Street market in Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

Juayúa, Ataco and the Ruta de las Flores

Ruta de las Flores doesn't blossom all year, but it's still worth visiting outside of its peak season. The villages Juayúa, Ataco and Apaneca are small but vibrant with culture, and any foodie or souvenir shopper will easily fill a couple of days here.

Ruta de las Flores, or “the flower route” is a stretch of road between Sonsonate and Ahuachapán in western El Salvador. We decided to make the village of Juayúa the base for our trip to Ruta de las Flores. It seemed to be the town with the most accommodation on offer, which is usually a good pointer, but more importantly, they have the feria gastronomica every weekend. This is a food festival that they set up on the main square and in the streets around it, where you will have an excellent opportunity to sample the local food.

Street in Juayua, El Salvador

What to do in Ruta de las Flores?

So what’s there to do in Ruta de las Flores? Well, first of all, if you’re traveling in season, you should probably see the flowers. I’m never traveling in season, so I didn’t, but if it’s worth naming the place for, it’s probably pretty enough for Instagram.

You should definitely see some other villages. I liked Juayúa a lot, it was large enough to stroll around and to have a supermarket, and some good hostels and restaurants. You can also check out the famously black Jesus in the Templo del Señor.

We also went to Ataco (short for Concepción de Ataco), which is a short bus ride away, and found another large food market, a handicraft market and street art that was more interesting than pretty. There were also some good shops and cafés, and I would say that Ataco is definitely another good option for a base on this route.

Some special street art near the market in Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

On the way back from Ataco we stopped briefly in Apaneca and strolled around it in the pouring rain, visiting the church but mostly just trying to take cover before another bus brought us back to Juayúa. I think it would’ve been great to self-drive in this area, and to travel in season, but going by bus in the rain was enjoyable enough.

You should also eat. As I said, there’s a food festival in Juayúa every weekend, but there are also other food events. We had excellent pupusas and smoothies in a large food court style tent in Ataco. We also went to a chili sauce tasting in Juayúa, at café El Cadejo. I didn’t dare trying the spiciest one because there were elaborate warnings on the label and it was probably named Exorcista for a reason, but it was fun and the hot sauce was not only spicy but also tasty.

Chili tasting in Juayua, El Salvador

There’s a hike to a waterfall in Juayúa (big surprise, like in every other small town in the world) but the rain was pouring and we weren’t feeling it. If you’re into small town waterfalls it’s worth a shot.

Where to stay in Juayúa

We stayed at Casa Mazeta, which I highly recommend. It’s a hostel with dorms and privates, and also a place to hang hammocks on the outside for the cheap and adventurous. We tried both the dorms and a private room in the garden, and both were excellent. There is a large kitchen and a communal living room with loads of games and activities for rainy days. And there are also very cuddly dogs around! Do book ahead if you arrive on the weekend, to be on the safe side.

The entrance to hostal Casa Mazeta, Juayua, El Salvador

When to visit Ruta de las Flores

If you’re going for the small towns and the food festivals, you can go anytime. If you want to see the flowers, which I’m assuming a lot of people do, you should time your visit to the months of October through February. We visited in July, which was fine, but the main attraction won’t be there.

How to get to Ruta de las Flores, and how to get around

We took the bus from San Salvador (Terminal de Occidente) to Sonsonate, then changed to the local service (#249) toward Ahuachapan. It’s a 45-minute ride from Sonsonate and you’ll be dropped in the middle of Juayúa. You can use this same bus to travel between the villages along Ruta de las Flores. There are also plenty of services coming to Juayúa from Santa Ana.

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