Santa Ana
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A panoramic view of the south side of the Coatepeque Lake in El Salvador

Things to do in  Santa Ana

El Salvador’s cultural capital

Steeped in history and surrounded by nature, El Salvador’s second-biggest city, Santa Ana, is far friendlier and laid-back than its capital. Although a volcano destroyed all traces of its Mayan roots, Santa Ana’s historical center is still a big draw, and has acted as the social heart of the city since the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. You’ll find some of the top things to do in Santa Ana in and around Parque Libertad (Liberty Park), the city’s main square. Here, you will find the neo-Gothic cathedral and National Theater of Santa Ana, as well as markets and street food galore. Some of Santa Ana’s most treasured attractions, however, lie outside of the city limits, including Santa Ana Volcano (Ilamatepec), Lake Coatepeque, and the pre-Columbian archaeological site of Tazumal.

Top 4 attractions in Santa Ana

Santa Ana Volcano (Volcán Ilamatepec)

Surrounded by the cloud forests of Cerro Verde National Park, Santa Ana Volcano (Ilamatepec) is the biggest volcano in El Salvador—and at 2,381 meters (7,812 feet) above sea level, it’s also one of the most popular to climb. Offering spectacular views and hiking routes, plus a peek into the turquoise crater lake at the summit, Santa Ana is an adventure lovers’ dream.More

Izalco Volcano

Located within El Salvador’s Cerro Verde National Park (Parque Nacional Cerro Verde), the Izalco Volcano is the highest in the country and the park’s most visually beautiful peak. It’s also one of the most challenging treks in the park; it takes visitors an average of three hours (one way) to reach the summit at 6,404 feet (1,952 meters).A baby when compared to other Central American volcanoes, Izalco only formed in 1770 and didn’t stop erupting until 1966. It’s violent eruptions made the volcano a natural beacon for sea farers off the Salvadoran coast, earning it the nickname Lighthouse of the Pacific. These same eruptions were also responsible for sculpting the volcano’s near perfect conical shape, lunar-like and unvegetated, with a 820-foot (250-meter) wide crater at its summit.More

Santa Ana National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Santa Ana)

Construction on the Santa Ana National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Santa Ana) began in 1902, partly because the city lacked adequate entertainment options and partly — and perhaps more importantly — due to a rivalry with San Salvador, the nation’s capital. Whatever the reason, area coffee growers imposed taxes on themselves to raise money for the project, which opened its doors in February of 1912. It’s first production was of the Italian opera Rigoletto.Located along Avenida Independencia in the old part of Santa Ana, the three-tiered theater has been marvelously restored and stages performances almost nightly throughout the year. Architectural and decorative elements were brought in from around the world, including sculptures on the facade from Italy; furniture from Austria, England and the US; and marble, mirrors and lamps from Belgium and Italy.More

Santa Ana Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Ana)

Probably the city’s most notable landmark, the Santa Ana Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Ana) was completed in 1913 after eight years of construction. Where many of El Salvador’s churches and cathedrals were build in the Spanish Colonial style typical of Latin American religious architecture, the Santa Ana Cathedral was inspired by the neo-Gothic cathedrals of Europe; today it’s considered among the most beautiful in Central America.A statue of the Virgin of Santa Ana, the city’s patron saint, sits just within the cathedral’s entrance. Santa Ana is also considered the patron saint of difficult labor, and expecting women often come to pray to the saint. Newborn children are brought back to the virgin forty days alter as a symbol of thanks.More

All about Santa Ana

When to visit

Santa Ana has a warm year-round climate with two distinct seasons: a humid and wet summer season and a cooler, drier winter. Perhaps a little counterintuitively, the summer is the busiest time of year, even though the winter months are better suited to outdoor activities, like climbing volcanoes in Cerro Verde National Park and exploring Mayan ruins.

Getting around

Santa Ana may be the second-biggest city in El Salvador, but the majority of the city sights—including the Cathedral of Our Lady Saint Anne (Catedral de Nuestra Señora Santa Ana)—are all clustered around the easily walkable Parque Libertad. If you’re planning on heading further afield for day trips, you can rent a car, take a taxi, join a tour, or jump on a local bus.

Traveler tips

If time is of the essence, you can squeeze most of the attractions in the city center into just one day—though you may want to add in a little time to grab a cup of coffee and do some people-watching in Parque Libertad. Day tours are also a great way to combine activities like hiking Santa Ana Volcano with sightseeing at Lake Coatepeque, eating your way around the Juayua weekend market (Feria Gastronomica), and visiting all the different Mayan ruins.

People Also Ask

Is Santa Ana worth visiting?

Yes, Santa Ana is worth visiting. A popular base for visitors to El Salvador, Santa Ana offers history, culture, volcanoes, jungle, lakes, and coffee all within a short radius. El Salvador’s second-largest city, Santa Ana is one of the safest cities in the country, especially for solo travelers.

What is Santa Ana in El Salvador known for?

Once Central America’s primary coffee-producing city, Santa Ana is now best known as one of El Salvador’s tourist hubs. The gateway to Santa Ana Volcano, Mayan ruins, and the Ruta de las Flores region, Santa Ana is also close to the Guatemala and Honduras borders.

What are the main attractions in Santa Ana?

Santa Ana’s main attractions include the neo-Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady Saint Anne and the neoclassical National Theater of Santa Ana. To discover El Salvador’s natural beauty and to learn about pre-Columbian history, head outside the city for coffee farms, cloud forests, bubbling volcanoes, caldera lakes, and Mayan sites such as Tazumal and San Andrés.

How long should you spend in Santa Ana?

Most visitors only spend a few days in Santa Ana itself. However, if you want to explore the surrounding area and use the city as your home base, consider tacking on a few more days.

Is Santa Ana safer than San Salvador?

Yes, Santa Ana is generally safer than San Salvador for tourists, although you still have to be on the lookout for opportunistic crime. It pays to be cautious with your valuables when walking around and using local transport. It’s also usually safer during the day than at night, especially if you’re by yourself.

What food is Santa Ana best known for?

Like much of El Salvador, Santa Ana is known for its pupusas. El Salvador’s national dish, pupusas are made with cornmeal or rice flour and are stuffed with ingredients like cheese, beans, chicharrón, and squash. They even have their own holiday, National Pupusas Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of November.


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