Hike active Izalco volcano, one of the youngest in the world
The story says ancient sailors used the explosions of Izalco volcano as a guide while sailing along Salvadoran coastline during the day, and the glow of the lava at night. That's why it was named as The Lighthouse of the Pacific.
Izalco was formed on the side of the neighbor and taller Santa Ana volcano spewing flows of lava during almost 200 years of continuous eruption until it stopped in 1959. Since then it has been dormant but with signs of activity on the crater, with jet streams of water steam from underneath.
Izalco is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world and a pretty good challenge for hikers. Is not the distance walked but the slope and terrain. You walk in the dense cloud forest and then switch abruptly to bare sharped volcanic rock with no vegetation around. And steep. But the view from the top is the best reward.
The hike to Izalco volcano starts on Cerro Verde's visitors center. Here you'll find services such toilets, cafeteria and handcrafts.
After few directions from park's authorities we start our hike which may be divided in 4 stages:
• Stage 1: walk Cerro Verde down. Pleasant hike in the cloud forest along steps carved on the ground. Some occasional wild life may be spotted. The only concern may be the shock on the knees (please note it).
• Stage 2: you get out abruptly from the forest just to face an enormous pile of rocks waiting to be walked to the top. The terrain is rough, with loose sharp rocks and massive basalt boulders. As you walk the trail becomes steeper and some steam coming beneath the rocks tells you're almost on the top! Once there, recover you're breath and circle the crater. On clear day you can watch the Pacific Ocean, Coatepeque lake and valleys, villages, mountain ranges and volcanic belts in El Salvador and Guatemala.
• Stage 3: Walk Izalco down. Watch your step but don't forget to watch the different solidified lava flows that form the skirts of Izalco. Also watch up for any rolling stone.
• Stage 4: Walk Cerro Verde up... al the way up because the near 1,500 steps you walked down earlier seem steeper. And they're steep but once you reach Cerro Verde's visitor center you can proudly say VINI, VIDI, VINCI.
Note this hike is tougher than most of hiking destinations in El Salvador. Not for technical nor the elevation but for the slope which is very steep on both sides, Izalco and Cerro Verde. Hydration, adequate footwear and clothing, sun/rain protection and trekking poles are always recommended.
Not suitable for people with breath diseases, asthma, heart, blood pressure or mobility problems.
Following Park's Rules, all hikes must be joined by local guides and officers of Tourist Police branch trained and ready to respond on any case of accidents, evacuations, rescues and First Aid
Distance walked: 8 Km
Actual walking time: 3h 45m
Top elevation: 2,019 mt
Lowest elevation: 1,627 mt
Total ascent: 691 mt
Total descent: 676 mt
At the end of the walk you'll have the reward and satisfactions of hiking 2 volcanoes in one day. Way to go!
Commences in:San Salvador, El Salvador
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