Less than two hours from El Salvador’s capital city San Salvador, you will find Suchitoto, a colonial town that has become a vibrant artists’ community. The cobblestone lanes surrounding the central church are filled with cafés, art galleries, craft shops and small independent hotels.
Begin by exploring the main square, with its courtyard vendors and quaint architecture throughout. After a stroll through the church, relax with a cup of coffee or lunch at Casa de la Abuela, a cozy spot with an adjoining shop. Several other shops line the surrounding streets, as well as small stalls. For dinner the restaurant at Hotel Las Puertas, directly across the plaza from the church, is one of the best in town. Keep in mind that most restaurants serve (and close) very early here, so try to arrive by 6:30.
Other spots well worth checking out include the home and museum of Alejandro Cotto, a filmmaker and artist who nearly single-handedly saved the town during the war by convincing both sides of its value and beauty, and that it must be protected from destruction. The Theater of the Ruins and Arte Center for Peace are both great places to take in a culture or dance show, and afterwards you can check out the cool El Necio, a revolutionary bar with cheap drinks, posters and artifacts everywhere, and a decidedly leftist vibe.
In my opinion, the only place to stay is Los Almendros de San Lorenzo, a historic hacienda centered around a courtyard. The property has been painstakingly restored by Pascal Lebailly and his partners, who also own La Galeria de Pascal across the street. The gallery hosts many exhibitions and events, and also has a quite good shop with well-priced and high quality items. Lebailly is a wealth of information about Suchitoto and the surrounding artisan towns, and will arrange or lead guest tours.
Los Almendros offers seven double rooms with private baths; three suites including a honeymoon suite; and two apartment suites. The rooms offer all amenities and rates ($85-150) include a wonderful breakfast. In fact, during your stay at Los Almendros be sure and treat yourself to dinner at least once, as its restaurant is one of the best in town.
A great day trip from Suchitoto is to take the ferry across Lake Suchitlan to the more northern artisan towns of La Palma, where nearly every wall is covered in murals, and San Ignacio, near the highest point in El Salvador, El Pital mountain. To the east of Suchitoto lies San Sebastian, a town where weavers still create their beautiful textiles using traditional wooden handlooms, and Ilobasco which is known for its fine clay and ceramic works.