Hiking the Santa Ana Volcano

This past weekend, we did some new, fun stuff in El Salvador. We went to see the national soccer team play (a first for the kids and I), and I will post more on that later.

We also finally (finally!) took the time to hike the Santa Ana Volcano. In the native language, it is known as Illamatepec. Jon has done it before but the kids and I haven’t and I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. I wish I had taken more pictures on the climb up, because it was an absolutely spectacular day. However I got a few and you can see the flowers in full bloom.

The flowers and trees slowly gave way to a desolate landscape. Santa Ana last erupted in 2005 so the top is all loose stones, lava rocks, and ashes. As we finally ascended the 7, 812 foot peak we were met with spectacular views of nearby Lago de Coatepeque, as well as the Cerro Verde and Izalco volcanoes which are right next door.

I felt like I was in the middle of a wasteland since the eruption destroyed the trees and vegetation on top, leaving dust, and sulfur which taints the air and paints the crater lake a turquoise color.

The whole experience was beautiful, and I hope to repeat it in the future! I’m constantly finding more things I love about El Salvador and the Santa Ana Volcano is definitely one of those things.

If you make it to El Salvador, I definitely recommend hiking this volcano but make sure you get some information first. There is one scheduled tour a day that goes up with security. We found our way around that by meeting up with the tour before they came down but they put a time limit on our climb so we had to climb very quickly, which made for a great workout! If you make the trip, you need to have at least 3 people with you and some cash to pay the tour guides and tourist police. Tours leave from Cerro Verde promptly at 11am.


This is the view from the bottom. That peak way up in the distance is the top…it’s a massive volcano! Thousands of years ago a huge lava flow formed a landslide that went all the way to the Pacific Ocean which is still visible today.

IMG_3974Here we go! The kids were troopers since we were quickly running out of time to finish the climb that afternoon. We basically had to drag and carry them up!

IMG_3978That’s Izalco in the distance. It’s known as “The Lighthouse of the Pacific” because it consistently erupted for several hundred years and ships out on the Pacific could see it from the ocean. The hill on the left is Cerro Verde, another volcano. There was a luxury hotel built on it’s slopes so that people could see Izalco erupting from their terraces. Shortly after the hotel was constructed, Izalco abruptly went to sleep costing the owners millions.

IMG_3980A zoom shot of Izalco…it is a traditional cone-shaped volcano.

IMG_3986You can see the trail took us through some rugged terrain!

IMG_3982That is our own “home volcano” of San Salvador far in the distance.

IMG_3987The last part of the climb was a bit of a scramble and it looked like something straight out of Middle Earth!

IMG_3989The views of the crater were beautiful!

IMG_3990We did it!

IMG_3993Inside of the huge crater it is just wind, ashes, and silence.

IMG_3992Family picture with the sulfur lake.

IMG_3997The three volcanoes are all part of the Cerro Verde National Park. Cerro Verde on the left is extinct, Izalco is sleeping but still steaming, and Santa Ana is sleeping for the moment. These three Salvadoran volcanoes were referenced in the French novel The Little Prince. 

IMG_3998The lovely Lago de Coatepeque in the distance, which is also inside of another crater. The police told us that thousands of years ago they were connected, and sometimes Coatepeque turns a turquoise color as sulfur leaks down from the volcanoes.

IMG_3995Growing up in the Land of the Volcanoes

IMG_3999One last glance at the crater, and time to head back down the volcano since the few from the top showed dark storm clouds heading our way! We made it down just in time!

3 Responses to Hiking the Santa Ana Volcano

  1. We were moving quickly, but did have to stop a few times for the kids to rest so it was about an hour to the top, but supposedly it is a 4 hour round trip or something. I may be wrong…just what I think I remember!

  2. Pingback: Just Barely | Mission to El Salvador

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