Visiting Other Archaeological Sites in El Salvador

San Andrés
Joya de Cerén
El Tazumal and Casa Blanca
National Museum of Anthropology

El Salvador has three other archaeological sites in the western part of the country which are easy to get to and well worth visiting. These are all Classic Period (ca. AD 250-850) Maya affiliated sites. All three have site museums. All are open 9 AM to 4 PM. Please bear in mind that all archaeological sites and museums, including the Dr. David J. Guzmán National Museum, are closed on Mondays. Developed sites charge an entry fee, which is greater for foreign visitors. All directions are from San Salvador.

San Andrés

San Andrés is a small Maya site just off the Panamerican Highway (CA-1). It has been excavated several times and the main acropolis is cleared. Since FUNDAR began to adiminster the site in May, 2005, security has been heightened and many improvements made. The Acropolis and the Great Plaza and are now open to visitors. The Campana is so fragile that, unless we can put a steel stair like the one at Cihuatán in, it will have to be viewed only from the Plaza. Access to the ruins is controlled for visitor safety and is through the museum. The 17th century indigo processing facility has been excavated and is also open to visitors.

The Campana structure is no longer covered with trees and brush. Right: Before; Left: After

San Andrés has a site museum with guides, a snackbar selling hot and cold drinks and snacks, and modern restrooms. Picnic tables are available. A small "market" area has vendors selling souvenirs.

Entrance fee: Salvadorans $1; Foreigners $3

Parking: Cars $1 Buses $3. The parking lot is between the entrance kiosk (where you pay the entrance and parking fees) and the site museum. The area is fenced and reasonably safe.

To visit San Andrés:

By car: Take the Carretera Panamericana (CA-1) west towards Santa Ana (within San Salvador part of this highway is called the Avenida Roosevelt) , passing through Santa Tecla . The turnoff to San Andrés is on the right at kilometer 32. There is a sign at the turnoff. Be very careful with the traffic, especially when reentering the highway. You can also take the Calle Nueva (the new ring road) but it is best to get instructions how to do that locally.

By bus: From the Terminal de Occidente (Bulevard Venezuela...any taxi driver will know where it is and the urban bus 7-C lets you off at the terminal. Urban bus 44 stops about 2 blocks from it...just ask the cobrador where to get off and which way to walk. Get on the 201 Santa Ana bus. You can also take the 100A microbus, which is a bit more comfortable (and slightly more expensive). Ask the cobrador if they will stop and let you off at the Ruinas de San Andrés (they will, but you need to ask in advance and they will let you know when you are getting close) and you will be at the entrance. Just walk down the path by the road into the site. The bus fare is 60¢.

Joya de Cerén

Karen Olsen Bruhns, Director of the Cihuatán Project for FUNDAR and Arq. Irma Flores, Director of Historic Sites and Monument, CONCULTURA, get a close look at a preserved structure

This little village was preserved by a volcanic eruption, just like Pompeii. Also like Pompeii it has told us a lot about the lives of ordinary people, Maya in this case. The excavations are roofed and and protected with polymer panels to protect them from sun and rain. Visitors must be accompanined by a guide in the ruins area. There are both Spanish and English speaking guides. The areas open to visitors have been extended to include the excavated sweatbath (temescal) and its surrundign houses and fields. An on-goign project is planting the park with the crops grown by the original inhabitants.

Joya de Cerén has a site museum, modern restrooms, picnic facilities,a small café and a souvenir shop. Entrance fee: Salvadorans 61¢ Foreigners $2.86

Entrance: Salvadoran citizens: $1; Foreigners $3 Parking Cars $1.00 Buses $3.00. enter the site and pay your fees; the parking lot is on the left by the Museum.

To visit Joya de Cerén:

By car: Take Carretera Panamericana (CA-1) west just as you would for San Andrés (the two sites are quite close together and a visit to both is easily combined). Pass through Santa Tecla. Just before km. 29 take the right exit marked “Este Panamericana CA-1A” Follow the signs to Joya de Cerén, coming to a traffic stop and carefully going straight through. You will now be on the road to San Juan Opico, a charming little town. Joya de Cerén is 6 km. down from the turnoff ( a few kilometers short of Opico). The site is located at km. 35 on the left side of the road.

By bus: From the Terminal del Occidente get on the 201 Santa Ana bus (actually any Santa Ana bus will do). You will be getting off at the “desvio de Opico” which is a quick stop for the bus, so make sure to ask the cobrador when you are getting close. Once off the bus at the desvio, start walking east past the pupusa stands and comedores . The stop for the 108 San Juan Opico bus is about 500m down the way. Joya de Cerén is about a 10 minute ride, ask for the Joya de Cerén stop. The fare is now 60¢ on the 201 Santa Ana and 20¢ on the 108 San Juan Opico.

Tazumal and Casa Blanca

Tazumal was one of the first major Salvadoran sites to be scientifically excavated, by Stanley H. Boggs, who started the first of several field seasons in 1943 (Boggs also excavated at San Andrés and Cihuatán). The site is surrounded by the modern city of Chalchuapa and, unfortunately, not much of the site was purchased for the archaeological park. What you see today is the large pyramid, with its many remodelings and additions, and the ball court, badly damaged by its many years as part of the city cemetery. The Tazumal park also contains the large Olmec rock carving from finca Las Victorias.

The Tazumal pyramid from the entrance to the park.

The Las Victorias rock carving shows a visiting Olmec dignitary from Mexico. It dates to the 1st milennium B.C.

The site has a museum and restrooms but no fenced parking or snackbar. We suggest that you visit one of the many local restaurants. The take away restaurant (and curio shop) of Elena Martir is close to the site (about 3 doors from the entrance... recognize it by its color and murals). Sra. Martir makes fantastic yuca con chicharrón (manioc with pork and salad). Another pleasant restaurant is “Las Brisas”, run by Liviana Pacheco and her family, located on the 7a (séptimo) Avenida Norte, number 9b, Barrio Las Animas. The 7a Avenida Norte is also known as the “Calle a El Trapiche” and the restaurant is the third house on the right from the corner of this street with the old main road to Santa Ana, known as the Callejón Santa Ana. Liviana and her family (her mother cooks, her daughters help in the restaurant) make wonderful traditional specialties like sopa de pata (soup made with the boney extremities of the cow’s legs), gallina en alguaihste (chicken in a savory squash seed sauce...Salvadoran food is not hot and full of chiles) and jute en alguaihste (river snails in the same sauce). The restroom is very clean (it is the family’s too, the restaurant is the front of the house, as is common in family businesses) and street parking is easy and safe.

Elena Martir and Karen Bruhns in front of her shop.

Yuca con chicharrón, Elena Martir's speciality.

Liviana Pacheco's Comedor Las Brisas is well worth the short walk from the pyramid.

On the right a plate of jute en alguiahste, local river snails in a squash seed sauce. A true pre-columbian delicacy.

One of Chalchuapa's many curio shops.

Tazumal is also known for ceramic replicas of Maya vases and figurines. The shops selling these cluster around the site entrance too. This is a good place to buy souvenirs, but do remember that buying antiquities is against Salvadoran law and bringing Salvadoran antiquities into the United States is against U.S. law and is also prohibited by most European and western Asian countries.

Structure One at Casa Blanca is partly restored.

The museum at Casa Blanca is very charming.

Stirring the dark blue indigo dye in the museum's workshop and store.

Casa Blanca is on the northern outskirts of Chalchuapa. before you enter the town pproper. It is what is left of a very large Preclassic and Classic period Maya site. Several pyramids have been excavated and partly restored by Japanese archaeologists under the direction of Kuniaki Ohi. It is a pleasant stroll through the trees to see the structures although , unfortunately, a rural slum was allowed to be built right up against one side of the rather small park.

Casa Blanca has a charming colonial style site museum with nice restrooms and a shady parking area. There are no picnicking facilities nor food available. The museum, however, does house a workshop producing indigo dye and a small museum shop with indigo blue dyed t-shirts and place mats and similar small items for sale.

Entrance fees for Tazumal and Casa Blanca : Salvadorans $1.00 Foreigners $3.00 The fee includes the museums and there are nicely made paths at both sites.

Tazumal is located next to the town cemetery, a nice place to visit if you are a fan of historic cemeteries.

One of the elaborate older tombs in the Chalchuapa cemetery.

The Tazumal pyramid as viewed from a section of more humble burials.

Parking for Tazumal is on the streets around the site area. Be sure to lock your car securely. Small boys will cluster and offer to watch your car for you. Accept one of the offers, but do not tip the boy until you return. Parking for Casa Blanca is in the shaded area just inside the gate and in front of the museum entrance. Fee $1.00 cars, $3 busses.

To visit Casa Blanca and Tazumal

By car: Take the Carretera Panamericana (CA-1) west from San Salvador towards Santa Ana. Continue past (but do not take) the exit to Santa Ana for a few kilometers to the turnoff leading to the Frontera Las Chinamas, Ahuachapán, and Chalchuapa. Take this exit. This road will lead you directly to Chalchuapa town. When you see the first sign indicating that you are entering Chalchuapa keep an eye out for the first road to the left leading off the highway and take it to a small Texaco gas station, at which a left turn will lead you straight to Tazumal. For Casa Blanca, stay on the highway and within a few hundred meters a sign will signal the right turn into the park.

By bus: At the Terminal del Occidente get on the 202 Ahuachapán bus. If you wish to visit both sites, ask the cobrador (with due lead time) to let you off by the Ruinas de Casa Blanca and, after visiting there, you will have to walk about 10 blocks south to Tazumal. If you choose only to visit Tazumal, ask the cobrador to let you off at the Gasolinera Texaco cerca del Tazumal, from which you walk about 5 blocks straight down a street ending at the site. Bus fare is $1.00.

Alternatively you can take the 201 Santa Ana bus, also at the Western Terminal, and go to Santa Ana, El Salvador's second largest city with a pleasant colonial core. In Santa Ana switch to the 218 Chalchuapa bus, asking the cobrador to let you off at the ruins. You can either stay on the bus and get off at Casa Blanca (it is an easily walkable distance between Tazumal and Casa Blanca) or ask to be notified when to descend for Tazumal. The cost for both busses is about $1.50.

Before you visit sites you should visit the Dr. David J. Guzmán National Museum of Anthropology. It has exhibits which show the variety of ancient cultures in El Salvador and where and when they were. The famous ceramic life sized Xipe Totec (Our Lord the Flayed One, a god of political intimidation originally from Mexico) which was supposedly found near Tazumal is on display in the main entry hall. The so-called Virgin of Tazumal , a Maya style stela, the altars from the eastern site of Quelepa as well as many boulders with petroglyphs are also on display. Other exhibits include traditional crafts, such as indigo extraction, and some ethnographic displays. It also has a series of topical exhibits which change quite frequently.

The Dr. David J. Guzmán National Museum of Anthropology.

A Maya-style stela found at Tazumal.

The museum does not have either a book store or a cafe. It does have public restrooms. The museum is located on the Avenida de la Revolución right off the Avenida Roosevelt (CA-1, the Panamerican Highway) and across the street from the International Fair Grounds in the Colonia San Benito.

Hours: 9-5 Tuesday through Sunday. Entrance fee: Adults $1.50; Students 75¢

Parking is free in the walled area to the side of the museum.

Any bus or micro that goes up the Avenida Roosevelt will let you off less than half a block from the museum. If you take a taxi tell the driver that the museum is across the street from the Feria Internacional.


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