Street in colonial Suchitoto, El Salvador

Suchitoto, a sleepy but picturesque mountain town

When I had booked my ticket to San Salvador, I started looking into where I’d like to go in El Salvador. One town that kept popping up was Suchitoto, which looked absolutely dreamy in the photos. The white, colonial buildings and the tranquil location right next to the big Suchitlán lake looked very promising for a place to spend a couple of relaxing days in between long travel days.

What’s there to do in Suchitoto?

Well, to be honest, not a lot. But that’s part of the reason why you should go! Our guidebook lists a few museums, one of which was called The museum of a thousand plates and more, which we obviously wanted to visit. Unfortunately, it was closed, although the opening hours posted on the outside said is shouldn’t be. Another museum was called Museo de la moneda, which was supposed to showcase a collection of world currencies, but although the museum sign was still up, the place was now a prison. Yeah, we accidentally walked into a prison in El Salvador.

Once place we did end up going was Centro Arte para la Paz, which is a community center with lots of classes and activities for the local kids, to keep them out of trouble. For visitors, there was an art display and a nice café. It’s not a lot, but you can still learn some things about El Salvador and your coffee money will go toward a good cause.

A local herding cattle on the way to the lake Suchitlan in Suchitoto, El Salvador

And the one thing not to miss in Suchitoto is obviously the lake, Suchitlán. You can walk down to the lake, which we did and really liked. It took about half an hour and the route goes out of town on a small and peaceful road, where local farmers are herding their cattle and everyone you meet will say hello. There is also a minibus that shuttles people between the town and the lake, if you don’t feel like walking. By the lake is a park, where you’ll have to pay a small entrance fee. There are restaurants and shops inside, and if you want to do a boat trip on the lake that’s also possible. We just wanted to relax and do a bit of people-watching before heading back up, and there were plenty of opportunities for both.

Another thing you can do in Suchitoto is to visit the indigo dyeing workshops. Indigo has a long history in El Salvador and Suchitoto in particular has many workshops, where you can see the work and also purchase the finished product.

Where to stay in Suchitoto

We stayed at La Barranca, a hostel connected to the restaurant Villa Balanza, which I don’t think you can book online. It’s located down the hill from Parque San Martín and offers cheap rates and a terrace with a view over the hills that are hard to beat. We paid $20 for a double room with shared bath, although we were the only guests staying at the time so it wasn’t that much shared. We particuarly liked the hammocks on the terrace, where we spent a lot of time just chilling. Walking up and down the steep hill was not that much fun, and it wasn’t a very cozy hostel vibe though.

If you have a little bit more money to spend, I’d definitely recommend Casa de la Abuela just by the Parque Central and the cathedral. We went there for coffee and sandwiches, and had a look around the lovely little gift shop, but also took a peek inside the hotel part and it looked amazing. It doesn’t have the lake view, but then you won’t have to climb the hill either.

If you want to splurge, Suchitoto is also a good place for that. We went for dinner to the excellent Los Almendros de San Lorenzo one night, and that hotel looks just amazing. The restaurant had outdoor seating in the garden, which was decorated with great attention to detail just like the indoor part that we saw. I can only imagine what the rooms are like. If you can’t afford to stay, you can still treat yourself to a nice dinner here and have a look around.

A street in Suchitoto, El Salvador

Getting to Suchitoto from Juayúa (and San Salvador)

We left Juayúa in the morning on one of the frequent buses to Sonsonate (45 minutes), then changed to the service into the capital (1.5 hours). This bus goes to the Terminal de Occidente, while the buses to Suchitoto (number 129 or 140, 2 hours) leave from Terminal de Oriente. You can either take the local bus or a taxi for $5. I read a lot of warnings about the Terminal de Oriente, but it didn’t seem very sketchy to me although you probably shouldn’t flash your cash out there.

The buses to Suchitoto don’t leave from inside the terminal but from the road outside. I asked a lot of people to be sure I found the right spot. Lots of buses pass by so you’ll have to be quick to board as they only stop briefly. If you take the 140 minibus, make sure it’s labeled Suchitoto as they have several destinations.

The total travel time from Juayúa was five or six hours including waiting times, so start early if you plan to go all the way. All enjoyable though, traveling on chicken buses is always entertaining.

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