El Salvador is divided into two highland mountain ranges and
three areas at lower elevations. The northern mountains, composed
of the Metapán and the Chalatenango chains, form the border with
Honduras in the north and descend in
the south to the interior plain of the Lempa River valley, running
generally east to west; the valley then rises to meet higher volcanic
ranges to the south. Of the 20 major volcanoes located in these
southern ranges, several are active and one erupted as recently
Santa Ana, an
inactive volcano, is the country's highest peak, at 7,812 feet (2,381
m) above sea level. The volcanoes of the southern ranges are separated
by a series of basins, situated at elevations of between 3,500 and
5,000 feet (1,000 and 1,500 m) and commonly referred to as El Salvador's
central plain; it is an area of rich volcanic soils and covers roughly
a fourth of the total land area.
A narrow coastal
plain south of the volcanic ranges extends the length of the country
along the Pacific. Of El Salvador's more than 300 rivers, only the
Lempa is partly navigable.
the Spanish arrived in Salvadoran territory in the 16th century,
it was occupied by five American Indian groups, of which the Pipils,
whose civilization resembled that of the Aztecs in Mexico, were
predominant. Some 90 percent of the contemporary population is mestizo
(mixed European and Indian); about 5 percent is Indian (mostly Pipil),
and 5 percent is of European descent. Before the Spanish conquest
the most important Indian languages were Nahuatl, spoken in the
central region, and Poton, spoken in the east; when Spanish was
made the official language, the Indian dialects slowly fell into
disuse. About 93 percent of the people are Roman Catholic.
A wet and a dry season dominate El Salvador's climate. During
the wet season (May to October), there's generally a downpour every
evening. Between November and April the country is dry and dusty.
Daytime temperatures vary little, reaching around 30°C (86°F) in
November and 34°C (93°F) in March and April. The coastal lowlands
are much hotter than the rest of the country. San Salvador is 680m
(2230ft) above sea level, so it has a moderate climate compared
to other parts of the country, but it's still pretty sweaty.
Cholera, hepatitis, malaria, rabies, typhoid
Entry & Exit Policies
US and Canadian citizens do not require a visa but must buy
a tourist card upon arrival. The card is valid for 90 days. Citizens
of Australia and New Zealand need a visa; citizens of most Western
European countries do not require a visa or tourist card.