Suchitoto – El Salvador

Gentle and welcoming, but with a classic El Salvadorian edge, the town of ‘Suchi’ enjoys a rich history, dating back to times well before the conquistadors of Spain arrived.

It is characterful, to say the least. Decked in cobbled streets, and made up of old-style colonial buildings, it has a heartbeat to match the midday tropical heat: it could have dropped straight out of a spaghetti western film set.

At the eastern end of the main plaza, the 18th century Catholic Church of Santa Lucia faces proudly out across the quiet tree-shaded square like a yesteryear time bandit. It doesn’t take much imagination, as you sit sipping a Salvadorian coffee and watching the day go by, to expect the thud and jingle of either Clint Eastwood’s or Lee Van Ceef’s spurs to ring out with the chimes of church bells, before the mightiest of good, bad or ugly gun battles breaks out.

These imaginary shoot-outs would actually be a far cry from the peace and oh-so-gentle pace of this town, which is one of El Salvador’s most charming settlements. The town only comes to a busier pace of life during February, when it draws in crowds to experience the creations of its local artists. Or during weekends, when San Salvador out-of-towners visit the old-fashioned streets to enjoy the local restaurants, cafes, museums and cultural areas.

I was immediately taken by the town, and highly recommend planning a visit for more than a few days.

The surrounding countryside gives you many options to explore. From a wide range of hill hikes to the extensive Lago Suchitlán shoreline areas, visitors can enjoy waterfalls, lake islands and over 200 species of migratory birds.

The many enjoyable restaurants and cafes are all a stone’s throw from the vibrant market and an exciting collection of traditional artisan craft shops.

The friendly welcome of the stall holders, the swaying offshore lake breezes and the putter of the town’s only out-of-context rickshaw, will surely win over any visitor to this distinctive part of Central America.