After a weekend visiting San Salvador, we are back on the road to Concepción de Ataco, located on the Route of Flowers. The Route of Flow ers includes several small villages, and the name comes from the wild flowers we see on the road, not from the flowers in the villages. Concepcion de Ataco is the most beautiful village on the Flower Route.
Having to be in Mexico for Christmas, we don’t have much time left. We’re in the rhythm of Round the World Tour and not Digital Nomad, we only stay a few days in Concepción de Ataco to work, before moving again.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
The logical next step after San Salvador would have been to go to Santa Ana, but we were unable to find suitable housing for work. What a mistake! Since Concepción de Ataco, a tranquillo village, also has a too tranquilla connection. But we didn’t know it yet and we go to the Occidental Bus Terminal to take a special bus (with luggage hold) to Ahuachapan ($2.3). From there, we take a mini-bus to Concepción de Ataco (0,4$) (route & detailed fares here)
Our Airbnb in Concepción de Ataco
We are accommodated in the largest room of the hotel Casa Pino (link Booking) with several work tables in the garden and one in the room. The shower water is hot, and the apartment is very spacious and equipped with a kitchen. However, whether it is Wifi or 3G, the connection is very slow (1.85Mbps down, 1.83Mbps up), it seems to lack antennas nearby. We still manage to make Skype calls, phew. The garden is beautiful and is visited by all kinds of birds.
At one point, the owner comes to ask me a question. Salvadorian Spanish, especially in this part of the country, is a challenge. He speaks so fast that I had to use Google’s instant translation feature. And when I saw that even Google didn’t understand him very well, I said to myself “ahhhh it’s okay, no pressure”
They have specific words here. Notably to designate 25 cents of dollars, it’s a cora. They aren’t too used to seeing tourists, so when a tourist does not understand, they do not use synonyms to explain but just repeat the same thing, with the same speed of speech.
Design of Ataco
The village is very small and can be visited on foot. Contrary to San Salvador, here there are no fences on the windows, everything is in relax mode. It’s super quiet on Mondays and very busy on weekends. The houses are very small and old, and even the central market is tiny. We had a hard time withdrawing more than 100$ at the ATMs, in fact, the ATMs dispense such small bills (5$) that you have to withdraw only 50$ at a time 😀
There are several watchtowers, and due to a misunderstanding with the tuk-tuk driver, we are dropped off at the one near Vista al Cielo ($1 for two). The Mirador de la Cruz, just behind the beautiful church, is better known and surely prettier because you will see more mountains.
Well, it’s not a very Salvadorian dish but we are very happy to come across the restaurant La Raclette which really serves fondues and raclettes made with imported cheeses and cold cuts (every lunchtime, without prior reservation). It’s too good, especially since it doesn’t cost that much (around 24$).
The comedors serve menus of the day in the $2.5 to $3 (drink included), it is based on rice, a little meat and a little tomato. The most economical and typically Salvadorian dish is pupusas, made of corn. The fillings are mixed directly into the dough, the whole is crushed and cooked on a hot plate. In this way, the pupusas are made only to order. For 4 pupusas + 2 drinks, we paid only $3. I really like the pupusa with chicharron. What’s nice is that despite the touristic side of the village, in the evening, there are always local restaurants open, allowing to eat very good for little money.
Santa Teresa Hot Spring
After a few days of work, we decide to take a long weekend of 4 days to explore the surroundings. We leave our luggage at the hotel. Finally, this weekend will last only 1,5 days, but we will explain you the why of the how later. The first day, we decide to go to Santa Teresa, very known for its hot springs. The whole region is known for that by the way, there is even a geothermal plant a little further away.
How do I get to the thermal waters of Santa Teresa?
There is no information on how to get there by public transport. So we’re going a bit blind (more info at the bottom of the article). First of all, we take a mini-bus from the entrance of the village of Concepcion de Ataco to Ahuachapan (0.40$/person). Once we arrive in Ahuachapan, we stop a tuk-tuk.
The first one announces us the rate of 1$, and when he understands that it is the Santa Teresa Hot Springs (Santa Teresa Hot Springs) and not the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Ahuachapan, he kicks us out of his tuk-tuk by announcing 10$. The second tuk-tuk announces the same price, but we managed to negotiate at 7$ for two.
For 15 minutes, we find it expensive, but when the tuk tuk has a lot of trouble going up the hills, then when he has to brave the rocks to drop us off right at the entrance of the main restaurant, we say yes, he still deserves his 7$. We pay 10$ the entry EACH, and we leave for 3 hours of relaxation.
Thermal waters of Santa Teresa
There is a restaurant on site, it’s not fabulous but not too expensive either (count 7$/person). There are about fifteen pools with different temperatures and I think the hottest one should be about 40°C. The changing rooms and showers are simple but sufficient. A person goes from one pool to the other to pick up the leaves that fall in the baths. I like the place very much.
JB wonders how we’re going to get home without a tuk-tuk now. I answer him that at worst, we will walk 30 minutes to the junction and stop a bus. The employees of the place confirm that they also walk to get here. Now that I have seen the path, it does not seem to me to be afraid, nor in the middle of the jungle, one can walk.
Walking proves to be a good decision because not only can you see the source of water and boiling mud at the entrance of the thermal baths, but also the flowers on the path and a breathtaking viewpoint.
Arrived at Las Glorietas (Google Maps coordinates), there is the R7 bus that turns back there, and we can take it to go to Ahuachapan (0.25$/person).
While waiting for the bus, I talk with a gentleman who lives in the area. He tells me that the Santa Teresa spring isn’t the best. The water is pumped while the spring next door(Termales de Alicante) is cheaper and of better quality: the water gushes out naturally, without the need to be pumped. Although the infrastructure is smaller, it is the one he recommends. In addition, the tuk-tuk would have cost less (count 3$/person).
Ahuachapan -> Santa Ana by chicken bus
The R7 bus drops us off at the junction(Google Maps coordinates) from where the buses to Santa Ana leave. He shows me the chicken bus 210 in the distance. They are nice these Salvadorians, they always take care to ask us where we go, to inform us and help us. The journey lasts 1 hour and costs 0,48$/person. We will see a lot of mountains and volcanoes on the way, it’s super beautiful!
In Santa Ana, everyone gets off here instead of waiting for the arrival to the Francisco Lara Pineda Terminal, since there are plenty of buses that take you downtown a block away(here). I know all this because I followed the heheh crowd.
Our hotel in Santa Ana
I ask a Salvadorian what bus goes to the main cathedral, and he tells me that most buses go there and can drop us off at a street of the cathedral. The bus costs between $0.25 and $0.35. A bus passes by and he tells me “this one costs $0.35”. He won’t get on it because he prefers the $0.25 bus, without air conditioning. Without knowing it, we have just taken the bus 55 which leaves us right in front of our hotel Hostal Sole (between 19$ and 29$ the night, link Booking, 9$ the dormitory).
In the end, we should have booked here and worked from here in fact. Santa Ana is the 2nd big city of El Salvador but it remains very quiet and safe. The connection is very correct for El Salvador (10Mbps down) and there is a table in the bedroom + a table in the dining room to work. The corner cafes (I recommend Artisant) are very well decorated and comfortable. We regret a little to have chosen Concepcion de Ataco as a base whereas Santa Ana would have been more adapted for our nomadic vacuum. The owner of the hotel is of a kindness!!! Knowing that we go to the Coatepeque lake tomorrow, he calls a friend who lives on the spot to ask for the number of the bus as well as the schedules of passage (thank youii)
Having medications to take right now, and the side effects are making me not feel very well. I go in search of a simple bowl of rice in the main square. I explain my problem to the bui-bui seller and instead of blowing me off, he was super understanding, incredibly kind. He showed me the red bean rice he had, normally used as stuffing for the pupusas – and offered to sell it to me if I needed it. I was very touched that he listened to me so carefully and offered a solution. This red bean rice did me a lot of good.
Salvadorians are known for their kindness. Every time I ask the locals for confirmation of this or that bus, they feel responsible for us and once we get on the bus, they take care to show us the stop, or make sure that the bus terminal where we want to go is really the one we need <3<3 it’s really adorable. Tourists need to come here more often, because not only this country is beautiful, but also its people, they all have a beautiful soul.
Cathedral of Santa Ana
The next day, we go out to visit the cathedral of Santa Ana which makes the reputation of the city. It is indeed enormous, imposing and does not pass by unnoticed. We just wonder why the front is painted in white and not the rest.
This is where things get complicated. I had concocted a super cool program to explore the lake of Coatepeque and the rest of the villages on the Route of Flowers, but I learn via Instagram that an active volcano, already very active every day in Guatemala, is starting to wake up.
Any normal person would have thought “I’m staying here warm”, but I don’t know what fly has bitten me, we decide to leave El Salvador ASAP in Guatemala to see this erupting volcano #facepalm. Knowing that it killed 500 people in a few minutes last year at the same time (the villages at the foot of the volcano, but not Antigua)
Everything is completed in one hour, I manage to reserve the two remaining places on the shuttle Concepcion de Ataco – Antigua. We make the opposite way Santa Ana – Concepcion de Ataco by public transport to collect our luggage. And between the precipitated departure (at 11 am) and the arrival in Antigua (8 pm), we are exhausted… but it is really worth it..
Part 2: Practical Tips
How do I get to Concepcion de Ataco from San Salvador?
I’ve already done an arm’s length article here
How to get to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs by public transport
From Concepcion de Ataco, there are two ways:
- Take a mini-bus to Ahuachapan ($0.40/person). Then a tuk tuk (3$/person) like us.
- Or take a mini-bus to Ahuachapan (0,40$/person). Stop at the junction(Google Maps coordinates). Then walk 30 minutes (it goes up a bit so take your time, this path is safe and used by the villagers too). If you see the R7 bus, don’t get on it because it will turn around and go back to Ahuachapan, it won’t go to the thermal baths
From Ahuachapan, there are two ways:
- Take a tuk tuk (3$/person) like us.
- Or take a minibus towards Ataco (0.40$/person). Stop at the junction(Google Maps coordinates). Then walk 30 minutes (it goes up a bit so take your time, this path is safe and used by the villagers too). If you see the R7 bus, don’t get on it because it will turn around and go back to Ahuachapan, it won’t go to the thermal baths
To start from the Santa Teresa hot springs :
- either you hitchhike (many customers come here by car)
- either you walk to the level of Las Glorietas (Google Maps coordinates), there is the R7 bus that turns around there, and you can take it to go to Ahuachapan (0,25$/person)
- either you walk to the junction(Google Maps coordinates) then you stop a bus going to Ataco (0,40$/person).
- Transportation :
- San Salvador – Ahuachapan : 2,3$ by special bus
- Ahuachapan – Concepcion de Ataco : 0,4$ in mini-bus
- Concepcion de Ataco – Ahuachapan : 0,4$ in mini-bus
- Ahuachapan – Santa Teresa Thermal Waters: between $3 and $3.5 per person
- Las Glorietas – Ahuachapan: $0.25
- Ahuchapan – Santa Ana: $0.48
- Bus Terminal in Santa Ana – Downtown: between $0.25 and $0.35
- Concepcion de Ataco – Antigua in shuttle : 35$
- Hotel : El Salvador has very few tourists, the hotels are often empty
- Food :
- Tourist restaurants: count 10$ to 12$/p
- Comedors: $2.5/p
- Pupusas : 1$ for both pupusas