El Salvador’s unique culture may not be as famous as somewhere like neighboring Guatemala, but make no mistake—underneath the veneer of sun and surf, there is much to discover. A fascinating pre-Hispanic history, traditional artisanship, and a burgeoning contemporary art scene all provide plenty of opportunities to experience the other side of El Salvador.
- Zona Rosa in the country’s capital is a great place to start. Museo Nacional de Antropología Dr. David J. Guzmán (MUNA) is the most comprehensive museum in the country, offering different exhibits that explore pre-Hispanic culture, art, agriculture, and religion. The nearby Museo de Arte de El Salvador (MARTE) showcases some of the most influential Salvadoran artists in a beautiful modern museum.
- Downtown, the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen maintains exhibits that keep the historical memory of the guerrilla movement alive and also focuses on Salvadoran literature.
- Just west of the city in the suburb of Santa Tecla, the Museo Municipal Tecleño (MUTE) offers art shows and contemporary theater, and Paseo El Carmen has an excellent pedestrian fair every weekend that showcases unique local artisans, musicians, and more.
- Northwest of San Salvador, the ruin of Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage Site often called the Pompeii of the Americas, provides a glimpse into the daily village life of early Mayan culture.
Western El Salvador
- Visit the indigenous town of Nahuizalco to see traditional basket-weaving and furniture-making.
- Check out the weekend artisanal market in Concepción de Ataco, where local artists gather around the parque central to sell their work.
- Learn about coffee culture in Juayúa, a mountain town surrounded by lush green coffee farms.
- In Santa Ana, visit El Teatro Nacional, a majestic theater that features beautiful artwork—and provides a fascinating window into El Salvador’s social strata in the early 20th century.
- The ruins of Tazumal in Chalchuapa are an excellent way to learn about what was once a major Mayan center in Mesoamerica.
Northern and Eastern El Salvador
- Suchitoto is the cultural touchtone of this area, with indigo workshops, the Casa Museo de los Recuerdos Alejandro Cotto, and the Centro Arte para la Paz all offering a glimpse into the traditional art and culture of El Salvador.
- Check out the popular sorpresas, quirky miniature clay figures that are unique to El Salvador, in Ilobasco and San Sebastian.
- The town of La Palma showcases the vibrant art of Fernando Llort. All over town are murals in cheerful colors, giving La Palma a lighthearted feel.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon El Salvador.