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Exploring Lago de Coatepeque in El Salvador

A gemstone of brilliant blue shines high in the volcanic region of El Salvador

Lago Life on Coatepeque | © Jason Z. Guest

Welcome to the first in a series of mobile-photo essays from El Salvador. Once a month, over the course of the next few months, Centro Y Sur’s Fotografía newsletter will introduce a new installment, sharing the exceptional sights, scenes and experiences captured from within this beautiful Pacific gemstone. Today we introduce you to the region of Lago de Coatepeque. Recognized as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, first-time visitors to this volcanic caldera are easily captivated by it’s agreeable temperatures, electric-blue waters, unique landscape and commanding size. Enjoy, and please let us know what you think. Your feedback is always welcome. Join us in exploring Lago de Coatepeque.

Join locals for an afternoon lunch upon the water’s edge at Rancho Alegre Restaurante. Plenty of outside seating makes this the choice spot for lakeside fun. Grab yourself a plate full of ‘mojarra rellena de camaroncillos’ (lightly-fried, savory fish stuffed with shrimp), relax to the tunes of local musicians and admire the clarity of Coatepeque’s water.

Vistas of Lago de Coatepeque | © Jason Z. Guest

Ascend miles of beautiful, winding roads high above Coatepeque. Don’t forget your camera, for there are numerous opportunities to capture commanding views of the water from thousands of feet higher in elevation. Note: most of the ridge-top road systems along this volcanic caldera’s eastern edge are in very good condition, however, poorer conditions along the lake’s perimeter deliver a bit of a bone-jarring experience.

Outdoor Activities upon Lago de Coatepeque | © Jason Z. Guest

Water sports and activities | © Jason Z. Guest

Choose from a selection of family-friendly and water sports activities, including hiking, camping, sailing, boating, fishing, scuba diving and sunbathing. Located between the cities of Santa Ana, El Congo, Santa Lucia and Izalco, this unique, natural wonder is an easily accessible destination. 

Mariachis of Lago de Coatepeque | © Jason Z. Guest

Listen to live music. Salvadoran music stems not only from their own indigenous Pipil, but also by the influence of Spanish, Mayan and African music. And yet Mariachi bands are integral to the music scene. Here, in search of toe-tapping patrons and paying customers, a group of fine musicians serenade us.

Coffee Campesinos | © Jason Z. Guest

Engage with campesinos from surrounding communities. It’s no big secret that coffee has literally shaped the history of El Salvador. Therefore, it’s not a big surprise to recognize varieties of coffee plants growing along the roadside—their coffee “cherries” brightly contrasted against waxy, deep-green leaves. Here, coffee thrives in a unique and favorable microclimate of soil, terrain and elevation. This group of coffee harvesters were kind enough to offer an open dialogue, helping us better understand costs, wages and their role in this commodity market product. For more information on the complexities of coffee, from crop to cup, we recommend this source of information.

Beautiful blue waters of Coatepeque | © Jason Z. Guest

Charter a boat and explore the surroundings of this crater lake, including views of Teopan (Isla Del Cerro), an island within Lago de Coatepeque, thought to have played an important role in ancient Maya civilization. It has been reported that both the island of Teopan and Coatepeque are riddled with stone and ceramic relics from early Mesoamerican civilization. Today, it is considered a playground for wealthier Salvadorans, and available for visit by invitation-only. Many properties along the shore are well guarded, with immaculate landscaping and access to various types of pleasure craft.