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El Salvador Next Hotspot for Tourism

SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- El Salvador is on the Lonely Planet top ten list of countries to visit in 2010. It has already begun. Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Countries to visit in 2010 El Salvador is now the new feast in Central American tourism — the NEXT place, the new adventure, the next location to write [...]

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SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- El Salvador is on the Lonely Planet top ten list of countries to visit in 2010.

It has already begun.

Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Countries to visit in 2010

El Salvador is now the new feast in Central American tourism — the NEXT place, the new adventure, the next location to write home about — and Suchitoto will soon find itself the main course. It is nice here, you should come, this place is good, this country is beautiful.

“El Salvador is not developed at all, everywhere you go here is beautiful. This is the most beautiful country in the world,” a German expat proclaimed in the little park side cafe that is the traveler and expat hang out in Suchitoto.

These words represent the fruits that stand before any tourism flood gate, the catch phrases of a place that will soon see a drastic rise in development in the name of tourism. “Not developed,” “beautiful,” “most,” these words should perk up the ears of any investor and make their mouths water over steak that lays before them.

As soon as one place exceeds their critical mass of tourism, the next location is already being sought. It is my impression that Guatemala may no longer be providing a good

There is little apparent “adventure” traveling the easy roads laid out before you in Guatemala, the independent tourist infrastructure is among the best in the world. Most travelers take a tourist shuttle to one town, go to a hostel, drink with their peers in a bar — it is almost too easy to travel there, and it is a slight challenge to get out of the tourist bubble. Once you are in Guatemala the bubble sucks you in, and you can be passed through the country from one side to the other without ever feeling as if you were actually on the ground.

I use the word “adventure” in the Lonely Planet way, in a way to indicate the feeling of stepping up to a cliff edge and peaking over, but never taking the plunge. Adventure as in doing something that the people back home tell you is dangerous and daring but in reality it is about as risky as spitting in the wind.

The countries who can provide this equilibrium — the feeling of adventure without it ever really being as such, are the ones next up for the guidebook’s top ten lists.

El Salvador is next.

The draw of tourism is much like the blade of a knife: every traveler wants to stand on the razor’s edge, but few want to risk getting cut. Once the blade of a place becomes dull, over worn, blunted, it becomes time to travel on to sharper domains. The trick is to find the blades that look sharp but rarely cut deep.

El Salvador looks pretty sharp from afar.

Come on in.

I was sitting in the Arttec cafe on a Sunday afternoon just watching people go by with my wife and her cousin. Both of my companions had lived in or near Suchitoto previously. Chaya stayed here in 2006 and her cousin lived here for a few years early on in the 2000 decade.

We watched a train of backpackers, tourists, and foreigners walk by one after another. It was a train without end. I took it that this was not a scene that my wife nor her cousin would have been accustom to seeing when they lived here a few years ago before.

“Where are all of these people coming from?” Chaya finally asked.


This was the simple answer. Perhaps fed up with crowds, the over saturation of language schools and volunteer programs, a tourism bubble that is sometimes difficult to break out of, and traveler routes that feel a touch too over worn, Guatemala has started to overspill its tourists into El Salvador.

Suchitoto is not yet over saturated with foreign tourists. You still crane your next to catch a glimpse of a fellow white face, you still walk up and say hello to travelers on the grounds that there are still not that many of you here, you do not feel as if you are ruining a traveler’s “cultural experience” by nodding as you pass on the streets. On most days, you walk through Suchitoto and don’t seen any foreigners, some days you only see the small group of expats at the cafe, though on the weekends the volunteers are let loose, and they come into town for a break.


“I went to surf, but it was not possible. There were like three people to every wave,” a French traveler spoke to me across a cafe table. He said that he traveled down to El Salvador from Guatemala to get away from the tourists.

He found me. I don’t think his plan worked out so well.

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Filed under: Central America, El Salvador, Tourism

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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7 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin May 5, 2010, 5:25 pm

    Man , I really wanted to make it to El Salvador while I was in Guatemala. I had plans to go with a friend, but then a bunch of stuff came up and it never happened after that. In the future!
    I’m not sure if El Salvador can really become the next Guatemala though… I’m sure it’s wonderful and it’s definitely on my “list,” but does it have any “big ticket items” like, say, Tikal? Unfortunately most conventional tourists want a large “sight” in their destination.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 6, 2010, 1:22 pm

      Very right on, Caitlin,

      But I also think that a lot of these big ticket tourist attractions have to do with how well they are developed. They are not really developed at all in El Salvador.

      But you are right, Guatemala does have a wide variety of some pretty big tourist attractions that, in terms of drawing in the tourist, will probably always outrank El Salvador. But El Salvador does have potential attractions that are only just beginning to be developed — like the beaches.

      I don’t think that El Salvador will outrank Guatemala in terms of tourism, but rather serve as a steady compliment. I can see the day when a trip into Guatemala will not be complete without a visit to El Salvador.

      El Salvador is fertile ground for tourism development — and everybody seems to know it — I am interested to find out where this will go.

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  • Luis Ramirez January 18, 2011, 1:25 am

    Interesting Article. I have been to El Salvador several times, and yes it a very beautiful country. It seems in the past decade or so the government invested a lot into improving tourism in the country. How ever what i didn’t like about the article is the way they painted Guatemala. Trying to make it seem like Guatemala was this big tourist trap that is some how losing its authenticity or becoming “over worn” is false . It might seem that way to Salvadoreans but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Also to that surfer that said Guatemala was over crowded? If there is a country in Central America that is over crowded, its El Salvador……

    Guatemala, like El Salvador is still developing its tourism industry. Yes its true, Guatemala already has some world class destinations that are vey popular, like Antigua and Lake Atitlan. But there is soooo much more that Guatemala has to offer. Tikal is only one of many Mayan sites, there are many more sites to be uncovered, and to go along with archaeological site seeing, Guatemala is starting to develop eco-tourism. La “Biosfera Maya” nature reserve in the Peten region is almost the same size as the entire of Country of El Salvador. The only thing El Salvador has over Guatemala is the beaches. El Salvador has beautiful beaches….but in the next decade when all the prime real estate is bought up and covered in hotels and resorts, El Salvador will be the one that is truely worn out…..

    So to the writer of this article, im glad to see El Salvador getting promotion, but there is no need to try to shoot down another country trying to develop its own tourism industry.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 18, 2011, 1:35 am

      Please refer to the Guatemala section of this travelogue.

      In addition to traveling in El Salvador, I have also spent a good amount of time in many parts Guatemala over the years, and it is my opinion that much the country is very much flooded with tourism. I have even worked in this industry around Livingston. But I suppose this should be taken as a good attribute.

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  • Trevor Warman February 10, 2022, 4:50 pm

    Love reading your El Salvadoran posts from more than a decade ago.

    Greetings from Suchitoto

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    • VBJ February 11, 2022, 8:11 am

      Sweet! How is it there now?

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      • Trevor Warman February 11, 2022, 1:38 pm

        Yo. The lake and waterfall are great! The revolucion bar where U had ur b’day party is gone. Sadly. Posssibly a music bar restaurant (also closed).. the luna blanca hostel is still open, didnt stay there though. Beers still 1 25 USD lol..

        just back in San Salvador. Feels Very safe here now, not like before i guess.

        Got a whole new blog section for El Sal..

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