Santa Ana vulkan (Volcán Ilamatepec)
Santa Ana vulkan (Volcán Ilamatepec)

Santa Ana vulkan (Volcán Ilamatepec)

Parque Nacional Cerro Verde

The basics

Part of the Los Volcanes complex in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range, Santa Ana Volcano (also known as Ilamatepec) is one of 23 volcanoes in El Salvador. It takes around an hour and a half of steady uphill hiking to reach the top of the active volcano, which last erupted in 2005—however, due to safety reasons, you must be accompanied by an official guide on the hike.

Guided tours are a great way to skip the 4-hour round trip from Santa Ana by bus, plus the 30-minute hike from the bus stop to the trailhead. You can also organize pickup from other popular destinations around El Salvador, including El Tunco. Some tours also include a visit to nearby Lake Coatepeque for a refreshing, post-hike swim.

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Things to know before you go

  • Santa Ana Volcano is a must-see attraction for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts in El Salvador.

  • Come prepared with comfortable hiking shoes, water, snacks, cash for entry and hiking fees, and a light jacket or sweater as it can be a little chilly at the top.

  • The hike to the top of Santa Ana volcano is relatively strenuous and involves rough terrain. It is not suitable for wheelchair users, strollers, or young children.

  • Dining options are limited at Cerro Verde national park. While there is a snack kiosk and a small restaurant near the bus stop, it’s worth coming prepared with water and snacks.

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How to get there

Santa Ana Volcano is located in Cerro Verde National Park, approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of San Salvador and 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Santa Ana. While quickest to access by car or as part of a tour, there’s also a public bus from Santa Ana. The journey takes around two hours each way. Some tours also offer pickup from the popular surf town of El Tunco.

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When to get there

Santa Ana Volcano is best visited during the dry season (November to April) as the hike only operates in fair weather due to safety risks with limited visibility. The best time to visit Santa Ana Volcano is in the morning so you can join the official guided hike. The morning also offers a higher probability of seeing the views before the clouds roll in—and gives you more time to squeeze in a visit to Lake Coatepeque for a post-hike swim.

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Other things to do in Cerro Verde National Park

Santa Ana Volcano may be the star attraction of Cerro Verde, but the park has plenty more to offer visitors, including two other volcanoes—Cerro Verde and Izalco—125 different species of trees, orchids, and plenty of wildlife. Avid adventurers can also try their hand at summiting Izalco, which is affectionately known as the Lighthouse of the Pacific after a particularly eruptive phase during the 18th century. However, the hike is considerably more challenging than Santa Ana due to the uneven terrain. Official guides are also mandatory.

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