region, the Rute de las Flores.
Where to Stay along the Ruta de las Flores
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 really recommend staying in Juayua. Located in the middle of the Ruta de las Flores, this town has some amazing markets and is the closest to the start of the Seven Waterfalls Hike.
As far as hostels go, there isn’t much choice. I stayed at Casa Mazeta. The location was great, facilities good and the quiet hostel has all the information you could ever need. You can check out their website for some really detailed information here!
We found a really nice local restaurant called Tita. A main meal with rice, salad one choice meat with 2 tortillas was $1.50. Its location is on Maps.me.
Getting to Juayua
From El Tunco
Chicken Bus – The cheapest and easiest way is by chicken bus. First you will need to get to Sonsanate and then finally Juayua. Below is the steps required. If you are coming from Guatemala then you just need to get the bus from the border to Sonsonate.
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 and wait for bus 287 (the number is marked in large print on the front). The best place to wait is shown below on Maps.me as this is where the bus stops to pick the locals up as well. 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.
Cost – $1,50.
2. 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 straight 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.
Shuttle – Of course if you aren’t feeling up to it there are shuttles that make the trip in about 2 hours. However they are priced at over $50usd for up to four people.
Cost – $50+
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 maps.me. This is so easy that I won’t even mention a shuttle as it’s not necessary. Bus times are 8:40am, 11:45am, 12:40pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm.
Cost – $0.80
About the Ruta de la Flores
The road passes by 5 towns – Salcoatitan and Nahuizalco to the south of Juayau. Apaneca and Concepcion de Ataco to the north of Juayua. Unfortunately, when I was there (September) not many flowers were blooming and the weather was really cloudy. This is the reason many head to the area so my recommendation is pick the right time of year to go. I spent some time in chicken buses on this route and can’t say they would 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. I wish I had more information for you and some beautiful photos but I was there the wrong time of year!
Getting around the Ruta de las Flores is easy. Chicken bus number 249 from Sensonate to Ahuachapan does the route. 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 what way you are going. The bus leaves every 30 minutes, starting at 4:50am with the last bus at 6:35pm. However the last bus from Ataco (the furtherest town to the north on the Ruta de las Flores) heading back to Juayua leaves at 6:10pm and same goes from Nahuizalco (furthest from to the south).
Things to do – Ruta de las Flores
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 amazing food including Pupusas, pizza, seafood, steak, coffee and much more. After reading about it online I think it’s Juayua’s most underrated activity . There are many local dishes on offer and my favorite included giant prawns, chicken and beef with a giant salad, rice and veggies. All that set me back only $6 USD (but 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.)
Visit the surrounding Towns
Along the Route 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. I visited many beautiful murals and got some fantastic shots. I hiked up to the town’s lookout over the city 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 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 as mentioned above.
Cost – $0.50 USD
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 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 guides can be organised 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 rains rock slides are common. However, I have heard nothing but great things from people who did it though!
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 giving us some local knowledge on flora and fauna. The waterfalls are nice and overlook some amazing views. It was raining when I was there but I still really enjoyed the trip.
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!