View over the volcano at Parque de los Volcanes in El Salvador, before climbing the Santa Ana volcano

Visiting Cerro Verde and climbing Santa Ana Volcano on a DIY daytrip

Climbing Santa Ana Volcano was one of my El Salvador highlights. It's not as hard as it sounds, although no walk in the park, and the view from the top both over the other volcanoes and into the steaming, turquoise crater lake was worth it!

Climbing Santa Ana Volcano was one of my highlights in El Salvador. It’s the highest volcano in the country at around 2,300 meters, and it’s active. It last erupted in 2005, so I guess it’s wise to check activity updates before you go.

If you’re enough people traveling together, it’s possible to share a taxi to Cerro Verde. But it’s also really easy to get there and back from Santa Ana on the public bus.

The bus to Cerro Verde

There’s only one bus to Cerro Verde from Santa Ana in the morning, leaving at 7.30 from the Vencedora bus terminal. Get there well in time and buy a ticket at the counter inside the waiting hall. The ride up to Cerro Verde took a couple of hours and we were dropped at a booth at the entrance to the Parque de los Volcanes where we would pay the entrance fee. From there, we walked a short distance up to the first viewpoint, and the parking lot with toilets (bring coins and toilet paper), a restaurant frying breakfast pupusas and small booths selling gifts.

Climbing Santa Ana Volcano

This is also where to find the guide. If you want to climb Santa Ana Volcano, you’ll have to go in a group with a guide and police. The group left at 11 from the parking lot. We were about thirty people, but I’ve heard stories of more than a hundred people going up together on the weekend. So, I guess, avoid the weekends and public holidays if possible. The guide spoke Spanish only, but there were many people in the group so if you don’t, I’m sure you’ll find someone to translate the important bits for you.

The group walked together for a bit through the woods, to another booth where we paid another fee. It seems a bit annoying to pay for everything separately, but you will get receipts, and I guess that way you’ll know that each service gets their share. You’ll end up paying like 10 dollars in total, or just over.

After this, the real hike started. We were warned that we would have to turn back if it started to rain, and there was a specific time that we were to leave from the crater, so the people who hadn’t yet reached it by that time would have to turn back. Everyone didn’t walk together, the group stretched out so it didn’t feel like being herded like sheep.

Walking around at the top of Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador

The hike was quite strenuous as it goes uphill, but not difficult. Some people even brought children, although the guide clearly didn’t approve of this. (The kids made it up there before many of the adults, actually). Wear good shoes and you’ll probably be fine, although you’ll have to be careful with the loose rocks on the way down. A walking stick would’ve helped, I think. Also, bring a jacket or sweater as it’s quite chilly at the peak.

There were some viewpoints on the way up where we could stop to take pictures, but it was quite foggy in the morning and we didn’t see much. On the way down, however, the photo ops were a lot better.

At the top of Santa Ana Volcano

The reward of climbing Santa Ana Volcano is the view into the crater, and you can look down into it where there’s a lake which is bright turquoise and steaming. This looked really cool.

I’ve climbed volcanoes before and what you get up there is always different. My little group was pretty quick to get up there, so we had plenty of time to take pictures from all angles and just sit at the edge and look down into the crater. You will also have a 360 degree view over the other volcanoes (Cerro Verde and Idalco) and the lake Coatepeque if you’re lucky. We weren’t, it was all in a cloud. But the people who went the day after us had only the view and the crater lake in a cloud, so I’m glad we got this.

The hike to the top took about an hour, and the same time back, giving us a bit of time to have more pupusas before the bus left at 4. Everyone takes this bus, so you’ll notice the workers packing up their stands just before the bus arrives. Ours was a bit late, but not much.

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