Suchitoto is a colonial town with cobbled streets, red clay roof tiles and a pretty central square. Suchitoto (‘Suchi’) is located 50 km from El Salvador’s capital city, San Salvador, the residents of which often visit during the weekends.
Upon our early evening arrival our tour leader (Marial) took us to Suchitoto’s central square where we visited a street food outlet. Our group of 12 sat outside in the dark street eating traditional El Salvador pupusas. This national stable consists of corn pockets which are often stuffed with cheese, pork and refried beans although you can have other combinations too. They tasted delicious especially when washed down with a local beer.
The following morning we had a tour of the highlights of Suchitoto which began at our hotel when we all piled into the back of Rene’s (our local guide for the day) pick up. This is a common way for locals to travel in many of the countries we’ve visited this year. People hang out of bus doors, sit on the roof and stand in the back of trucks something that doesn’t usually happen in the UK!
The tour was conducted in chronological order starting with some scrambling down the basalt rocks to the attractive Los Tercios Waterfall where Rene explained how the hexagonal rocks were formed by volcanic activity (and are similar to those found at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Staffa Island in Scotland.) Water only flows down this 9 m high waterfall from May to December.
The man made lake (below) was created in 1976 to produce electricity. A dam was constructed which in turn flooded the surrounding farmland where some farmers were offered relatively small amounts of money to give up their land.
We scrambled back up and were taken to a viewing point where we had a great view of Lago Suchitlán, the largest lake in El Salvador.
Next we visited an Indigo shop. Indigo plants were grown and used for dying fabrics back in Mayan times hundreds of years ago. This tradition continued through to the 1800’s when indigo was big business for the local farming community. El Salvador has perfect growing conditions for indigo plants and is the main indigo producer in Central America. We were fascinated by the history and dying process and arranged to participate in a tie dye workshop the following morning.
Above is Victoria, an amazing 97 year old El Salvador woman who still rolls 300 cigars a day and has been doing so for 80 odd years. She did a demonstration and some of our group participated, rolling a cigar for themselves.
We tested Chris’s handy cigar rolling efforts later that evening in the local bar but this is probably not a hidden talent of his as it wouldn’t stay alight and just left a woody taste in our mouths…
Our final stop of the morning was to Centro Arte Para La Paz, an inspiring art museum with a mission…”to develop and promote a culture of peace through the arts, creativity, imagination and cultural exchange…” While we were there Rene explained the impact of the El Salvador civil war from 1980 to 1992. At one point while he was a child living in San Salvador his parents had to put mattresses up at the windows and the family had to hide in the bathroom as the safest room in the house to escape the bullets. The museum is dedicated to peace and amongst many exhibits is also full of photographs of inspirational peace leaders.
For lunch we were taken to a small food outlet at the main square where we were given a local shot to try. Apparently the locals squeeze the lime into their eye, sniff the salt up their nose and gulp down the tequila! We took the easier option and sucked a mouthful of lime keeping this in our mouths as we drank the tequila…
During the afternoon we explored Lake Suchitlan on a small boat. Rene is passionate about birds and wildlife and pointed out many of the bird species which inhabit the lake including cormorants, egrets, herons, vultures and ducks. We saw many of these particularly at ‘Bird Island’ a popular bird nesting island in the middle of the lake.
The El Salvador tourism website explains that “Alejandro Coto a famous local film maker gave the lake its current name “Suchitlan”, which in nahuatl means ‘Place of the flower-bird’.”
Indigo tie dye workshop
The 3 of us (Chris, Laura & Annabelle) together with Lee, a fellow Intrepid traveller got up early the following morning and returned to the Indigo tie dye shop where we had great fun participating in a workshop where we each made an indigo tie dye scarf! The workshop was conducted by Irma who also owns the Indigo tie dye shop.
We began by folding the plain white cotton scarfs into triangles and wrapping elastic bands around the finished bundles. We were encouraged by Irma to complete each one slightly differently to create the different pattern effects.
We then dipped our bundles into the dye soaking them for about 5 minutes. When lifted out we had to open the folds to enable oxygen to reach the dyed parts.
This process was repeated 4 times. We removed some of the elastic bands on the third time which then creates areas of lighter blue on the finished scarf.
Irma sells high quality individually made products some of which take at least a week to make. If you wish to purchase any individually made items you can email Irma (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will correspond over the measurements, hand make the items and send them to you by post. Irma also has a FaceBook page.
El Salvador is off the radar of many travellers so we had a real ‘authentic’ experience in Suchitoto. Many of our Intrepid traveller friends agreed that Suchitoto was one of our favourite places in Central America.