Experts believe the Tazumal archaeological site, which is part of a large group of ancient cities most of which remain unexcavated, was a major trading center. It may have been inhabited for more than 3,000 years though not everyone flourished.

Tazumal ruins, El Salvador

A temple at the Tazumal archaeological site in El Salvador.

The Tazumal archaeological site

The name Tazumal means “the pyramid where the victims were burned” in the Quiche Mayan language. Despite that ominous name, Tazumal is a pleasant, compact site but it was hard for us to get past the concrete which early excavators spread over sections of the structures to protect them and mimic what the buildings might have looked like when they was plastered over and in good condition. They ended up making the remains look like a third grade art project. Despite rumors that the concrete was going to be removed in 2009 it was all still there when we visited.

Tazumal ruins pyramid, El Salvador

Early excavators were a bit heavy-handed with the concrete in an attempt to preserve the underlying structure and simulate what the building would have looked like when they were covered in stucco when the Mayans flourished at Tazumal.

Tazumal Mayan ruins, El Salvador

Tazumal archaeological site in El Salvador.

There are lots of small restaurants across the street from the entrance to Tazumal which sell delicious yucca and chicharron (boiled yucca, pickled vegetable, and crispy/meaty pork served on a banana leaf), so come hungry. It’s a great place to try this Salvadoran dish.

Yucca y Chicharon, El Salvador

Delicious yucca and chicharron from a small restaurant near Tazumal archaeological site in El Salvador.

The San Andres archaeological site

When we were in the area the nearby Casa Blanca archaeological site was closed for renovations and when we arrived at the San Andres archaeological site its museum, the main reason to visit, was closed for renovations as well though they were still charging the full admission price.

Sheep grazing around San Andres ruins, El Salvador

One of only a handful of structures that have been excavated at San Andres archaeological site in El Salvador. Make sure the supposedly excellent on-site museum is open before you plan a visit.

Pyramid at San Andres ruins, El Salvador

A pyramid at the San Andres archaeological site in El Salvador.

San Andres Mayan ruins, El Salvador

Only a handful of structures have been excavated at the San Andres archaeological site in El Salvador.

Want more? Check out our post about the more than 100 archaeological sites we’ve visited in the Americas

Here’s more about travel in El Salvador