Ruta de las Flores – El Salvador Cultural Gem
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Ruta de las Flores is one of the most popular places to visit in El Salvador. So, Bailey and I just had to check it out for ourselves!
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, and seeing flowers is just the start.
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 the Ruta de las Flores one lovely place to spend a few days.
This is my guide to El Salvador’s Ruta de las Flores region including the best things to do, where to stay, and so much more!
Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador FAQs
The best time to visit the Ruta de las Flores is when the flowers are blooming between November and February. Outside of this time, there is still plenty to do though.
The best things to do are: take a tour of the surrounding towns, visit the weekly food festival, hike to the Seven Waterfalls, take a coffee tour, and go ziplining.
The towns are Juayua, Apaneca, Nahuizalco, Salcoatitán and Concepción de Ataco. All of these towns are located along the Ruta de las Flores.
The Ruta de las Flores is one of the safest areas in El Salvador. However, some hikes require guides for extra safety.
What is the Ruta de las Flores?
The Ruta de las Flores is essentially a region connected by one very scenic road centered around Juuayua. The road passes by 5 towns: Juayua in the center, 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 November 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. 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.
Getting to the Ruta de las Flores (Juayua, El Salvador)
El Tunco to Juayua
The cheapest and easiest way to get from El Tunco to Juayua is by chicken bus. First, you will need to get to Sonsanate from El Tunco and then change buses to get to Juayua. Below are the steps required.
The buses to Sonsanate leave at either 6 am or 1:30 pm 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
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.
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 to Juayua
Juayua is only 1.5 hours from Santa Ana.
Bus number 238 heads straight there and picks up in the location marked above on the map.
Bus times are 8:40 am, 11:45 am, 12:40 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm, and 6 pm.
Cost – $0.80
From Guatemala to Juayua
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 Ruta de las Flores
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 the same goes from Nahuizalco (furthest to the south).
I spent some time on 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 if you want to enjoy the flowers and stop for some pictures along the way. 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.
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 for that matter), the weekend food festival and markets are a must! We visited both the Feria de la Gastronomia in 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. Explore the surrounding Towns
As I mentioned above, there are five towns that make up the Ruta de la Flores. Each town offers a unique touch whether it be a viewpoint, street art, or markets.
Here’s some info on each town and what to expect:
Juayua is the main town of the Ruta de Las Flores and where the majority of travelers stay. In the town is where the famous food festival is and where the Seven Waterfalls hike starts from. This is our recommended place to stay on the Ruta de las Flores!
Concepción de Ataco
Ataco is a beautiful town I highly recommend visiting. 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.
The murals in Ataco are some of the best I have seen and walking around after a few coffees is well worth it.
Apaneca is a beautiful cobblestone street town best explored on foot. The town is also near two really popular hikes called Laguna Verde and Laguna de las Ninfas. Unfortunately, we did not do them, however if you want to, just ask your hotel for details. Each hike is only a few kilometers each way.
This is also where the canopy zipline tour mentioned below is located!
Nahuizalco is a small town not as vibrant as the rest. Unfortunately, we never made it here as we spent more time in the other towns. With that said, because it’s less-visited, the town will likely be more authentic.
Salcoatitán is the best place on the Ruta de las Flores to try coffee. This town is purley a coffee town! Be sure to stop at a few cafes for a coffee and even some baked goods. There are also two nice churches here but honestly, just make this your morning coffee stop!
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 of the pictures on Tripadvisor or advertised with tour companies is called “Los Chorros de la Calera“. This is only one waterfall and it 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 on the complete Seven Waterfalls Hike.
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.
4. Go Ziplining in Apaneca
If you consider youself an adventure junkie then the ziplinning in Apanaca should be high on your bucket list in the Ruta de las Flores.
There are 13 ziplines in the adventure park with the longest zipline is over 400 meters long! Unlike other places in Central America like Costa Rica, the ziplining costs only $35 so you can easily take the whole family without breaking the bank.
You can’t really book in advance, so just book through your hotel or find a local tour company to get the best price.
5. Join a coffee tour
Coffee is a huge part of El Salvador and in the Ruta de las Flores there is no shortage of it. The best way to get to know the region is one a coffee tour and you can actually do one for only $5 USD at the El Carmen Coffee Farm in Ataco.
On the tour, they’ll show you how they get from plant to bean all the way to a delicious cup of coffee. If you haven’t done a coffee tour before, this will be super interesting. The tour lasts for around 1.5 hours and in the end, you’ll be able to purchase some cheap coffee!
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 of 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.
A few great options of where to stay in Juayua include:
- Casa Mazeta – This cute hostel/guest house is actually where we stayed! The garden was beautiful and the communal kitchen was really handy. I would definitely stay here again!
- 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 beds 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.
Before you go…
The Ruta de las Flores really is a magical place to visit in El Salvador. Daniel and I loved our time here and hope to return one day!
I really hope you found this travel guide to Ruta de las Flores helpful. If you have any questions then just leave them below and I’ll get back to you!
There are some other really fantastic places to check near the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador. Some of my favorites that we have travel guides about are:
October 13, 2020