Alegría is located in the Usulután department of El Salvador and can be considered one of the most beautiful small towns tourists will visit in the country. If traveling to Alegría from San Salvador, expect 5 hours of traveling on various buses, but you can be assured you will be pleasantly rewarded. Alegría is a town famous for flowers, which is easily recognized once you enter the town square. Rose bushes, sunflowers, anthuriums and orchids all rest in brick beds surrounded in tile. Two large gazebos sit across from each other, providing a perfect setting for concerts and town gatherings. But, this wasn’t the first thing that caught our eye. What stood out most to Aracely and I was how clean the streets were.
No Trash Town
As we dragged our backpacks off the bus and began to adjust our straps to saddle up for our hostel search, we recognized trashcans on the curb. It sounds so mundane, but trashcans on the streets are a rarity in most Central American cities and towns. These weren’t just any trashcans; they were colorfully coordinated with the rest of the park. It might seem like an injustice to the town of Alegría to highlight it’s trashcans, but this fact helps garner a more clear understanding of Alegría’s unique environment and local culture.
Hostels of Alegría, El Salvador
We walked around the square searching for a place to stay and the first place we came across was Entre Piedras Hotel. The hotel was well maintained, had it’s own courtyard and served café and fine dinners. The price was $32.00 USD a night, a bit steep for those staying in hostels. We kept walking one block off the square and met Memo, owner of the art hostel Casa Alegre. We took a look around and noticed it’s artistic style and art gallery entrance. The rooms were upstairs, there was a kitchen and Memo explained that they contributed to the local community through art education. Sounded great! We unpacked our bags and headed out to a local restaurant for some much needed food.
As we ate, we discussed how charming Alegría appears, similar to Juayúa, but smaller and less traveled. The cleanliness of the town was impressive, considering it’s such a challenge culturally in most parts of Central America. It seems to create a sense of honor amongst it’s citizens. Alegría is in the highlands and rests on the side of volcano Tecapa. The cool weather makes it ideal for growing flowers, and they have become the flower capital of El Salvador. Coffee is also still a major crop for this town. Several large restaurants surround the town’s square, as well as street vendors offering pupusas, beans and french fries. Children can always be found in the park on swings and seesaws, while the high school students flirt in the gazebo.
Upon returning to our hostel, we got to know Memo a bit more and learn about his organization. It’s a promising venture that has support from many of the locals and his artistic friends he has met while traveling the world. He has a great passion for art and the children of Alegría.
Cold Evenings and Cold Showers
In the evenings, we put on our long pants, socks and fleece jackets to stay warm, so you can imagine our shock when we discovered the showers, were not just cold, but freezing. One of the guests let out a few screams as she tried to bathe. No need for coffee here. Aracely and I purchased some eggs, cheese and tomatoes for breakfast the next morning before returning to sleep. This is when we realized there was no refrigerator. At least we didn’t have anything that needed to remain cold. We tied our food up in a bag and sat it on the toaster oven, since most of the counter was crawling with ants. The next morning we found our eggs broken on the floor and our cheese spread throughout the house. We can only imagine a cat or squirrel got into our bag. The hostel is open air, so it’s very likely animals are crawling around. The fact that it’s very dirty, probably also attracts the bugs and animals. The hostel entrance served as the art studio and therefore didn’t provide a place to sit down, eat or socialize. We were beginning to realize this was not an ideal hostel for travelers.
Laguna de Alegría
Most travel to Alegría to experience its large sulfur lake inside of volcano Tecapa. A visit to the lake can be easily accomplished by way of road access or a more adventurous trek to the top of the crater ridge and then down into the crater lake. The lake wreaks of sulfur, but is believed to provide healing powers. A visit to Alegría is not complete without a swim in the lake, or at least a visit.
Alegría and Musicians
During our several days in Alegría local guitarists that walked the streets often serenaded us. It was a very enjoyable experience, since they were always polite and always smiled. Most evenings we could be found eating pupusas, chicken and sausage, while drinking Pilsener beers at El Portal. Delicious, filling breakfasts can be found at Mi Pueblito for $1.50 USD. You will get a plate of eggs, beans, plantains and cheese.
On our last night in Alegría we left the Hostel Casa Alegre for a warm shower and large comfortable bed in the beautiful Entre Piedras Hotel. There are several hostel options in Alegría, consider the yellow hostel that is adjacent to the El Portal restaurant. The Casa Alegre has good intentions locally, but as a hostel, we wouldn’t recommend it. The staff at the Entre Piedras helped Aracely and I figure out how to travel the next day through Honduras into Nicaragua. The next morning we missed our 6:15am bus and the gentleman at the hotel stopped a pickup truck on the road so we could hitch a ride to the next town.