If you are looking for Maya splendor, visit the ruins at Tazumal in western El Salvador. Another interesting Maya site in El Salvador, though not as visually stunning, is the abandoned village known as Joya de Cerén.
Volunteer Opportunities in El Salvador
If you enjoy mixing a little humanitarian work in with your volcano hiking and village visiting, El Salvador offers a plethora of volunteer activities, from building homes and schools to teaching English. Below are the best options.
Habitat for Humanity (Colonia General Arce, Calle Jorge Domingue 4-H; tel. 503/2298-3290; www.habitatelsalvador.org.sv) began building earthquake-resistant homes here in 1992 almost immediately after the end of the war and now has six offices and ongoing projects throughout the country. By Habitat estimates, El Salvador -- in the wake of Hurricane Mitch and the 2001 earthquake -- still remains 630,000 homes short of what's needed. Habitat requires a minimum 5-day commitment and a $45 per-day fee for room and board, orientation, and transportation. You'll need to register 3 to 6 months in advance.
If you like working with your hands, you can also check in with Seeds of Learning (SOL; 585 5th St. W., Sonoma, CA 95476; tel. 707/939-0471; www.seedsoflearning.org), which builds schools in rural El Salvador. SOL volunteers work literally side by side with local community members to build schools, so volunteers really get to know the people they are helping. SOL, which has been working in El Salvador since 1999, requires a 10-day commitment, and the program costs $1,200, including lodging at a basic hotel or retreat center, food, transportation, and excursions. Scholarships are available for volunteers under 30 years of age.
English-language skills are also increasingly important to Salvadorans, and the country has numerous English-teaching opportunities. Global Crossroad (415 E. Airport Freeway, Ste. 365, Irving, TX 75062; tel. 866/387-7816; www.globalcrossroad.com) offers 1- to 12-week teaching programs in San Salvador, Sonsonate, and Santa Ana, beginning at $899 for food, housing, and transportation from the airport upon arrival. Volunteers stay with host families and teach primarily children. Global Crossroad also offers short-term volunteer opportunities teaching computer skills, taking care of orphan children, and helping to maintain communities. Travelers willing to make a longer teaching commitment should check out El Salvador-based Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, or CIS (Av. Bolivar 103, Colonia Libertad, San Salvador; tel. 503/2226-5362; www.cis-elsalvador.org). CIS was formed after the signing of the peace accords to help promote solidarity among the Salvadoran people and cultural exchange with other countries. Volunteers pay only a $100 registration fee and $70 per week for room and board with a local family, and volunteers receive half-price ($50) Spanish classes. A 10-week commitment is required, though.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.